Ah, brows! Remember the time when being 'on fleek' wasn't really a thing? Various brow products of different formulas, pigments and finishes have risen to the market as part of the brow mania. And for a body part that's just supposed to keep sweat, dirt and other debris from falling into our eyes, our eyebrows really went through a whole cycle of changes through the years.
It's not just because of vanity, though. Brows significantly aid how we communicate and express our feeling and thoughts more than you think. Which makes the changes in how we wear them truly fascinating. So how does its evolution fall into the narrative of human history, at least in the last century? Let's take a look back below.
1920s to 1930s
A major shift in beauty started in the '20s when 'natural beauty' flew out the window and more extreme looks became preferable. This can be aligned with the flapper culture where women became more adverse to what was considered as conventional behaviour promoted at the time. Complementing their overly plucked brows were bob cuts and swished bangs that framed the face. It was a symbol of more liberty for women as compared to having typically long hair dressed in updos that signify social status. This continued until the '30s, but with a more exaggerated take. This is done by putting a darker pigment to accentuate the ultra-thin and theatrically arched brows women donned at the time.
A practical turn came in the '40s due to World War II. Women suited up to support wartime efforts and there was simply no room to follow outrageous beauty trends. Overplucked brows went out of trend and more women went au naturel, maybe just dabbing some Vaseline to keep their arches in place. Even celebrities embraced fuller brows at the time with a defining arch in the middle to create a groomed but still nonchalant look.
1950s to 1970s
Fast forward to another decade and brows that are full but now better groomed than they were in the '40s was all over beauty spreads, on television, and of course, the streets. Being the Golden Era of film, the '50s was when face-framing bolder brows from the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn rose in popularity. Then in the '60s, supermodels like Twiggy defined the look even more by matching her perfectly curved brows with spiky, fanned out lashes. It was a bit similar for brows in the '70s, where the likes of Donna Summer and Aretha Franklin wore theirs quite thin but definitely groomed.
The '80s have contributed a lot to today's fashion, being one of the most 'extra' when it comes to basically everything — from the colour palettes to the layers of clothing to the accessories. And when it comes to the beauty department, needless to say, it was as bold as the era's fashion. Floofed hair and barely groomed brows were all the rage during the time, as made popular by Madonna, Brooke Shields and Winona Ryder. It doesn't matter if it's full or thin as long as it embraces the natural shape of the arches. At the time, hair height was more important than getting sharply shaped brows.
The '90s was when being laidback got meshed with technologically mediated progress, making it a truly remarkable time although probably not in the beauty arena. Sure, we can all bask in the glory of glitter hair clips and chunky bangles that are levelled up versions of accessories that were popular during the '80s, but the brow game in this decade is something that we just want to forget. In contrast to the '80s, brows were barely there. Many of those who overplucked theirs are still waiting for them to grow back.
The 2000s may have been a great improvement when it comes to the brow game, but it's not exactly a major turnaround from to the '90s. Despite the growing popularity of a more natural style in filling them in, overplucking was still a massive trend, even extending to shortening the brows for more flexibility when it comes to choosing what brow tail style you'd prefer for the day. Sure, it may have been fun to choose and draw in brows the way you want to, but overplucking is still a major no in our book and we're glad we've moved past this beauty era.
2010 to present
And now we've finally caught up with the present. Through the journey of looking back into brow history, it's safe to say that there's no decade besides our current generation that's made brows a major focal point. Now, there's almost every product and service imaginable dedicated to brow grooming to ensure fuller, shaped-to-perfection and "on fleek" brows as inspired by personalities like Cara Delevigne and Kim Kardashian. Even "brow skills" are now a significant aspect of makeup artistry and will surely go down as that time in history where brows have become a cultural phenomenon.
(Illustrations by Tisha Esquejo)
Next, read up on fashion history as we share the origin of the t-shirt and why it became a wardrobe staple.