Men’s makeup: where are we with overcoming taboos?


For the first time in centuries, men’s makeup is returning to being normal, accepted, far from any taboo. In fact, more and more guys are approaching the world of makeup by experimenting with nail polish, eyeshadow and lipstick. And, finally, making make-up also a matter for men.

“I never thought I’d be able to see and feel totally a man even when wearing makeup”. Thus begins @caspisan – alias Ethan Caspani – on Instagram, reminding us in very few words how much the men’s makeup is still far from being a shining example of normality. At least in 2021. A paradox, considering that makeup has been a masculine as well as feminine habit for centuries. The reality, in fact, is that makeup has never been about gender, but simply art and self-expression. Beauty is genderless and men’s makeup is a unique and wonderful way to break down all kinds of boundaries and conventions, without losing sight of one’s personality (and without forgetting skincare for him, for a perfect result). Because, as Ethan says in his post, “I felt like a cool man, I didn’t feel my masculinity fade”. And Pride Month does not need to legitimize the will to use the trick: the makeup is for everyone, always.

History of men’s makeup, from the ancient Egyptians to Hollywood stars

Makeup has played a fundamental role since Ancient Egypt, a time when it represented the perfect embodiment of masculinity. Men, in fact, used to use black pigments to create ante litteram cat-eyes. No vanity: the aim was to communicate one’s status. The Romans, on the other hand, used to color their cheeks with a red pigment and paint their nails. Centuries later, the men of Elizabethan England began to lighten their faces with white powders, according to the fashion of the time. And how can we forget the extravagant wigs and moles specially designed to boast at the 18th century French court? Even a few centuries later, in 1930s Hollywood, wearing makeup was perfectly normal for men: Clark Gable’s flawless look was perhaps the first modern example of metrosexuality. In conclusion, the story is clear: makeup has never been a question of gender.

The artistic spirit of men’s makeup

To consecrate men’s makeup in the twentieth century were the seventies and eighties and, of course, the rock stars. David Bowie, Prince, Boy George and Freddy Mercury are just some of the men who made makeup a distinctive artistic trait, which did not affect their masculinity, but rather enhanced their personality. Slowly, makeup really became a men’s business: starting in 1967, in fact, men approached beauty and makeup, becoming makeup artists. But unfortunately, men’s makeup remained linked to the environment of art and musical subcultures at least until the 2000s. Just think of Pete Wentz, Jared Leto and Adam Lambert and their eyes always surrounded by a veil of black pencil, the only examples on the red carpet and on the streets. The makeup was simply a representative element, which identified them not only as artists, but also as belonging to punk-rock. The normalization of men’s makeup – or better still genderless – was still a long way off.

Men’s makeup: how did it evolve?

The advent of social media has dramatically changed the role of men’s makeup in society. Thanks to Instagram, in fact, men’s makeup was able to emerge from the darkness of subcultures and become the protagonist of a new ecstatic, without borders. A drastic change: from an aid for the creation of characters on the screen, men’s makeup has gradually become a part of everyday life. Thus the first men’s makeup collections were born, dedicated to a more everyday beauty, suitable for correcting imperfections, illuminating the complexion and enhancing the face. Mission accomplished? Not exactly. The goal is still far away and men who wish to wear makeup are still considered an unnatural oddity, a stretch.

Why is men’s makeup taboo today?

Apparently, it is manhood that is particularly threatened by makeup, almost as if makeup on a man could suddenly make him inferior. Is it the close connection with the female world that makes makeup something so abominable? Maybe. In any case, it is a completely distorted view of makeup, which has nothing to do with femininity, but only with the feel good in your own skin, having the opportunity to be whoever you want. The goal, in fact, is not only to make it acceptable for a man to correct their dark circles with make-up, but to give everyone the opportunity to have fun with eye shadows, eyeliner and lipsticks. Without gender limits.

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