If physical appearance is a natural human concern, then why is makeup seen as a threat to masculinity? Life&Style’s Lydia Waller explores the issue
There is a gradual emergence of male beauty bloggers and makeup artistry popping up in the corners of YouTube, minimally advertised brand ranges and uncovered media of beauty pageant take-overs by the male makeup user. What questions arise from this breaking in the mould of typically female makeup: is this revolutionary? What does it mean for the male makeup users in terms of identity? What does it mean for women? And a poignant question for ourselves, do we celebrate this?
Over the recent years YouTube beauty blogging, stemming from the millionaire success of bloggers such as Zoella, has formed itself as a new competitive industry. Being predominantly female in natural accordance to the historic association of makeup with women, the fresh male faces on the scene have caused a little bit of a brush-up. Bloggers as young as Jake Warden, starting blogging from the age of 11, are redefining the motives and meanings of what it means to wear makeup. Warden has become an emblem of a new agenda of male beauty, natural beauty, the celebration of identity and the significance of gender identity from such a youthful perspective.
Although this may seem ‘radical’ to a typically western perspective, in Korea male beauty and makeup has become a popular trend and highly relevant in particularly the southern society. The appeal to participate in male makeup stems primarily to the iconising of K-pop performers and their performative use of makeup. The inspiration to model our appearances and fashions on androgynous and fluid looking famous figures is not something revolutionary to our society; the likes of David Bowie and Boy George have always been central to our understandings of fashion and self-expression.
What is most challenging about the emergence of male makeup use is the redefining of why people wear makeup and oddly enough it’s not that interwoven with gender. Although makeup is historically bound to femininity, due to the pressures to cater to societal images of beauty, today we can see both men and women feeling insecure about signs of fatigue and blemishes. These sorts of insecurities are neutral and natural, therefore wearing makeup to make oneself feel more comfortable isn’t that radical at all. Women have been doing it for years, not necessarily autonomously but that’s a different matter. Essentially, the fact that L’Oreal have featured a male blogger on their adverts and that ASOS have started stocking male targeted makeup ranges (MMUK), expanding their markets from £42,000 in 2012 to £79,000 in 2015, really isn’t that much of a radical shift in advertisement. It’s just a wakeup call to society that it is not only women who have insecurities about appearances.
Despite there being a small dent being made in the makeup industry with male sales, it still is really a ‘small’ dent. According to research firm Mintel, globally, male makeup accounts for 1% of the makeup market. Makeup will, for a long while, still be associated as a female medium and concern, people will remain sceptical about its uses on men, due to its relation to femininity and femininity’s link with ‘vulnerabilities.’ It’s a long road to wholly celebrated neutral use of makeup across all sexes and identities. Yet it is good to see a shakeup in makeup’s commercial image.
Many male youtubers and beauty bloggers have been demonstrating to society the non-binary nature of glamour and confidence such as James Charles and Patrick Starr; alongside pageant queens challenging the relevance of gender in beauty standards. In recent weeks Ilay Pyagicev got to the finals of beauty contest Miss Virtual Kazakhstan, until he revealed his identity as a man and was then disqualified. His intentions were to promote a more neutral image of beauty and highlight the extent to which women feel they must perform in their beauty; a very powerful image of a man beating 4,000 women in a beauty contest to then be totally denied a celebration of his beauty due to his gender. This sort of activism in the makeup and beauty industry is provocative to our society’s and other cultural understandings of beauty and its relevance to gender and sexuality.
Is it actually that defining of young boys’ sexuality and gender identity if they do start a beauty blog in their teenage years? Or is it society’s understanding of makeup and beauty care as ‘feminine’ that makes it definitive and challenging to their identity? It is a very human and natural concern to be insecure of our appearances, it is even tied to our capitalist concerns of employability and still looking youthful for the job. Therefore, male makeup use should not be sensationalised as its motives come from the same place as female use, which hasn’t been challenged for years. Societal pressures and beauty standards are non-binary, so the ‘revelation’ of men wanting to feel more confident should not be challenged.