Was Makeup Made for Men Originally? The History of Men and Makeup

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Makeup is widely associated with femininity, and has been for many centuries. But it is fast becoming a more gender-inclusive product… again?! That’s right! Originally, was makeup made for men?

  • In recent years though, men wearing makeup has become less taboo
  • Men wearing makeup can be traced as far back as the invention of makeup itself.
  • Through time, makeup has evolved in its role much in the same way that the genders have.

In this article, we will briefly examine the history of makeup and how it became perceived as a predominantly “female thing.”


Was Makeup Made for Men? The Origin of Makeup

The term “makeup” only came into existence in the early 1800s. The application of items such as paint and powders to one’s face can be traced back to the Neanderthal era. It was likely used to communicate between villagers or camouflage when hunting. And it probably involved accentuating certain features, as well!

The application of items such as paint and powders to one’s face can be traced back to the Neanderthal era. It was likely used to communicate between villagers or camouflage when hunting. And it probably involved accentuating certain features, as well!

These purposes were much more functional than the primarily aesthetic ones of today. The process was therefore considered neither masculine nor feminine.

Each gender used it for a different purpose.

1. Ancient Egyptians

The ancient Egyptians are considered the earliest civilization to which makeup can be traced. It was used for decorative or aesthetic purposes. Like Neanderthals, though, Egyptian masculinity was never compromised due to wearing makeup.

Powerful male figures were well known for wearing elaborate eye makeup from as early as 4000 BC. In addition to eye makeup like Kohl, the length and color of men’s fingernails signified their status.

It became a prevalent aesthetic enhancement among Ancient Egyptians.

Makeup was traditionally worn as symbols of status by powerful men throughout history, in different forms.

Like the men, women began decorating their eyes with kohl, which was then primarily made from soot (not bat poop!). Cleopatra was well known for using items aimed at enhancing her features, especially her lips.

2. Roman Empire

By the first millennium, the Romans are believed to have adopted the idea from the Egyptians. And are perhaps the most well-documented makeup users among men.

Romans, especially males, were renowned for hedonistic lifestyles and displays of vanity. This includes enslaving people bathed in oils and perfumes. It was considered one of the earliest forms of skincare.

Romans, especially males, were renowned for hedonistic lifestyles and displays of vanity. This includes enslaving people bathed in oils and perfumes. It was considered one of the earliest forms of skincare.

Romans were also well-known for their cosmetic use, with powder used to lighten their complexion and rogue applied to their cheeks. This remained the norm for centuries to come.


The Change

So, when did makeup become “feminine”?

All pointers indicate that the key change came about during the Victorian era. Men and women alike were widely using various items for cosmetic purposes. However, the items used were unsafe and led to complications ranging from pale skin to baldness and even premature death.

During the Victorian era, men and women alike were widely using various items for cosmetic purposes.

These health implications are believed to have resulted in Queen Victoria’s declaration that makeup should not be worn as it was considered vulgar and impolite.

The church back then had much more say in law-making than today. It affirmed that makeup was considered an abomination and a work of the Devil.

Although makeup did not disappear completely, it remained prevalent only in certain circumstances. This includes prostitution and drag acting. This is the point that most agree that makeup began being considered “feminine.”

Also, along with associations with homosexuality among males that continued to use it.

Since then, societal changes have continued to shape. It emphasized the roles and purpose of men and women alike. Such as the need to be masculine during the war and the growing prevalence of homophobic societies.


Makeup’s Re-Emergence

By the 1920s, laws were changing, and so too were gender roles. Broadway and Hollywood were taking the world by storm. It was no surprise that makeup began its rise again and started becoming an accepted norm for men, especially among actors.

They needed that extra pop on screen!

This trajectory continued into the 1960s and ’70s when television began its reign.

Rock groups, particularly glam music, became synonymous with bold makeup styles. By the time pop culture rolled in, societies and laws had changed completely. Thus, forcing the acceptance of freedom of expression as we know it today.


Conclusion

Makeup is older than history, and we have no real records that go back that far. But arguably, men wore makeup even before women. Makeup, in some form or another, has been around for almost as long as humankind.

And much like humans, it has evolved tremendously. Makeup was traditionally worn as a symbol of status by powerful men throughout history. It came in different forms from one country to another, and from one era to another.

It’s believed that makeup became considered feminine following the church’s discouragement of usage in men during the Victorian era. While the stigma of men wearing makeup has largely reduced, there is still a significant prevalence of it in society today.

Written by Kayla Young

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