Let’s assume that I fast-forward past the explanation of how male makeup is a symbol of progression. This is the Greggs vegan sausage-roll debate all over again; does a greater attempt towards inclusiveness cancel out the blatant corporate greed of a brand? This time, I can’t just blame the toxic social effects of capitalism (one of my favourite get-out-of-jail-free cards).
A simple google search of ‘male makeup’ reveals a variety of tailored makeup brands and articles. One brand named ‘War Paint’ reassuringly reminds us that toxic masculinity has not yet jumped off of a cliff. The other brands and articles seem focused on correction- concealing zits, lightening under-eye circles, removing pores. Sounds familiar? Male makeup is just another symptom of the epidemic of the societal strive towards perfection. Social media is one major cause- why be a normal, zitty, pore-speckled peasant when you could show everyone what a sleek, glamourous twenty-first century citizen you are?
But social media is a symptom of another, larger epidemic – our acute awareness of the changing social and political climate. Ten years ago we didn’t have smartphones. Four years we didn’t have Snapchat. And while technology advances, the population of the planet swells; the Earth starting to burst at its seams. The things to us in the Western world that seem like staples are the products of recent change, and we are acutely aware of this. That, and our embedded human vanity, require that we present ourselves positively, and uniquely…but not too unique.
‘Unique but not too unique’ might as well be the tagline for the male beauty industry. Like, it’s not unique for the human race as a whole to daub our faces with stuff, but Western society somewhere has jumped in and said that only women look good wearing creams and ointments and pigments. Now, this is starting to change…if you saw a man with makeup on his face on the street, would you stop and stare? You’d hope not; presumably you would tell yourself that, with the changing times, a man wearing makeup is special…but not too unique.
So, we say it’s ubiquitous and universal to want to look the best you can. For many of my male friends, this often requires putting on a clean shirt and brushing their hair. I am wildly jealous, but the solution is not to start covering their imperfections but to adjust our expectations. I want to walk into a party and not have people say ‘wow, you look so pretty!’ but instead ‘wow, you’re so hygienic!’. Let’s keep it to the bare minimum, people.
If we’re going to be insecure about our appearance, which, due to our unstable times, is inevitable, it would be cooperative to share our insecurities across genders. But, all things considered, that’s a pretty redundant solution. Put down your phone and smell my clean shirt. Let’s be ugly together.
Illustration: Frannie Wise