Men’s makeup culture in the West over the past 10 years or so has been subject to many a campaign rebirth. This is not solely down to demographics moving on in age cycles and then the process begins again. It centres on what has traditionally been seen and marketed (since the mid-1800s) as a ’girls-only’ enterprise. Our own deep rooted local cultures lend to this notion including my home city of Glasgow, where the traditional male disposition is one of the strong alpha male type and embracing moisturiser was a challenge at one point!
Yet, Men wearing make-up stretches back from 4000 BC right through to the 18th Century; Ancient Egypt/Rome, Elizabethan England and 18th Century France. There are many illustrations of men wearing make up to extenuate facial countering, nail art paint through the use of pig fats and bloods to the white powdered skin look which was in vogue during the rule of Queen Elizabeth I.
The timeline continued to transcend with stage actors which in turn translated onto the silver screen where the likes of Charlie Chapin used make up tricks and flicks to draw focus on to his expressive eyes and artistry.
The cinematic influence of Metrosexual beauty continued with the polished look of Clark Gabel, John Travolta (Grease/Saturday Night Fever’s famous beautifying regime of Combs, Brylcream and a hairdryer – “Watch the hair!”) and Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan’s deep defined eyeful look. The ‘Mad Men’ of the day used such onscreen influence to further develop male-specific branding of the cosmetics industry.
I fully applied the ‘Guyliner’ and ‘Manscara’ hype of 10 years ago whilst doing spots of Presentation work for MTV UK. This wasn’t me just taking on the edgy London boys makeup look of the time as l faced the camera or simply hung out in Camden, it actually links back to my cultural heritage from Punjab, Northern India.
Male makeup in India, in particular eyeliner and mascara, isn’t just seen as a veil for the biggest Bollywood actors who have led the way for such male masculinity on the silver screen. The everyday man of India wears eye defining dyes and paints, especially when matrimonial armoury is required.
It’s a massive cultural nuance for Grooms to apply eyeliner and mascara as part of their wedding day dress. Traditionally applied by your sister in law (my own has been waiting years to do this and the wait continues!) to ward off evil spirts and just to look smokin’ hot!
A growing number of Male makeup bloggers and vloggers from across Europe, USA and India are challenging the gender norms of the cosmetics industry. All influencing major brands including Tom Ford, MAC Cosmetics and Clinique to launch male or unisex product lines with smaller male focused independent brands evolving too. The pace within this market segment continues to increase exponentially, especially as gender fluidity continues to cultivate amongst millennials.
Asos, the UK based online fashion retailer, has over 750,000 Facebook views with its ‘How to do natural make-up for men’ video guide. These numbers continue to rise into the millions with vloggers such as Jake Jamie ‘The Beauty Boy’, Wayne Goss and Bretman Rock et al. who all influence a very open minded and self-expressive generation of men.
So is Men’s make-up here to stay? It never actually went away in the first place.
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