Nowadays, Instagram is full of a new generation of amateur make-up artists trying their hand at the craft, many of whom have skills to rival professionals. Although it shouldn’t, for many people it comes as a surprise that more and more of these artists are male. Brands such as L’Oréal Paris have recently launched their first campaign featuring a male model. James Charles made history last year as CoverGirl’s first cover boy. But unfortunately, makeup is still considered “feminine” in our society and is deemed “emasculating” or “weak” for men. But it’s important to note that, despite the reaction it receives by many people, men wearing makeup is by no means a new phenomenon; people of all genders have worn makeup since its very invention some 6000 years ago.
4000 BC – The first uses of makeup are traced back to the times of the Ancient Egyptians when men and women would use coal made of materials like lead and ash to line their eyes, believing that the dark circles would ward off dangerous spirits.
3200 BC – Southern Babylonian soldiers began painting their nails green and black before battles as an attempt to make themselves look more threatening. It is believed to also have been used by Inca tribes for similar reasons.
1000 BC – During the Zhou dynasty in China, colouring one’s nails was used as a status symbol. Throughout the years the royal colours varied between red, gold and silver. However, poorer people used pale pink – a lower class citizen caught wearing the nail varnish of the royals could face a death penalty!
100 AD – Roman men often lightened their faces with makeup or rouged their cheeks, for no reason other than vanity. Although this was still viewed as feminine, the Emperor Elagabalus was said to be a fan of this trend, and apparently removed all his body hair too. I mean, if it’s good enough for an Emperor… enough said.
1500 – English men in the Elizabethan era also valued pasty-white complexions, and used everything from lead to egg whites to achieve such an effect. The toxic lead and dangerously cakey texture of the makeup caused premature death in many cases – talk about suffering for beauty!
1700 – In France, a mixture of mercury, lead, egg whites, vinegar was used to whiten the faces of the men and women. This heavy mixture could cause blemishes and scars, so they covered them up with star and moon shaped patches. Luckily, this was not deemed too effeminate for men.
1970-1980s – A new era of music known as glam rock arrived in the 1970s, and with it came male artists who embraced their feminine side and wore lots of outrageous and colourful makeup. Artists like David Bowie and T. Rex gave way to the New Romantics movement, which inspired many more bands to don eyeshadows and lipsticks just as extravagant, if not more so.
1990-2000s – Continuing into the nineties and noughties, men wearing makeup in music was just as popular, only now with more “alternative” acts – members of pop-punk and rock bands such as Billy Joel Armstrong, Pete Wentz and Jared Leto popularised “guyliner” as a way to stand out from the crowd, and with it came the decline of brightly coloured eyeshadows in favour of a more “edgy” look.
2010s – Nowadays, we’ve come round full circle, and makeup for men is slowly making a comeback. Sure, it won’t happen without its barriers, but next time someone tries to claim it’s a fad among millennials, just remind them that actually, men have been wearing makeup as long as makeup has existed. And hey, if it’s good enough for the Ancient Egyptian pharaohs, it’s good enough for me.