When you hear the words ‘beauty’ or ‘makeup’, you’d immediately associate it with a world that’s dominated by women. Because that’s all most of us have ever known, right? History will tell you otherwise.
Dating back to the ancient times, men have used makeup for a variety of purposes based on their culture. Earliest recordings date back to 3000 B.C. in China and Japan, where tinctures of gum arabic, gelatin and egg were used to stain fingernails to signify their status in society. In ancient Egypt, pharaohs wore black eyeliner as a symbol of wealth and power and used green malachite shadow to ward off harmful illnesses.
Eighteenth-century France saw the trend of painting beauty marks. Clark Gable in the 1930s became the first example of metrosexual beauty. The '70s and '80s birthed timeless icons in the form of David Bowie and Prince.
At present, we have online beauty gurus such as cosmetics line owner Jeffree Star and Covergirl's first male ambassador James Charles at the frontlines of men using makeup. And the world of K-pop isn’t shy about having their male idols wear makeup for shows and appearances.
But it isn’t just individuals who are paving the way to a more open view towards makeup, brands have been making waves as well. Kevin Aucoin, Tom Ford, and YSL have long since opened doors through their legacy or products. Other brands are starting to follow suit.
The latest one to jump on the train? CHANEL with their line of makeup exclusively for men called Boy de CHANEL. Included in the lineup are four shades of eyebrow pencils, eight shades of tinted foundation and a moisturising lip balm. What makes it special? It's specifically made for men, casting away the idea that only women should care about how they look. It allows men to take ownership of their grooming and appearance without being relegated as vain. The line, first released in South Korea, has Goblin actor Lee Dong Wook as the face of the campaign.
This isn’t the first time male Korean celebrities have fronted beauty ads or made collaborations; their huge influence over Asia and massive fan-base provide these brands with more than enough sales pull for the products they endorse. This move has allowed international brands to take another look at South Korea’s personalities. In fact, there have been rumors circulating that Fenty Beauty is also looking to collaborate with a male K-pop star for a future campaign.
South Korea has a different definition of masculinity. Since appearances are important, makeup is used to cover up unwanted features (e.g. pimples, scars) and enhance the ones they want to showcase.
With this mindset, more and more people are becoming more invested in skincare and grooming all over the world. But since we are becoming more open towards a gender-neutral perspective towards makeup, is there still a need to create marketing campaigns such as this? It's been proven that representation matters; just take for instance how Asians were given the spotlight in Crazy Rich Asians. Seeing yourself or identifying with someone like you makes all the difference in normalising things that are otherwise thought of as taboo or alien and making you feel like you belong. At the end of the day, we are all — no matter the gender — just looking for ways to express and better ourselves.