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We recently ran down a number of reasons why so many people in Japan will strap on a surgical mask even if they aren’t feeling sick. One of the most common reasons is that for women, slipping on a mask is less of a hassle then carefully applying makeup, but the cultural phenomena of perfectly healthy Japanese wearing masks isn’t strictly a female thing.

Today, we present the testosterone-packed follow-up to our previous report, as we explore why healthy Japanese men wear masks.

A recent poll by Japan’s My Navi News found that using masks for non-health related reasons is much more common with women, with 31.3 percent of the survey’s 300 female respondents admitting to the practice. Only around half as many men, 16.7 percent, said they had uses for masks that had nothing to do with sickness.

Still, with close to one in five men pulling off the masked fake out, there must be some uniquely male reasons for it. Similar to women wanting to hide their non-made-up face, grooming was a common impetus, particularly among guys who use masks when they haven’t shaved.

“Sometimes I get hungry all of a sudden late at night,” explained one survey participant. “If I’ve got a lot of stubble, it’s too much of a pain to shave just to make a run to the convenience store, so I wear a mask instead.”

▼ Be advised, though, that a mask won’t do you much good if you’ve let yourself go so far that you’ve developed a full-on neck beard.

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Others said masks were a useful quick fix to cover up a pimple. Granted, women are just as likely to get skin blemishes as men, but culturally it’s far less acceptable for a man to cover up a bit of acne with a skillfully placed spot of makeup, so for some guys a mask is their only choice.

▼ Someone get this kid a mask, a haircut, and some help tying a proper necktie knot.

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One 24-year-old said he wears masks with the unique goal of protecting his privacy online. “When I go someplace crowded like a car show, there’s a chance that I’ll end up in photographs the other visitors are taking, and then the pictures with me in them might end up on somebody’s blog,” he fretted. Wearing a mask gives him peace of mind by making him that much less recognizable.

▼ We understand the concern, but trust us, buddy. No one goes online and searches for motor show or Tokyo Game Show pictures so they can check out random dudes in the background.

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But with 16.7 percent of men wearing masks when they’re not sick, that still means most guys who are in good health go bare-faced, in spite of the advantages listed above. What’s holding them back from embracing the trend?

Simple frugality, for one thing. 86 percent of masks sold in Japan are the disposable type. If you’re going to throw it away after just one use, some men feel it’s wasteful to wear one for anything other than its originally intended purpose.

Another man prefers to make do without a mask unless one is absolutely necessary because he worries it will make his breath smell worse. We’re not sure how scientifically sound his theory is, but we can attest from personal experience that putting on a mask right after polishing off a curry lunch will, if nothing else, make you acutely aware of the particular bouquet you’re giving off.

But perhaps the most compelling reason was the simple desire not to weird others out. “Wearing a mask makes me look suspicious,” explained one man in his 50s who only uses one when he’s coughing and sneezing everywhere. Even if you don’t subscribe to the theory that people who are hiding their face also have something else to hide, the most common reason for wearing a mask in Japan is because you’re sick, so when you wear one despite being healthy, you’re likely to set off some false alarms that make people who don’t want to come down with something keep their distance from you.

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Of course, for some people that’s the whole point. “I wear a mask when I’m not sick so that my coworkers and boss won’t invite me to go drinking,” said a 34-year-old salesman.

This might seem a little drastic but with so many Japanese employees already having to do hours of unpaid overtime, sometimes tacking a two-hour-plus drinking party onto the end of the workday is going one step too far. Wearing a mask can plant that seed of doubt in your officemates’ minds that maybe trying to rope you into getting boozed up together isn’t such a great idea if you’re going to be coughing and sneezing into the pitcher of Asahi, even if the reality is just that you’d rather head straight home and crack a cold one open there instead.

▼ “Sorry, guys. I’d love to come along, but I left my….cold medicine…at home.”

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Source: My Navi News
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso, Men’s Este Asia, RocketNews24, Pakutaso, Photozou