Why don’t men wear make up?

“Metrosexual man, the single young man with a high disposable income, living or working in the city (because that’s where all the best shops are), is perhaps the most promising consumer market of the decade. In the Eighties he was only to be found inside fashion magazines such as GQ, in television advertisements for Levi’s jeans or in gay bars. In the Nineties, he’s everywhere and he’s going shopping.”

Mark Simpson, BBC journalist, 1994 (published in The Independent)

In 2002, Mark Simpson named David Beckham the metrosexual poster boy. Indeed, ever since the day Beckham wore that sarong, metrosexuals have been popping up everywhere.

Former ladies’ man Russell Brand and his legion of conquests prove that guyliner, coiffed hair and a flair for fashion clearly go down well with the opposite sex. So why, in what could be described as the golden age of metrosexuality, aren’t more men wearing make up?

Over the centuries, men have often dabbled with cosmetics; both in ancient Egypt and during the Roman Empire, men wore lip colorant as a means of denoting social status.

In the past, men also applied cosmetics for aesthetic reasons; during the Renaissance, women and men of Edward IV’s court wore lip rouge, and even as recently as the eighties, nineties and noughties (think punk rock, grunge and emo respectively) men have been partial to a bit of make up.

And why not? Men and make up are quite the combination. Indeed, Johnny Depp looked incredible in his role as Captain Jack Sparrow; the swashbuckling, slightly camp and smokey-eyed pirate whose long, dreadful (yep, pun) hair only served to make him, dare I say it, more attractive.

Of course, Johnny Depp is already beautiful, but don’t you get the feeling that he’s ever so slightly better looking with a bit of slap? Seriously, take a look at these two photos:

(image: poster.net)

Admittedly, he looks good in both pictures (let’s be honest, Johnny Depp could make a handlebar ‘tache look hot) but the point remains that there’s something exotic about a man who can pull off a bit of guyliner.

Having donned some smouldering kohl to the premier of The Tourist, it’s probably safe to say that Depp would agree.

And so it begs the question: why don’t more men wear make up?



Add yours →

  1. Orlando Bloom is completely overshadowed by the eyeliner Lothario Jack Sparrow! Is it weird that ‘guyliner’ makes a man more masculine??

  2. Love this post! I must say I am quite the fan of guyliner, but not every guy can pull it off as well as tha Depp. Also love that pic of Kurt, I do believe I used to have a massive poster of that pic.

  3. I’m sure I’d look a dab hand in some eyeliner (/sarcasm) but I think I’m going to blame society for this one.

    We’re just in a world where make up still has very feminine connotations and although masculinity is more accepting of feminine traits, I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

  4. Let me rephrase your question to “Why do women wear make up?” Make up has no practical use. Women don’t naturally look horrifically ugly without it, nor turn men gay if they’re not plastered with 27 different “beauty” products. There’s no logical reason why women should wear any make up or feel like they have to. And equally there’s no reason why men should.

    I see the fact that most women feel compelled to wear make up and some are incapable of leaving home without wearing several inches of 27 different “beauty” products as a serious issue with society. I manage to walk around in public without making any passersby sick with my unmakeupness, so why should women be any different?

    • Excellent point Chris!

      A couple of notes though. Firstly, I’m not quite sure where you got the number 27; from personal experience, I’d say the absolute basic standard amount of makeup worn by women on a daily basis is 3: concealer, foundation, and mascara. And possibly eyeliner. And a touch of eyeshadow. And maybe a bit of lippy. And blusher. But I digress!

      You say there’s no ‘logical’ reason as to why women should wear make up – but surely you could say the same about men; there’s no ‘logical’ reason why men should style their hair or dress well.

      I’d argue that there is absolute logic behind a woman wearing make up, just as, correspondingly, there’s absolute logic behind a man taking care of his appearance: ultimately, it’s all about looking good.

      In the same way that a male peacock flares out his feathers when trying to attract the female’s attention (excuse the David Attenborough analogy) humans, as animals, are biologically wired to a) be drawn to people that look attractive and b) as a consequence, want to look attractive themselves.

      The point I’m trying to make is that, on the whole, both genders are concerned with looking good, and therefore employ techniques and buy products which help them do so – whether it be makeup, nice clothes, a good hairstyle, impressive possessions etc.

      And so I wonder, in particular in light of historical trends, why is it that men no longer choose to wear make up? Why should make up, for the most part, be the sole domain of women?

      Indeed, as you said, why should women be any different? Actually, let me rephrase your question: why should men be any different?

      • Excellent points Hel-edd!

        A couple of notes though. Firstly, I’m not quite sure where you got the impression that by smearing industrial chemicals across their faces that people suddenly become more attractive. This is the mindset I’m challenging. Make up doesn’t make people attractive.

        There is no logical reason why men should style their hair. And what on earth does “dress well” mean? Does it mean wearing clothes that other people would wear themselves, or does it mean wearing clothes that have been made from high quality materials, or have been ethically sourced, or clothes that happen to be made by a certain “designer”…?

        There is nothing different about women’s skin to men’s that necessitates women using concealer or foundation. Mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, lipstick and blusher all have no purpose. And for women who feel incapable of leaving the house without being hidden under these products, I suggest counselling.

        As for “looking good”, what does that mean? Attractive people will look attractive whether plastered in several inches of cosmetics or not…More of an issue, however, is that “looking good” is so subjective. So who’s opinion is important? Is it more important to be happy with how you look yourself, to be wearing the same clothes as everyone else because they are deemed “fashionable”, or are you supposed to look like Kate Moss because she happens to be a “supermodel”?

        If you want to continue the animal comparisons, you have to bear in mind that across most species the males pretty much rape the females, rabbits eat their own poo and all goldfish do is swim around in circles. Just because animals do something doesn’t mean we should blindly copy them. And, just because humans used to live in caves doesn’t mean that we should still live in caves now. So why should “fashion” be considered differently?

        And if you want an answer as to why men don’t wear make up, have a look across any glossy fashion “magazines”. Men are told to aspire to become rock hard abbed, super muscular apes, while women’s mags have endless pictures of stick thin, glossy haired, make up encrusted airheads. That’s where the perception that men shouldn’t wear make up comes from.

        Actually let me rephrase your question, why should make up be in the domain of women at all?

        If you want a visual representation of my concept of make up, look at this:

      • Chris-toff-er! This is brilliant, and made me laugh!

        Indeed I am not suggesting we should copy animals, nor should we revert back to our cave-dwelling, troglodyte days. What I am merely suggesting is that, like animals, a large part of the attraction we feel towards people is based on their physical appearance (shallow maybe, but true.)

        You use the terms ‘smearing’ and ‘plastered,’ but unless you’re Vicky Pollard, women certainly don’t ‘plaster’ concealer onto their faces, nor do they ‘smear’ lipstick onto their lips. There’s a fine art to make up, and when applied correctly, it enhances – even transforms – your features. While I agree that women should be happy with the way they look, I also believe that women should be free to use make up if they wish to do so.

        In terms of why make up should be the domain of women, I honestly think that the majority of women who invest in make up genuinely enjoy both applying and wearing it – and why shouldn‘t they? If you want to jazz up your eyes with cobalt blue or decorate lips with bold scarlet; what’s so wrong with that?

        You say mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, lipstick and blusher all have no purpose – well you could say the same thing about a work of art. A work of art has no actual, practical purpose, but it does have aesthetic value. How dull life would be if everything was based purely on logic and necessity! I agree with you; make up isn’t necessary, but I disagree with you when you say that make up has no purpose. Make up definitely has a purpose: it enables a person to experiment with their look, to inject some colour into their appearance, to enhance their natural beauty, to express themselves, to have fun and to be creative.

        So now that I’ve explained why I believe women wear make up, let me return to the original point of both my article and our debate. Women and men have put make up to artistic use over the centuries e.g. Egyptian men wore kohl, men during the 18th century wore white powder, blusher and beauty spots, and during the 1970s and 1980s men wore glamorous, dramatic make up as part of the New Romantic movement. (And, according to FRIENDS, Japanese men also like blue lipstick…!) Also, while their reasons for doing so may differ, Celtic, Māori, Aborigine and Masai men all have a long history of decorating their faces.

        When taking into account the abovementioned historical facts, which seem to suggest that men have had quite an on/off relationship with make up over the years, what I’m interested in knowing is, quite simply; why don’t more men wear make up nowadays? Or perhaps I should rephrase my own question: what are men’s views of male make up?

        Ps. Thank you for your comments Chris, and for bringing engaging ideas to Yesterface! Really enjoying them!

  5. You know what: I’ve noticed a lot more guys wearing make up recently… I think it’s a bit odd myself!

    @chris if there are mil/billions of pounds to be made out of it… then there is always a way with advertising.

    • Dom, there’s no doubt mil/billions of pounds to be made by marketing departments making people feel dependent upon their (useless) cosmetic products. There’s also mil/billions of pounds to be made from fraud, selling drugs, slave labour……just because you can make money from something doesn’t justify it. Although it does explain why immoral advertising attempts to make people dependant upon things…

      • Nothing wrong with selling people something which makes them feel more beautiful and happier about themselves. Sure it’s a rip off and pointless… but it’s not immoral. You can not compare this to slave labour or fraud, that’s totally ridiculous. People make the choice to buy these products: that’s the nature of a capitalist economy, which we all assign to one way or another… the market provides what the people want (even if it tells the people what they want).

        If people have enough money to spend, then it’s fine 🙂

  6. Ok, yes physical appearance is important, but whether face crayons and eye soot enhance someone’s appearance positively is debatable.

    Ok, I mentioned smeared and plastered make up to make a point…but…a lot of make up is very much obvious, whether well done or not, classy or chavvy. Make up may potentially enhance people’s features, but I believe an attractive person is attractive with or without make up. Women don’t become more attractive post make up, they just become more obviously attractive.

    Yes women should be free to choose whether to use make up or not, but with so many airbrushed, pearl dropped, St Tropez-ed digital versions of women staring out of women’s mags, the images women are told to aspire to are not possible without make up (and extreme surgery usually). This is what I believe powers women to feel the need to wear make up, as many women would feel inadequate without it – not because they feel any happier when wearing make up. If you can justify women wearing make up, there is no reason why men shouldn’t wear make up too.

    If women want to “invest” in make up, then there’s nothing stopping them, just as there’s nothing stopping them sawing off their feet, should they so desire. Placing too much value in the products they use however is dangerous though I think, as it powers the whole make up dependant, anorexic mindset of many young women, that results from them having unattainable visions of feminine “beauty” plastered across every advertising medium since they were born. This doesn’t make women happy, it just makes many depressed…

    As for art, art has no purpose. Whatsoever. And the financial value that many put into arbitrary streaks of paint or unmade beds, giant sculptures etc. shows that humanity has a long way left to evolve. Life would be more dull though without it…

    Just as a thought for you Hel-edd, in Japan several companies sell bras for men. If I remember correctly, the only colours available are pink and white.

    You’re asking for men’s opinion of male make up, right? I think the only way to gain an educated idea is to plaster (sorry!) men with make up to find out.

    My face is ready…Are your make up skills?!

    • Christ-toff-er.

      I agree with certain points you’ve made, but I think your overall view of make up (and apparently art) is unfortunately negative.

      While I think you’re right that unattainable standards are set for women in obviously unrealistic beauty ads (for more on that, check my blog post: ‘False eyelashes: false advertising?’) I don’t think it’s fair to say that women wear make up just because they feel ‘inadequate’ without it, and not because they feel ‘happier’ with it.

      In fact, I think saying that in itself is offensive to women – it paints women as some sort of depressed group of people plagued by feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem who can’t leave the house without make up and are too dim to figure out that beauty ads aren’t real.

      That’s not the case. Take it from me, as a woman who enjoys applying and wearing make up, many other women also enjoy doing so for the reasons I listed in my previous comment.

      So for now I think we’ll have to agree to disagree, otherwise this could go on for some time and I can feel my face ageing… and no amount of foundation will fix that. (That’s a joke by the way, I’m not being ageist.)

      As for your challenge, I accept! I’ll be doing a male makeover post soon anyway, so that’d be great. Prepare to get plastered…

      ps. You may be surprised to hear that my line up of male models for said post are, in fact, very excited about having a makeover…
      pps. Japan bra fact = random.com

      • Yes I do have a negative view of make up, but I base this on the demeaning nature I see in much of the advertising around cosmetics and women’s ads in general.

        With regards to the unattainable standards I didn’t mean to present women as a depressed group plagued by low self esteem and the delusion that adverts are real. However, I do believe that these relentless adverts can have a very detrimental impact on some women’s self esteem (and men too, with expectations of chiselled jaws, perfect 8 packs…etc).

        Wait…foundation doesn’t “stop the signs of ageing”, it just covers up blemishes, non?!

        Right, well I look forward to finding out the fate of my face…

  7. Dom I think the cosmetics industry is highly deceptive and creates an almost entirely fictional “need” for many products. That is what I see as immoral. The main reason people would feel more attractive with many products, I believe, is because adverts tell them how they should feel, rather than them being able to see any noticeable effects.

    Adverts make statements like “before you’re ready to take serious action” and so on, normalising cosmetic surgery as if people’s health will suffer without surgery…the way they do this and the extent of their claims I find very deceptive and nearing on fraudulent, as often I don’t think the science behind products is sufficiently strong to make the bold claims they make. People have the choice whether to buy products yet the info about the products they receive is highly distorted, which I don’t think allows them to make a properly educated choice…

    As for the fraud and slavery analogy, my point was that just because something is commercially viable, that doesn’t make it acceptable…Just because companies can make money from selling cosmetics doesn’t mean they should, if (as I believe), they are misinforming consumers. (Sorry for another long answer, I’ll be quiet now!)

  8. Chris, commenting on a blog clearly aimed at women who are interested in and enjoy using make-up, and then telling them they are too stupid to see through the advertising/have zero self-esteem might be considered a little thick.

    I am romantic about make-up and love everything from the colours to the packaging to the smell, and to me, an hour spent playing around with it before a night out is not time wasted. I do think some women are more into it as a mask than a hobby, and some women aren’t bothered at all – I have to do my sisters’ and mum’s make-up for any big events we go to as they don’t get the practice doing their own day-to-day.

    To me it’s also part of an outfit; a Breton top and jeans is completed with a bit of kohl and nude lipbalm, a 50s dress is perfected by a red lip, and so on.

    To repeat my point about spending time on it; I think most men can’t be bothered. There are levels of male grooming threshold, in that some have built-in time to apply aftershave and style hair, and some just roll out of bed. The reason men’s make-up hasn’t really been marketed in a full-on, mainstream way corresponds to the research we just saw on what both genders want from a magazine cover (men: solid brand, useful, informative, women: indulgence, me-time, beauty.) The creativity of it just appeals to us that bit more.

    I do like the guyliner though – on a suitable rugged guy 😉

    • Lucy, I’m not saying that everyone reading this is too stupid to see through advertising, but that there are women out there whose make up dependency is predominantly created by advertising. And I honestly don’t believe that you or any other women would place SO much value in make up if it wasn’t for the effect of manipulative, deceptive “beauty” advertising throughout your lives. That’s not a criticism, just my interpretation. It might not be the most tactful place to challenge make up wearing here, but that doesn’t mean that the points I’ve raised aren’t relevant or hold some truth. Heledd invited a debate and debate doesn’t happen unless you have people willing to voice differing opinions. I was just offering a different view.

      I also said that I thought women were attractive without make up, rather than needing to wear make up to become acceptably attractive and that women should be happier with their appearance without make up. I see that as very empowering rather than demeaning.

      In terms of research about men wanting useful, informative content and solid brands, I see this as a result of previous advertising. And that’s why I believe most men can’t be bothered – as they’re taught not to be bothered by most advertising. And if men had been taught to wear make up and dresses in advertising, they would.

  9. He spent six posts basically insulting me –

    I’m not allowed one in my defence?

    • He? Lucy, none of my posts are insulting you at all. All I wanted to do was explain why I hold a different stance, albeit in a highly exaggerated style to challenge the status quo. I’m not making any judgements about you at all and I’m truly sorry if you or anyone else is offended by what I’ve written. Of course you’re free to do what you want and to respond with your views.

  10. Hi Heledd, great blog and very interesting debate.

    Definitely agree with you that Jonny Depp looks better with a bit of eyeliner going on!

    The latest issue of Love is well worth a look see on androgyny in fashion at the moment 🙂

  11. Thanks for the comments everyone!

    @Lucy – Agreed, make up compliments / completes an outfit, and, to me, the fun of applying it is an integral part of a good night out.

    @Ruth – I was actually planning on buying the latest issue of LOVE – saw the ad a couple of weeks ago, looks v. interesting!

  12. Just a small point. Has any one looked at history? Not so long ago it was men that wore makeup, and were very flamboyant. It seems to me, and I reiterate, to me, that women took this from men over time. As mentioned before, If from birth girls and boys see that both ware slap and so on, then this would be normal? yes it would. I even as a man, totally understand Lucy. I will not go out unless i have put on day cream and a little under eye wrinkle treatment, the reason I do this is not for others, but for me. If I feel good then my character will shine and that’s what’s important. There is to much of this rubbish about men having to be “men” Probably seven out of ten women actually find “the real man” quite disgusting, and I for one agree. I realise I have moved slightly from the point, but it needs to be said, I think.
    In the end, why do so many women have a gay fella as a best friend?
    Sorry for that small rant……

  13. In Pakistan n M. East, eyeliner has religious associations. Spiritual men will wear eyeliner as Sunnah , part of following Muhammad’s (pbuh) tradition.

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