In eras and places throughout history, men have worn just as much makeup as women. Then, at some point, and for some reason, they stopped. Since then, particularly in the western world, makeup has really only been a thing for women, actors, TV personalities, and pop or rock stars. Over the last couple of years, however, that trend has shifted. Today, men are wearing makeup more and more. This is why.
Men Are Wearing Makeup
You may have noticed recently that some of the most popular makeup brands have come out with makeup lines for men. Perhaps you’ve even seen new brands marketed specifically towards guys. This is because men are wearing makeup, and companies see the potential in a relatively untapped and growing market. (1)
A Brief History of Makeup
The thing is, this isn’t the first time men have worn makeup. The ancient Egyptians wore eyeliner. In the 18th century, both the British and the French put white powder on their faces, among other things. The difference here is that both sexes wore more or less the same makeup. (1)
Wearing makeup regularly for women didn’t become popular until the 1920s. As people began moving more into cities and dating moved from home to out on the town, there was greater pressure for a woman to be deemed attractive. They were the ones with the money, so if they wanted a fun night out or a dinner at a fancy restaurant, they had to attract a man to take them. Women started wearing makeup to achieve this, and quickly makeup became a “women’s thing.” (1)
Lisa Wade, a sociology professor at Occidental College and the author of the textbook Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, explains how, economically, this doesn’t make sense. Technically if a company were to market to both men and women, they have double the earning potential. In this instance, however, “gender ideology” was more important than profit. (1)
“Gender is all about maintaining the idea that men and women are different,” she explains further. “Anything that we do that undermines distinction is a real threat to male superiority.” (1)
In today’s society, however, that table seems to be turning quicker and quicker, and more men are starting to wear makeup.
Why Men Are Wearing Makeup
There are many reasons why more men are wearing makeup. TV broadcasters and celebrities have been doing it for years, for many of the same reasons as women (2):
- It makes your skin look even
- Makeup can make you look younger
- It covers up blemishes and accentuates positive attributes
Pop Culture Influence
Makeup for men began gaining steam as shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Queer Eye became popular. Drag Race shows men doing incredible things with makeup to turn themselves into drop-dead-gorgeous drag queens. Queer Eye shows stylist and beautician Johnathan VanNess teaching people – including straight men – about skincare and how to use beauty products to positively boost confidence and self-esteem. (1)
In recent years, “toxic masculinity” has very much come under fire as being, of course, toxic. As the lines between what is “male” and what is “female” are being blurred, more and more men are finding the freedom to explore things that have been traditionally seen as “for women.” (1)
This includes fashion, general grooming, and, of course, makeup. Generation Z is at the forefront of this change. They are more open and gender-fluid than any other generation before them. (1)
“They’re now rethinking what masculinity means, what it means to be a guy, and painting your face or using skincare doesn’t make you any less men,” says David Yi, founder of the men’s beauty site Very Good Light. (1)
For decades, immense pressure has fallen on women always to look perfect and youthful. Flawless skin, perfect hair, perfect body – everything. Over the last few years, this pressure has been increasing for men. (2)
More men are having aesthetic treatments done and are beginning to take a vested interest in skincare products. (1) They see the benefits of taking care of their skin, and fewer and fewer men feel uncomfortable using and admitting that they use concealers to even out their skin tone or hide a pimple or two. (2)
Men’s Makeup Brands
Even though there’s no reason why men can’t use “women’s” makeup, there are many makeup brands marketed specifically toward men. These brands take a slightly more “masculine” approach to their design and advertising to make men feel more comfortable buying their products. (2)
Some brands include (2):
What some of these brands are realizing, though, is that they need this rough and tough appearance less and less. As the world progresses and more people seek to rid the world of toxic masculinity, men are caring less and less about whether or not their makeup and skincare products look “manly.” (2)
Concern For The Politics of Makeup
Some women don’t like makeup, saying that it puts unrealistic expectations on women’s beauty standards. It reiterates the idea that women have to alter their appearance to be considered beautiful or attractive to society – that they aren’t good enough just as they are. Instead, they are unofficially forced to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year to be deemed acceptable and worthy by the outside world. (1)
Other women see it as empowering and as a way to express themselves and highlight the things they like about themselves.
Will Men Feel The Same Pressures?
These same concerns are now on the rise for men. As makeup for men becomes normalized, will they have the same pressures? Will men begin to feel that they aren’t good enough just as they are? Or will makeup become more empowering, as it has for many men who have used it to express their gender identity and value themselves more? (1, 2)
Joel Stein addresses this in his article about his foray into makeup.
“At some point during this intricate process, it occurred to me that for 49 years, I’d never really studied my face. But now that I was really looking at myself and my flaws, they were all I could think about. Suddenly, my face looked like a planet with craters, valleys, volcanoes, coronas, and veins of ore,” he wrote.
Maybe I could spackle over it? I smeared yellow under my eyes to cover up the thick blue vein I’d never seen and green around my nose to hide the Clintonian red hollows. I took out a concealer stick and dabbed a scratch on my neck I don’t remember getting, and some red thing that wasn’t a pimple but also wasn’t not a pimple. I was older than I thought. Now I couldn’t get all these thoughts about my face out of my head. One application of concealer and I instantly understood feminism.” (2)
Should Men Wear Makeup?
‘Should men wear makeup?’ has the same answer to the question ‘should women wear makeup’: If they want to, then yes! If they don’t, then, of course, they don’t have to. This is a much easier feat to achieve for men, as they haven’t had the years of being told by marketing brands that they aren’t good enough without it.
Makeup also can mean whatever the individual user wants. It could be bold brows and lips, sparkles and a smokey eye, and highlight brightening the cheekbone. It could also simply mean applying some concealer to hide the bags under your eyes from lack of sleep.
Perhaps men wearing makeup will open up more doors for women to feel they have more freedom to choose, as well.