A look through fashion history will make you realise how certain items were given to different genders in recent times. All kids, including boys, wore dresses until a certain age, heels were originally made for men and even pink was a masculine colour before it was made a “girl thing”.
For years, makeup has been seen as a “girls-only” enterprise so much so that, more people do not even know that it hasn’t always been that way. The earliest records of men wearing makeup date as far back as 3000 BC in China and Japan. They used natural ingredients to concoct nail paint, which was indicative of status in society.
As early as 4000 BCE, Egyptian men used black pigment to create elaborate cat-eye designs. A few millennia later, kohl eyeliner, green malachite eye shadow, and lip and cheek stains made from red ochre were also popular. The purpose was not what it is today, to look more attractive—green eye shadow was believed to evoke the gods Horus and Ra, and therefore ward off harmful illnesses. Dramatic eyeliner was customarily worn to communicate wealth and status.
In the eighteenth century many British men, women, and sometimes children wore make-up in order to match their social status.
The aristocrats at court “painted” their faces, but also the bourgeoisie and even the middle-classes complied with fashion and followed the trend of the pale face with red cheeks and lips.
The eighteenth-century men adopted the fashionable three-piece suit, the large powdered wigs and they also used a range of cosmetics they had at their disposal to complete their appearance.
In order to reach a pale complexion they whitened their faces with lead powder, then they applied “rouge” in circular or triangular shapes on their cheeks and even on their lips. They also used beauty patches to contrast with their white skin and darkened their eyebrows.
It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that makeup was relegated to one end of the gender spectrum. At that time, the influential Queen Victoria I of Great Britain deemed cosmetics vulgar, a view backed by the Church of England. During the Victorian era, makeup was considered “an abomination” by both the crown and the church, creating strong, widespread associations between makeup, vanity, femininity, and “the Devil’s work.” As religious values continued to permeate cultures around the world, mainstream definitions of masculinity narrowed. By the 20th century, makeup was seen as a girls-only pursuit.
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