Men at the Met Gala Ball

Written by Beauty

The relationship between men and makeup has had an interesting progression over the last few
thousand years. Cosmetics were once a notable part of the beauty standards imposed on members
of the male gender. It played a role in characterising masculinity in Ancient Egypt, was continually
used by the Romans, and extremely popular amongst the upper echelons of society in Elizabethan
England. Interesting then, that from the Victorian era up until our present day, the concept of men
wearing makeup has become somewhat taboo. ‘Taboo’ may seem like a strong word for something
that isn’t wildly uncommon, but when the theme of this year’s Met Gala is ‘Camp’ and a vast number
of male celebrities show up looking barefaced and in black suits, there is clearly an issue here that
remains unsolved.

‘Camp’ is a theme that begs for the application of dynamic, unique and flamboyant makeup. Lady
Gaga’s long gold-foil lashes, Ezra Miller’s mind-bending eyes-on-eyes look and Gigi Hadid’s
channelling of the Ice Queen are but three examples of this, causing cameras to flash for exactly the
right reasons. It was disappointing then to see stars such as Shawn Mendes, Joe Jonas and Rami
Malek turn up with little to no effort made in the cosmetics department. Why was that? Despite
telling ourselves that we are a more accepting society than ever before, these examples made it
clear that those gender norms typical of the Victorian era have yet to be fully quashed. This is not to
say that every man at the Gala let us down though; Billy Porter, Darren Criss and Michael Urie join
Gaga, Miller and Hadid in having some of the most exciting looks of the night.

Not long after pondering this disappointing turnout, I happened to stumble upon a new makeup
company being advertised on Twitter: War Paint. That’s right, the first ‘male-only’ makeup brand I
have personally ever encounter is named ‘War Paint’… Alongside its all-black basic packaging and
muscular, tattooed models – skull rings and leather jackets in tow – its entire marketing strategy is
imbued with toxic masculinity. Again, this begs the question, why isn’t the concept of men wearing
makeup normalised? Why does such a brand have to be drowned in a cornucopia of symbols
characteristic of what hypermasculinity has stereotypically been constructed to be? This needs to
stop. It is counterproductive for social progression and downright embarrassing for a company to
endorse such values. In fact, I have yet to be convinced of the need for a ‘male-only’ makeup
company at all.

While it is true that the concept of men wearing makeup is much less controversial in queer culture,
this sense of normalisation should be universal. I’m not suggesting that every man out there should
go out and stock up on each foundation, lipstick and eyeliner they can find, but I am suggesting that
the gender disparity in makeup standards is not natural. We shouldn’t live in a world where a man
wearing makeup in public is a head-turning moment, but while we do live in that world, why not
make that statement? Only then will our society’s Victorian standards on gender begin to shift.

Last modified: 23rd October 2019

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