Six-pack hunks: more than Singapore can bare?

Thu Dec 15, 2011 3:14am EST
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By Eveline Danubrata

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Shirtless men clad in red sweatpants have been lining up for days in Singapore's prime shopping district, part of an advertising gimmick revealing not just muscle but also a gradual unpeeling of the city state's puritanical ways.

The feverish reception given the "shirtless greeters" by the Singapore public, both in real life and online, where it has gone viral in social media, signals how the notoriously conservative city-state has been loosening up in recent years, experts said.

On a recent evening, women stood with the men for pictures, touching them on the chest or receiving a friendly embrace. One even jumped up on a greeter's back.

The men, from the United States, Europe and Asia, are on a mission to drum up excitement for fashion retailer Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F)'s flagship store in Singapore, which opened on Thursday, using a campaign also employed overseas.

"There's no way such advertisements that push the envelope slightly would have appeared about 30 years ago," said M. Thiyagarajan, a senior lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic's business school who specializes in advertising and public relations.

"I think as a society we have moved to a different level. We are far more accepting of such things."

He cited the spread of the internet, education and overseas travel as factors that have helped open minds in Singapore, which officially is still such a strict society that a ban on sales of chewing gum was renewed last year.

Local theatres have recently staged plays exploring traditionally controversial themes such as homosexuality and religion. Gay sex can still lead to a jail term of up to two years, although such laws are rarely enforced.   Continued...

<p>A woman poses for photographs with a shirtless model outside a department store in Singapore's Orchard Road shopping district December 14, 2011. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV</p>