Should Men Wear Makeup?

Can men wear makeup? The fact that this is even a controversial question in 2017 is telling. But that’s not stopping online retailer, ASOS, from shaking the table. They’ve just started selling MMUK Man, beauty brand that is geared towards male consumers. Yes, we’re talking concealer, foundation, eyeliner and makeup brushes for men.

MMUK Man launched in 2012, and has hoped to make makeup for men a mainstream phenomenon. Maybe ASOS will help them reach that goal, because men wearing makeup as of right now is still a concept that remains on the fringes. Despite a long history of men wearing makeup–from Ancient Egypt to French aristocracy in the 1700s–it’s safe to say that it isn’t socially acceptable for men to wear makeup in this day and age. Makeup is too closely associated with femininity now, and you don’t have to be a historian to know that femininity isn’t viewed in the most positive light. Femininity is seen as weak and  frivolous, so for a man to openly embrace traditionally feminine pasttimes–like rocking dresses, getting facials, watching rom-coms, wearing makeup–is to actively erase their masculinity…which is the worst thing you could ever do in this hetero-patriarchal world of ours.

If that sounds like BS, you’re right, it is.

Sure, there are exceptions: Male actors and TV personalities are dolled up before appearing on camera. And plenty of rock stars–from Prince, to Robert Smith of The Cure, to Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, to Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy–have made eyeliner part of their signature looks with minimal backlash. But let’s be real: men wearing makeup has remained a subcultural phenomenon more than anything else. Drag queens know how to contour better than any makeup guru you’re following on Instagram, but Ru Paul’s Drag Race isn’t inspiring the average dude to rock fake lashes. And cute emo boys who were giving eyeliner a whirl in the 2000s didn’t exactly disrupt the makeup industry. Covergirl even made James Charles their first male brand ambassador, but you don’t see many high school boys rocking highlighter.

Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty Images

Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty Images

So, will MMUK successfully manage to make men wearing makeup less taboo with the help of sleek packaging, social media, and the confidence of a retail giant like ASOS? Honestly, who knows. But personally, I hope so. I’ve always thought it was unfortunate that when a a girl or woman wants to hide her blemishes–a red honker of a zit, acne scars, dark under eye circles–she can mask it all with a bit of touch up and feel a little more confident. Well, dudes have zits, blemishes, and other imperfections that they feel self-conscious about too, but they can’t cover ’em up with makeup without getting roasted by friends, family, or total strangers. The average man is afraid to even put the smallest dab of concealer on their pimple from hell because it’s some sort of betrayal to what it means to be a man. Isn’t that kind of sad? It’s just pigmented cream! But maybe seeing other men advertise, promote, and wear makeup like MMUK can slowly begin to normalize the notion of everyday dudes rocking a little eyeliner or foundation.

For the record, traditional makeup marketed toward women is perfectly adequate for men’s skin. So, in a way, it’s a little silly that dark, minimalist packaging is all it takes to make something dude friendly; there’s a reason why people make fun of brogurt (yogurt marketed to men). But given the stigma against men wearing makeup, I can set aside some cynicism about gendered marketing practices for a second.

So, let’s go back to the original question: Should men wear makeup? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with not wearing makeup, regardless of your gender identity. So I think the better question is this: Should men be able to wear makeup without being stigmatized or characterized as weirdos? Absolutely. It’s about time we moved on from these tired, rigid gender roles. Some dude wearing foundation isn’t a sign of the end times any more than rompers for men are.


What do you think of guys wearing makeup? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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