TThe history of the male beauty ritual has been largely undocumented – and forgotten – due to a combination of gender bias and misogyny, according to a new book by David Yi, writer and founder of the Skin Care website. skin incorporating the Very Good Light genre. “For centuries, it’s as if talking about a king’s cosmetic predilections or the aesthetic of a famous ruler meant they were female, which meant they were less powerful,” he says.
The author of Pretty Boys: Legendary Icons Who Redefined Beauty concludes that the story omits the grooming rituals of rulers and rulers in an attempt to put a modern heteronormative filter on the past. Yi says, “Many historians fear that the men they have studied and revered will be stripped of their dignity, or perhaps even deemed less powerful, if it is discovered that they are wearing makeup or have the same look. passion to be pretty.
In addition to writing about modern male beauty pioneers such as actor Billy Porter, K-pop stars BTS, and makeup artist Patrick Starrr, Yi uncovers the shocking secret story of the beauty practices that are blowing up the myth that men’s makeup became a phenomenon after the introduction of David Bowie. in glam with Ziggy Stardust. In fact, it started in prehistoric times. An archaeological excavation carried out in 2010 by Professor João Zilhão of the University of Bristol uncovered an unexpected find. “Neanderthals from all walks of life crushed pyrite (gemstone) and glittering rocks to showcase their features. They also wore foundation, ”Yi explains. He adds that this shows that they were more than “growling, low IQ, low eyebrow beings.”
Pretty Boys also reveals that our Scandinavian cousins had their own beauty kits, complete with tweezers, nail clippers, earpicks and toothpicks. “The Vikings were real beauty boys obsessed with their beauty,” he says. “They had separate brushes for their hair and beards, made of bone, antler, wood and ivory. They moisturized their beards with shampoo [made of] special oils, beech ash and goat fat.
In the 1770s, stylish men nicknamed the Macaroni, who adopted an Italian style – wearing flamboyant clothes and cosmetics – scandalized society. “They impressed Britain with their tighter clothes, bigger wigs and pale, powdery faces.” There were magazines, plays and art devoted to macaroni. “For about a century, they put masculinity and its notions on their heads. Although they were told they were sub-human and genderless, the Macaroni were truly remarkable in the way they paid no attention to their enemies.
The 1800s brought a boom in men’s cosmetics which took the example of French King Louis XIV, who standardized the use of rouge, wigs and powders for men. Meanwhile, says Yi, “men’s relationship with beauty was positive and healthy.”
It didn’t take long for there to be a change in attitude. “We know the gender binaries were created at this point,” Yi says, “[later, in 1930, the British psychologist, psychoanalyst and author, John C Flügel] called this pivotal moment The Great Masculine Renunciation; identity has become defined and separated by the gender binary. It was a time when men “let go of their pretension to be seen as beautiful” and “now aimed only to be useful.” Yi said, “Beauty was now considered frivolous. “
This, he says, “ushered in the most boring era of all time,” the Victorian period which “sucked all the fun of expression – all the dreary clothes and austere demeanor.” It was also a time when the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 meant that “men were sentenced to forced labor and flogging for being found with cosmetics on their bodies.”
In the United States, things were just as bleak. “In 1840, members of Congress questioned the masculinity of President Martin Van Buren by criticizing cosmetics found on his desk,” Yi explains. “The ninth US President, William Henry Harrison, ran for office under the banner of hypermasculinity, claiming he was a manly man, a direct blow to Van Buren.”
Pretty Boys then traces the rise of male beauty pioneers of the 20th and 21st centuries, from glam rockers to drag culture and beyond. For Yi, there is a direct link between them and the early pioneers. “What I’ve learned from each of these cute historic boys is that they are all so confident in themselves that they are able to move the culture forward,” he says. “Each, in their respective way, was able to do it because they were whole and whole beings.”
Pretty Boys: Legendary Icons Who Redefined Beauty (and How to Glow Up Too) is published by Mariner Books, £ 16.99.