There’s nothing like a pandemic to get men wearing makeup, said no one ever. But believe it or not, since the COVID 19 virus took hold in January, men’s cosmetics have seen a real boost. Web searches for ‘male make-up looks’ were up about 80% in April on the same period in 2019.
So why would a deadly global virus be causing men to wear foundation? This didn’t happen during the plague, did it? Well, not that we’re aware of. But one major difference between then and now is the number of conference calls we’re putting in – and if there’s one thing Zoom’s good for, it’s making you starkly aware of every blemish and dark circle.
The male makeup evolution
Rather than a revolution, proponents of men’s cosmetics see the process as more of an evolution – over the past few decades, it has become much more commonplace for men to take an interest in fashion and look after their skin and hair, so makeup seems like a logical next step.
And it’s not like men wearing make-up is a brand new phenomenon; David Bowie was doing it in the seventies. But the way we’re wearing it now is different. Where Bowie and his contemporaries were all about the shock factor, with glittery eyeshadows and heavy kohl, these days we’re after a more natural look.
The Zoom effect
Yes, men’s makeup is no longer about creating sexual ambiguity, or the ‘metrosexual’ look. The men of today want much the same effect from their cosmetics as women do – simply put, to make the best of what we’ve got. When we’re spending up to eight hours a day staring at images of ourselves on Zoom, we want to feel confident in what we see.
Danny Gray has been wearing makeup since his teens, when he would raid his sister’s concealer to cover up his acne-prone skin. “Growing up,” he says, “I never felt there was a brand for me.” A problem which inspired him to launch his own cosmetics line for men – the popular brand War Paint.
Gray has definitely noticed the effect lockdown has had on his brand: War Paint saw record sales in June. “I think maybe it has pushed things a little more quickly,” he says. Although he thinks the march was already underway.
Make-up for men: what’s holding you back?
There are a few things that prevent men from taking the leap into wearing cosmetics, according to Gray, and one is the preconceptions surrounding it. When we think of men in make-up, we tend to think of Bowie and his ilk, and if that’s not your style you might assume that make-up isn’t for you.
Another factor putting men off is the idea that make-up application is complicated:
“When I was learning to apply makeup, I was going to female brands and found it very complicated,” says Gray. “The order of the products, the contouring. Guys think it’s going to take forever.”
With that in mind, War Paint is deliberately quick and easy to use:
“My routine takes five minutes… We offer simple steps to get the best out of the product,” claims Gray.
It’s certainly not for everyone, but if the thought of logging into your next Zoom meeting with a fresh, flawless face appeals to you, rest assured you wouldn’t be the first man to reach for the concealer wand.