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The neutral style, in fact, takes its cues from Korean pop culture

Posted May 31 2013 9:09am
…and vice versa. In China, gender-bending is all the rage
Contrary to Asian stereotype, school uniforms in China are more sloppy couch potato than sexy schoolgirl. They typically involve shapeless blue sweatpants and a matching zip-up top that hides the wearer's physique in a way that evokes the gender equality of revolutionary decades past. But rather than tarting up their uniforms in rebellion, teenage girls in China have taken to one of the country's most talked-about trends: they're trying to dress like boys. And the boys are looking a little girlie. The Chinese call this "neutral style" for the gender lines it blurs. And it's no mere teenage subculture, having gone mainstream thanks to androgynous pop stars. On the streets of Beijing, the style is hard to miss: the boys often appear more done up than the girls -- if you can tell them apart.
To keep it "neutral," girls wear their hair short and choppy, eschew makeup and keep accessories to a minimum. Boys edge toward pretty, with baby-smooth complexions, and thumbnail-sized sparkly earrings in one lobe. Jin Xueting, 17, a sullen teenage girl with the requisite short haircut and school-mandated royal blue track pants, says the androgynous look is a chance for students to express their personalities. But "the school doesn't let us dress like that," she adds, and so self-expression is limited to sneakers and what's above the neck. "I just think it looks really cool," says He Meijuan, 16, also with blue pants, cropped hair and no makeup. "It looks fresher because it comes from overseas."
The neutral style, in fact, takes its cues from Korean pop culture -- far bigger in China than its Western equivalent. It had its breakout moment during China's version of American Idol, a female-only show called Super Girl, watched by hundreds of millions of viewers. It was a clear sign that audiences are tired of traditional Chinese pop stars: beauties with long hair and a sugary sweet demeanour. The winner, boyish Li Yuchun, and the similar-looking runner-up, drew millions of text-message votes. Meanwhile, on a male-only TV singing competition called My Hero, the boys looked feminine and emotional, with one contestant being described as Li's "kid sister."  yanzic0531.
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