Forget grooming to Zoom – 18th-century men were first to make up | Fashion

Male cosmetics are not the protect of rock stars, with knowledge exhibiting gross sales are booming. However a brand new guide by a historian on the College of Exeter reveals that removed from being a contemporary development, grooming merchandise for men were standard centuries earlier than being advocated by the likes of Russell Model, David Bowie and Prince.

Dr Alun Withey says it began within the 1750s. “The 18th century is definitely the start of the marketplace for men’s cosmetics that we see right this moment,” he says, noting there was a “new give attention to refining the physique, so private grooming turns into necessary”.

Whereas the motivation to enhance one’s seems might need been the identical, the components within the cosmetics were definitely not. Musca fly, hog’s gall and donkey genitals all went into 18th-century therapies, which were bought to soothe redness after shaving or to thicken hair.

Final week one on-line retailer reported a 300% progress within the men’s skincare market within the final six months of 2020, in contrast with the identical interval in 2019. In early 2020, Euromonitor predicted that the male make-up trade can be price £49bn final 12 months.


That forecast was pre-Covid and an additional bump has come from men more and more utilizing cosmetics to cover blemishes and spotlight mouths and eyes so as to be “Zoom prepared”. The trade is so buoyant that Saturday Night Live lately parodied the hyper-masculine packaging of make-up manufacturers like Battle Paint (with visitor star Schitt’s Creek’s Dan Levy intoning such promoting slogan parodies as: “It smells like pepperoni! But it surely’s nonetheless make-up.”).

David Bowie applies makeup during his Ziggy Stardust incarnation.
David Bowie applies make-up throughout his Ziggy Stardust incarnation. {Photograph}: R Bamber/Rex

Not like right this moment, the place the male make-up development is led by web magnificence bloggers equivalent to Jeffree Star , the cosmetics motion within the 1700s was extra about economics. “There wasn’t a ‘motion’ as such, so no celeb advocates,” says Withey, whose guide is known as Regarding Beards: Facial Hair, Well being and Follow in England 1650 -1900. “It was extra that men, and I believe we’re speaking in regards to the center class and elite men, had higher alternative and alternative to purchase these items.”

Earlier than this era, men’s use of cosmetics was frowned upon due to its associative use with ladies. “Satires depicted ‘macaronis’ or ‘fops’ who were generally described as utilizing fragrance, and the follow carried suspicions of effeminacy.”

A Proctor without a Wig, 1797.
A Proctor with no Wig, 1797 – shaving and shaving merchandise gained in recognition after 1750. {Photograph}: Bloomsbury Publishing

Withey provides that shaving actually modified issues. “Shaving was an inherently masculine act, so shaving merchandise were maybe an appropriate outlet for men to use ‘product’,” he says, including that it was after 1750 that men started to shave themselves as a substitute of visiting a barber. “For men, shaving (turned) essential in assembly new beliefs of the ‘well mannered’ male physique.”

Nonetheless ‘well mannered’ the type was, the components were something however. “Donkey genitals were burnt to a powder, combined with different components and utilized to the [shaving] rash. Odd as that may appear to trendy eyes, the usage of animal merchandise in cures was utterly regular on the time,” says Withey.

He provides that historians of pre-modern drugs are cautious of making an attempt to search for “scientific” proof of whether or not these therapies labored. “It’s extra to do with what folks on the time thought,” he says.

Just like the SNL sketch parodying the advertising ways of packaging men’s cosmetics in muted tones and minimalist designs, Withey says that shaving merchandise had a selected buyer in thoughts. “Razors were marketed utilizing ‘laborious’ imagery, equivalent to management, mood and hardness, whereas shaving soaps and lotions harassed luxurious, unctuousness and scent.”

He thinks that the ideology behind the cosmetics of the time is similar as exists right this moment. “The 18th century was a clean-shaven period, however the usage of ‘product’ was inspired each to assist the method of shaving but in addition, in some methods, to make it nearly an expertise,” he says. “That’s undoubtedly the type of factor we see right this moment.”

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