Not too long ago, seeing a man wearing makeup in his day-to-day life would have been considered an anomaly. But things have changed — and not just where prolific beauty bloggers like James Charles and Manny Gutierrez are concerned. In South Korea, where the male grooming business is booming, men say they wear light makeup to hide flaws and feel more confident. Some grooms are now taking part in wedding-day beauty rituals of their own. Giorgio Armani offers an upscale line of Him and Her color-enhancing tinted lip balms. Slowly but surely, the overall perception of men in makeup is shifting toward acceptance.
Still, a deep-rooted culture of discrimination doesn’t go away overnight. One man in Portsmouth, England, learned that firsthand when he was told to remove his makeup while at work. He shared his story anonymously on the local Facebook page Spotted Portsmouth, where he started by saying that there’s no overarching makeup policy in place at his company. “A lot of my female colleagues wear more makeup than I do,” he wrote.
The man said that, over the eight or nine months he’d been working there, his managers never found issue with his makeup — in fact, some complimented him. But things changed when they went under new management. “Earlier on in the week I came to work as my fabulous self and was told to take off my make-up,” he explained. “I was quite shocked. … Obviously I'm not going to take off my make-up when all my other (female) colleagues are able to come to work as their fabulous selves.” He refused, but was told to “tone it down” regardless.
It’s fair to say that if a woman were to go to work in the same tasteful, natural-looking makeup the man is wearing in the photo he shared, it would be a total non-issue. But at what point does that kind of gender discrimination become unlawful? The answer isn’t so simple.
The non-profit organization Workplace Fairness, which works to protect employee rights in the US, states that employers can legally choose to regulate clothing, piercings, tattoos, makeup, nails, hair, and more, provided the rules are not discriminatory, and that men and women can have different dress codes as long as the dress codes do not “put an unfair burden on one gender.” The guidelines are murky, and unfortunately, employers often come out on top.
The general response to the man’s story, however, has been almost entirely positive. “You look amazing. Keep wearing makeup. Your bosses are ignorant,” one person wrote. A man who described himself as “old-fashioned” said, “I would not have an issue with it as it is not over the top in any way. It's 2017, people.” (One commenter even outed the place of work in question.)
Given the clear changes in the public attitude, it’s about time everyone reconsiders their approach to treating men who wear makeup. That doesn’t mean you have to like it, but you can’t expect to decide what other people of any gender can put on their faces — and with a contour and highlight situation that good, this man deserves a round of applause, not close-minded criticism.