Life and Style’s Georgina O’Donnell shares her thoughts on Chanel’s new male makeup line and whether this is encouraging gender stereotypes
In recent years, the makeup world has undergone a complete transformation. Interest in makeup as not just a necessity for looking presentable, but as a hobby, has skyrocketed. While ten years ago even sporting eyeshadow might be too tricky or too daring for the average girl, today it is not uncommon to see young women experimenting with contouring, cut creases and baking (no, not the cake kind). The phenomenon can be attributed to professional quality cosmetics becoming more affordable and accessible online, but also to the rise of YouTube; beauty-focused vloggers have created an online community for those interested in discussing their favourite products and techniques.
However, this growing community is not female exclusive. As gender nonconformity in general continues to be more socially accepted, makeup use among men has become more mainstream. Just look at YouTubers James Charles and Manny MUA, whose makeup skills have earned them over 13 million subscribers combined. There is clearly a huge audience for guys who want to experiment with makeup.
Of course, this is not a new trend – cosmetic use by men has been noted since ancient times. But makeup as we know it today is part of a multi-billion dollar beauty industry which has only ever been advertised to women. It seems about time that businesses start to take notice and begin to tap into this previously ignored market.
Enter Chanel: in August 2018, the iconic fashion house announced it would be releasing a makeup line specifically for men. What does this mean exactly? Well, according to British Vogue the line – given the quite self explanatory name Boy de Chanel – will consist of three products: ‘an eyebrow pencil, a foundation and a matte lip balm’. Not exactly a wide range.
Regarding the new line, WWD shared the following statement from Chanel: ‘beauty is not a matter of gender, it is a matter of style’. An interesting observation considering the brand has now established that Boy de Chanel will have only three products available to purchase, whereas its original makeup line (perhaps in need of renaming to ‘Girl de Chanel’?) has countless cosmetic products at its disposal. Eyeshadows, lipsticks, nail polishes… you name it.
Rather than embracing makeup for men, Boy de Chanel seems to aim for men to conceal their makeup use by only using the most natural-looking of all makeup products. (That’s if you even want to call a ‘matte lip balm’ a makeup product – lip hydration is an essential!) Instead of normalising the idea of makeup being genderless, the brand has only reinforced gender stereotypes. Women are allowed to experiment with different colours and textures, men are limited to nice looking brows and an even-looking skin tone ( and soft lips, let’s not forget). What’s so revolutionary about that?
Perhaps it’s a little too soon to judge. After all, the collection has only just been announced, and there is plenty of time for new products to be added. (But come on Chanel, not even a mascara?)
Nonetheless, when looking at the new line one can’t help but feel a bit of disappointment. Even if Chanel were to introduce more products to the line, it still reeks of insincerity; just another marketing ploy of fake or ‘performative wokeness’ to bring attention to the brand and capitalise on changing attitudes to gender roles. There’s no reason for men who want to buy Chanel cosmetics to only purchase from the Boy de Chanel range. The original cosmetic line works for all genders, and will continue to.
If cosmetic brands want to take a step in the right direction towards normalising gender nonconformity in the beauty world, dividing men and women further with separate cosmetic lines à la Chanel is not the way forward. Maybe the next step is concentrating on representation in advertising, showing that any gender can use makeup – despite how traditionally ‘feminine’ it is.
In the meantime, if you do wish to check out ‘Boy de Chanel’, it launches worldwide in November. (If you still want to, that is.)