The distinct reproductive roles of males and females, which for many years were characterised in terms of competitive males and choosy females, have remained a central focus of sexual selection since Darwin's time. Increasing evidence now shows that males can be choosy too, even in apparently unexpected situations, such as under polygyny or in the absence of male parental care. Here, we provide a synthesis of the theory on male mate choice and examine the factors that promote or constrain its evolution. We also discuss the evolutionary significance of male mate choice and the contrasts in male versus female mate choice. We conclude that mate choice by males is potentially widespread and has a distinct role in how mating systems evolve.