Influential Men Who Wore Makeup Throughout History

Men have worn makeup throughout history stretching as far back as 3000 BC! Makeup for men is not a new phenomenum.

It was actually only in the 1800's that makeup was assigned to the female end of the gender spectrum, after Queen Victoria I and the church of England considered cosmetics an 'abomination' and created widespread associations linking makeup to vanity and feminity. Definitions of masculinity became narrowed and by the 20th Century makeup was considered a 'girls only' thing.

As with many fashion trends in history, they loop around. 2017 saw the world beginning to except gender expressions again and makeup is becoming more and more widely accepted as non-gender specific.

3000 BC

Men (and women) in China and Japan used extracts of gum arabic, gelatin and egg to stain their fingernails which signified their status in society.

4000 BC

Masculinity was incredibly important in ancient Egyptian culture and makeup played a big role in that. Pharaoh Seti I was one of many Egyptian men who wore dramatic eyeliner to communicate wealth and status and legend has it - to protect their eyes from the sun, much like sun glasses. Men (and women) used black pigment to create cat-eye designs. King Tutankhamen was famous for his use of green malachite pigment worn as an eyeshadow, believed to evoke Horus, the god of the sun and sky, to protect from illness.

1st Century AD

Roman men applied red pigment to their cheeks, lightened their skin with powder and painted their nails using pig fat and blood. They also painted away bald spots on their heads to camouflage them. The Latin word ‘cosmetae’, was actually a word used to describe slaves who would bathe men in perfume.

1850 AD

Wearing makeup was socially acceptable for both men and women. George IV spent a lot of money on cold cream, powders, pastes and scents. Some men did begin to see wearing makeup a a sign of social indifference to the working classes and began to look upon a man with rouged cheeks as 'not so cool'.

Reign of Queen Elizabeth I

Male grooming became incredibly popular. They loved the use of egg and honey masks to smooth away wrinkles, and pale skin was the trend of the time. It was later discovered that lead, used in cosmetics at that time was leading to premature death amongst many people.


Charlie Chaplin wore heavy black eyeliner around his eyes for a smokey effect for his comical on-screen character - "The Tramp" because he believed it gave a cartoon like effect.


Rudolph Valentino, known as the 'great lover' of the 1920's was renound for making the ladies swoon - perhaps his vampy kohl eyeliner was part of his secret.


Mick Jagger was another man who rocked the smokey eyeliner. It was during the 60's and 70's that he was noted for his ability to create the 'cat eye'. A trend that has seen centre stage throughout many eras in modern history.


David Bowie loved makeup full stop. Whether it was a sweep of eyeliner day to day, or the heavy makeup he loved on stage, he wore it. Labrynth is one of the most iconic films we can all remember for his excentric style.

Elvis Presley and Johnny Travolta were total icons for male grooming and played a big part in the rise of the male side of the cosmetic industry, with their perfectly styled hair and over-all well-groomed style many men looked to them as style icons.

1984 - Now

Boy George sports not only an on fleek smokey eye, but an accentric use of colour and texture too.
Billie Joe Armstrong used "have you got any eyeliner?" and "can you put it on me?" as pick up lines.

Which brings me to Russell Brand and Johnny Depp, two influential men who have somewhat 'sexyfied' male makeup. With their Au natural approach using foundation and concealer to give their skin a boost and a healthy glow, and some very subtle eyeliner to make their eyes smoulder they've knocked the edge off of the taboo around makeup for men and given it a significant place in everyday grooming.

Makeup for men has its place in society as much as it has its place for women. Whether it is worn to even out skin tone for on-camera presentation, to cover acne, to make tired eyes look bright, or to express one's self, the male end of the cosmetic industry it is fast becoming as influential the female's, with many brands now turning to male influencers on social media to promote their products.

What are your favourite male skincare and makeup products? Who are your favourite male icons and influencers? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Emily-Rose :)


Popular Posts