Although not a new concept, men wearing makeup has recently begun to be more accepted. A new market seems to open itself.
You Can’t Makeup History
Men wearing makeup is not a novel practice at all. For centuries men openly and traditionally wore makeup. It was common to see ancient Egyptians wearing khol around their eyes and lip stains. This was a way to show masculinity and rank.
In ancient Korea elite warrior groups wore powder and cheek pigments. In Elizabethan England, flawless skin was a sign of wealth, intelligence and power. Men would therefore use powder to even out their faces.
It is only in recent times that makeup has gained such feminine connotation and frowned upon when used by men. The Victorian era is the main source of these beliefs. Vanity, arrogance and the “Devil’s work” became linked to makeup during this time.
In the 20th century a few male stars made a brand of wearing makeup and defied stereotypes (Prince, Boy George, David Bowie). However, being a ‘manly man’ and wearing makeup were rarely found in the same sentence.
The Shift in Tone
However, a notable shift started in the early 2000s, and male cosmetics became more and more normalised in pop culture. More and more men admittedly wore makeup. Even government officials have openly worn light correctors. Such as, the viral news of Trump wearing the famous Bronx Colour concealer. As well as the reveal that French president Emmanuel Macron spent over £20,000 on makeup in his first trimester in office.
These are just some of the examples of the acceptance that men can conceal imperfections too. TV presentors, actors and other celebrities followed in this logic. But the products used were simply small corrective and mainly involved foundation and other skin perfecting products.
Male Makeup Makes it Mainstream
The real liberalisation of men’s makeup and grooming boomed in the 2010s. With the rise of Youtube, DailyMotion and other video-making platforms, a number of male beauty influencers went viral posting full-glam makeup tutorials.
The “beauty community” involved men, women and non-binary people who shared online their common love for makeup. Stars like James Charles, Jeffree Star, Manny Gutierrez or Marc Zapanta became known for their extravagant, colourful looks. These individuals promote the message that makeup is for everyone and can be used to boost confidence or express yourself regardless of gender.
Some launched their own successful companies, and often collaborate with big names. Like Lewys Ball being the first male ambassador for Rimmel London, Manny Mua for Maybelline and James Charles for Covergirl.
Tiktok soon followed suit, where many young men post themselves wearing eyeliner, nailpolish and concealer. This is usually met with huge success and support. WWD’s beauty financial editor, Allison Collins, explained that “on Instagram, men in makeup is fully normalised”. She also added that male skincare is also on the rise.
Companies Change their Makeup
Companies have followed this movement, with pre-existing huge brands opening male lines. Yves Saint Laurent launched their male version of the reknown Touche Eclat concealer in 2004.
Chanel started their Boy de Chanel range in 2018, saying “men should be free to use makeup products to correct or improve their appearance, without calling into question their masculinity.” Going on to say “by wearing Boy de Chanel makeup products […] men can feel self-assured and determined, confident about themselves and their appearance”.
This growing new market has grown with the launch of new beauty brands, exclusively for men. Alex Dalley launched MMUK in 2011. He explained that it was difficult at the start because the concept was judged as ‘almost offensive’.
According to Dalley, the essential part of the brand’s success is due to the discreet, neutral packaging. The aim is to destroy stereotypes while remaining appealing and not intimidating to the general male eye.
On the other side of the spectrum, celebrities like Harry Styles position themselves as emblems against toxic masculinity. Openly promoting wearing makeup. Styles also had a famous Vogue cover of him in a dress. This symbolises the belief that men should embrace their femininity and not be afraid to defy gender norms. He also founded “Pleasing” a nail-polish, serum and correcting pen line aimed towards ‘anyone’.
The liberalisation of masculine beauty is viewed as essential to break through gender stereotypes because they’re ultimately “just products”. However, a lot remains to be done as older generations still frown upon this acceptance.