I’ve been in the UK for most of the summer – all over the country, in cities and towns and villages, observing women and girls of all ages and from all walks of life. It seems to be that their make-up styles can be categorised into five groups, which is perhaps a generalisation but that is, after all, what people do when they observe other people.
The Carefree or Couldn’t Care Less
They are makeup-less, or carefree or both. Neither caring nor wanting to present themselves in a certain way. I do not judge them, but it is pointless spending too much time on them for my purposes here. I do wish them well. And think of all the money they’ll save! Although research has shown that they may miss out on other things financial and may even not earn as much long-term as those that present themselves in a more polished way at work. True.
The Clueless They might be in the above category but maybe they don’t attempt much because they don’t know how to. I meet more of these women (and girls and boys) in my non-working makeup life than any of the others. They ask a lot of questions and have a great interest but not much confidence. Yet.
The Lucky Ones
The ones that have found their best look, perhaps by helpful intervention at some point in their lives, or are self-taught. They use makeup to their advantage, presenting the best version of themselves, without hiding behind it.
The Eccentrics The really independently British girls and women who wear originality on their faces and on their bodies, displaying a certain flair that I find essentially British but that has nothing to do with race – again of all ages and places and so interesting. They make me happy to think about the confidence they have or are developing and the music and fashion choices that will ultimately make up the whole picture of their lives. They are not stuck in one particular style – they might be the retro girls, the glams, or the new punks – but are claiming it for their own. Their look will probably morphe many times in their lives as their stories progress. This group is really my favourite, for all those reasons and because it’s like looking back into my own 80’s youth and seeing the fun we had with makeup and what it could mean to us in our tribalistic tendencies (then it was New Romantic, Soul Girl, Mod, post-punk, office girl, not necessarily in that order or independent of one another). I think it’s a very British phenomenon. I don’t see it anywhere else.
Zandra Rhodes, Adam Ant, Siouxie Sioux, Isabella Blow, Kate Bush, Toyah Wilcox and the grandmother of them all, Vivienne Westwood, all used make-up to tell their stories in a wonderfully eccentric but beautiful way. Not necessarily how you want to look but I admire their strength and how they use their image to create it. There is a new breed of these women, thankfully. The torch has been passed and some interesting women are running with it…
The Dolls This final group is the most worrying to me, and the most boring at the same time. The super-contoured, mega-highlighted, lip-lined, false-eyelashed dollface girl with the perfect (but not) eyebrows of massive proportion. I see loads of white shiny pencil trails all over these girls. And sigh. Because I can’t see where the real girl, and so her real beauty starts, only where it ends. I wonder what each one look likes Underneath It All (cue song) because there is such a conformity in their faces that the individual is lost. It’s a terrible shame, and a dangerous one; call me a feminist makeup artist. For me makeup has always been about finding the best -looking version of ourselves, not about putting masks on women and telling them to look the same. Obviously this happens to some extent in the beauty and cosmetics industry, we follow trends or emulate women we admire. Film stars, musicians and sometimes princesses have been the modern beauty trend-setters but I find the new breed of beauty queens (you know who they are) strangely disturbing and anti-individuailstic. Anyone can go online to see how to disappear themselves behind mega-makeup applications. I saw one recently which was about how to contour your nose with a FORK. I kid you not. And it’s really ugly. It’s a look reliant on wearing enormous quantities of makeup, (lots of it very shiny) which inevitably breeds strong makeup dependency issues, and I wonder what will happen as these girls and young women grow up and grow older? Will the day come when they get rid of it all and opt for none or a pretty, natural look? Or will they go on wearing the lashes and contour into their old age.
I’m waiting for some serious makeup rehab issues in about four years when, fingers crossed, everyone will tire of the hideousness. I’m going to set up a help line.
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