A Brief History Of Men Wearing Makeup

Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
The Tonys are this Sunday, and with it comes a trendlet worth noting: Both Neil Patrick Harris and Alan Cumming are up for nominations for makeup-heavy performances. Sure, they're for roles, but thanks to mainstream recognition of Cumming, NPH, and quite a few other famous dudes with a penchant for cosmetics, men and makeup are once again having a moment.
Way back in the dusty days of the pharaohs, men rocked kohl-rimmed eyes that would have made Lily Allen envious. It was the beginning of men wearing makeup, but this movement has been an up and down roller coaster over the years, from pre-French Revolution and its super-powdered faces to the early 20th century, when movies made it necessary for heartthrobs — hiya, Cary Grant! — to look their best.
But, it didn’t really become the centerpiece of a guy’s look again until the ‘70s, when men on the rocker fringe began to dig it again. And, even as guyliner gradually made it into pop culture, makeup was still so feminized that no one wanted to talk about the fact that everyday guys might want to cover up a zit — despite the fact that the guys wearing the makeup were the ones everybody had crushes on (Johnny Depp? Brandon Flowers? Yeah, we definitely put their posters up on our bedroom walls).
But, extreme looks usually dilute into a socially acceptable format, and recently, more guys have been open about wearing the occasional bit of makeup. You can also probably thank Zac Efron’s bronzered cheekbones for part of the $5 billion Americans spent on men’s skin care and cosmetics last year. It’s becoming quite the thing again, and the men that follow paved the way for your boyfriend to steal your concealer stick today — even if he doesn’t admit it to his bros.

More from Makeup

Watch

R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Documentary
Five love stories behind diverse, multicultural marriages.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Life experiments, 5 days at a time.
Watch Now
Fashion
The style of subculture.
Watch Now
Beauty
Viral trends, tried and tested.
Watch Now
Documentary
From vibrators to lipstick, learn how your favorite products are made.
Watch Now
Documentary
Extraordinary, one-of-a-kind individuals
Watch Now
Documentary
The latest stories to watch.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Inside the homes of millennial women — & what they paid for them
Watch Now
Comedy
Let's talk about sex, baby.
Watch Now
Documentary
Female artisans around the world
Watch Now
Politics
Made by and for smart, opinionated women.
Watch Now
Film
We helped 12 female directors claim their power.