Less Than Half of Men Think They’re Sexy

December 10, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Europe & Middle East | Global & Regional | Hispanic | Men | Women

When it comes to male beauty, Greek men feel the sexiest, Italian men are rated as best-looking, Australians are least concerned about their looks, and basic male hygiene is more important to women than it is to men, according to a global male-beauty study from Synovate.

The study, which asked a wide range of male-beauty-related questions to both men and women in 12 countries, reveals that less than half (49%) of the 5,000 male respondents agree that they are sexy. Results, however, revealed vast differences in self-belief across markets, Synovate said.

For example, 81% of Greek men think they are sexy, closely followed by Russians (80%) and South Africans (78%). At the other end of the scale, 78% of Malaysian males say they are not sexy, along with men in China and France (both 66%).

Best-Looking Men

In terms of which one country has the most handsome men,? Italy – which was not one of the countries surveyed – was cited by the most respondents? (11% of those surveyed) who named a country. The US, Russia and Brazil, each with 8% of mentions, tied for second place.


Country-specific findings for best-looking men:

  • In most markets, women were more likely than their male counterparts to name men of their own nationality.
  • Russia had the highest result for its own nation, with 65% saying the best looking men come from their own country
  • The US was fairly confident in the attractiveness of its men, with 55% saying Americans were the best looking men.
  • Canada had a low result for its own men: Only 24% of respondents said the best-looking men are to be found at home.
  • Brazilian women were a lot more patriotic than the men, with 57% women saying Brazilians were the best-looking vs. only 39% of men. The Brazilians also favored Italians (16%) and? American men (9%).
  • Greeks really like Italians, with 28% nominating them (32% of women and 23% of men).
  • 17% of Chinese respondents said men from the UK were the best looking.
  • Brits had a reasonably low opinion of the homegrown men: Only 23% went for the home vote, while nearly the same number (21%) chose Italian men.

The survey also asked male respondents to rank the importance of their appearance on a five-point scale. Overall, 34% of male respondents rate their looks as ‘very important’ to them. These numbers are as high as 61% in South Africa, 55% in Brazil and 53% in Russia.

The markets with the fewest men saying their looks are ‘very important’ are Australia (12%) and the US (15%).

Research, however, indicates overall that appearance is becoming more important to men. “Men tell us that looking good is more and more important to them,” said John Coll, head of the qualitative and consumer goods teams for Synovate in the UK. “Of course this is also more celebrity-led and aspirational than it’s ever been before too.”

Basic Hygiene a Must

When asked what the bare minimum a man must do before he can be considered handsome, the number-one basic requirement is that a man practice good hygiene, including maintaining fresh breath:

  • One third of all women say good hygiene is an absolute necessity before a man can be considered handsome (34% – the highest single result), while only 23% of men think this is the number one requirement.
  • Overall, men tend to think more difficult and stereotypical things – such as muscles and dressing well – were more important.
  • Second in overall ranking was a man who ‘carries himself with confidence’ with 20% of all respondents naming this as an absolute requirement, followed by ‘dresses well’ at 14%.
  • Only 1% of respondents say that a ‘full head of hair’ is necessary for someone to be handsome.

Most-Used Grooming Products

The top three most-used grooming products by men across all the markets are deodorant at 72%, whitening toothpaste at 61% and cologne or after-shave at 58%.


Country-specific product findings:

  • Russian men lead the pack on whitening toothpaste, driven by the pursuit of the ‘Hollywood smile,’ Synovate said.
  • Deodorant is least-used in China, with only 14% of men masking their scent. According to Synovate China’s CEO Darryl Andrew, this is because Chinese still largely regard personal grooming, and using grooming aids, as being feminine, and masking body odor is not a priority for social etiquette.
  • Overall, 56% of male respondents use grooming product s specifically designed or marketed to men, with men in Russia and the UK most likely to use men’s products (both 73%).

“Products that are tailored for men will be less embarrassing to use because they won’t carry effeminate associations that products made for women do,” said Coll.

Shaving Statistics

In good news for razor companies, nearly eight in ten (79%) of men agree that they look better clean-shaven, though there are significant differences between markets:

  • South African men (90%) are most likely to prefer the look of a clean-shaven face, followed by China (88%) and Spain (84%).


  • Men from Greece are most likely to embrace beards. 34% disagre they prefer to be clean-shaven, followed by Australia and Brazil (both 25%) and Canada (24%).
  • The same number of women as men (79%) agree that they prefer clean-shaven faces. Also similar to men, the highest results are from South Africa (92%), Spain (87%) and China (86%).
  • Women most open to facial hair are from Canada (30% disagreed), Australia and the US (both 26%).

Additional curiosities:

  • 7 in 10 of all men surveyed say their main motive in looking good is for themselves. 35% of British men say it’s for their partner or to attract one.
  • 77% of American women believe a man’s appearance improves with age.
  • Only 6% of women in the US and 8% in Australia say their partner’s looks are ‘very important’ to them whereas 58% of South African women admitted aesthetics are a high priority.
  • Overall, 13% of men said, from a list of attributes, they would least like to be bald, but this was as high as 24% in China.
  • 69% of men in Brazil take their grooming products with them when they leave home, vs. the overall total across the markets at 30%.
  • Chinese and Malaysian men are least likely to consider plastic surgery in order to look better with 96% and 94% respectively saying no to the knife.

About the survey: The survey included nearly 10,000 respondents in 12 markets around the world – Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Greece, Malaysia, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the UK and the US. It was fielded in October 2008 using online, telephone and face-to-face methodologies.

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