From 4000 BC to Today: The Fascinating History of Men and Makeup

Amanda Montell
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Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis

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For the first time in centuries, men wearing makeup is not completely taboo. Thanks to social media and the emergence of male beauty influencers like Coverboy James Charles and beauty mogul Jeffree Star, makeup is in the early stages of becoming more gender-inclusive. This concept, however, is hardly new.

For generations, makeup has been seen as a "girls-only" enterprise, so we forget that it wasn't always that way. For millennia, stretching from 4000 BC through the 18th century, men traditionally used makeup in myriad ways. It wasn't until the mid-1800s that makeup was relegated to one end of the gender spectrum. At that time, the influential Queen Victoria I of Great Britain deemed cosmetics vulgar, a view corroborated by the Church of England. During the Victorian era, makeup was considered "an abomination" by both the crown and the church, creating strong, widespread associations between makeup, vanity, femininity, and "the Devil's work." As religious values continued to permeate cultures around the world, mainstream definitions of masculinity narrowed. By the 20th century, makeup was seen as a girls-only pursuit.

In 2017, the world is finally coming back around and growing to accept different gender expressions. We hope the trend continues, but society can't move forward without looking back. Scroll through the timeline below to learn about the fascinating history of men and makeup.

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