The show’s over for the father of China’s oddest subculture, the shamate

Dressed in a dark blue, long-sleeved shirt, tight jeans, and black leather shoes, Luo Fuxing looks nothing like the spikey-haired figure with purplish lipstick who, 10 years ago, founded one of the China’s best-known—and least-loved—subcultures.

It was 2007 when China’s internet forums and social media platforms seemed suddenly filled with members of the “shamate family.” The shamate were mostly young men from small rural communities, who bonded on and offline over their shared passion for flamboyant clothing, hair, and makeup.

To some, they looked like exotic aliens; to others, more like reject members of a Sex Pistols tribute band. But there’s no doubt the shamate were influential. According to Wang Bin, a sociologist at Central China Normal University, in September 2014 there were close to 17 million shamate webpages, 1.5 million posts on the Baidu Shamate Forum, and more than 200 active QQ groups. The subculture had become a national phenomenon, Wang wrote, as well as an entertainment subject for all.

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Phoebe Zhang is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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