Man in the mirror: 2018, the year men’s make-up went mainstream

Chanel has just launched their range of men’s make-up. Ranveer Singh got hitched and wore kajal for the umpteenth time. With International Men’s Day on November 19, we look at how men’s make-up is the new trend

Delhi-based Kupu Zhimomi’s make-up attracts a lot of stares. “It’s mostly goth (think strong eyebrows, lined eyes and dark lips),” he says, although he does a basic everyday face as well. The 21-year-old graduate of fashion designing college Pearl Academy is among the growing tribe of men who shun gender norms and happily conceal and correct, and even add a dash of highlighter, to their daily grooming routine.

Brands are sitting up and paying attention to this lifestyle choice (and growing market). Take Boy de Chanel. Earlier this month, the French fashion house launched their range of men’s make-up online (it will hit retail shelves in January 2019), comprising eight foundation shades, a matte lip balm and four eyebrow pencil shades. Home-grown brand Colorbar — with a presence at 1,100+ multi-brand outlets across the country and valued at around ₹21 billion — has also announced that their new line of men’s products, REM, will be available early next year.

Lippi Lal, CEO of Lilac Makeup and Hair Studio, Pune, says there are a couple of reasons for this shift. “One, men are now held to the same standards of dressing as women when it comes to public events. And two, there is a lot of emphasis on appearance, especially with senior management in corporate set-ups,” she says, adding, “It’s not a new trend; men were using these products earlier, but in secret. Now, with easily available products [and perhaps social media helping widen acceptance], it is out in the open.”

Conceal, don’t cover up

Till recently, conversations about men and make-up have often been relegated to the queer and transgender community — as a means of expressing themselves. For the cis male, however, reactions have been mixed. In the entertainment industry, it is quite common to wear make-up on-camera, though few will admit to doing so off it. Celebrity chef Ranveer Brar says he does not believe in judging men who wear it in public. “It’s about time we removed the gender bias from make-up. At times, looking your best matters most, even when you are tired or stressed.” The likes of Bollywood make-up artist Mickey Contractor agree, though he draws the line at contouring and foundation.

If you think about it, in India, men have always worn kajal, which is a form of make-up. “It’s about your comfort level; it has nothing to do with being gay or straight,” says Edward Lalrempuia, Fashion Director, Harper’s Bazaar India, adding, “I personally conceal blemishes and dark circles. Why not use it when you can hide something that you are not comfortable with?”

Many, like designer Dhanush Singh Sirohi, do not look at make-up as something related to one gender. “I use my face as a canvas to bring the best out of me. I just never felt the need to announce that.” In fact, some like Bengaluru/Mumbai-based visual artist Zeeshan Ali have made a career out of creating larger-than-life looks. “It helps me showcase my creativity, be whoever I want to be for the moment, and live my fantasies in reality. It might not be as important to me as breathing, but it definitely pays my bills,” says the artist, who showcases his avant garde work @zeesh.ali.

Man in the mirror: 2018, the year men’s make-up went mainstream

Starting young

With over four lakh followers on Instagram, the 11-year-old who is creating make-up trends

Like any other 11-year-old in Berkshire, England, Jack Bennett loves riding his bicycle and playing with his Jack Russell terrier, Coco. He also has 4,67,505 Instagram followers, 61,258 likes on his Facebook page, and over 6,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel — all for his make-up skills.

Jack (@makeuupbyjack) is among the youngest of Instagram’s “beauty boys”. No wonder brands like MAC and NYX offer him products to create looks. Since his first post in February 2017, the journey has been quite wild, especially since his videos went viral last May. “It has been surreal,” he says, via e-mail. Although the initial hate and scepticism — both online and at school — almost stopped him from posting, he says, “I’ve learned to stop listening to haters because I am happy and confident in what I do.”

His mother Stacey Bennett, who handles his Instagram, concurs. “As his parents, we think his talent is outstanding. The negative comments come from a place of ignorance.” For parents who are struggling to accept their kids’ alternative choices, she adds, “Love them for who they are, not what you desire them to be.”

Jack only wears make-up while filming and for events. Ask him about his dream, and he says, “One of my goals is to do a collaboration with a big brand. And I aspire to have a full collection of products from my own brand.”

Man in the mirror: 2018, the year men’s make-up went mainstream

Facetime in Bollywood

Make-up artist Elton Fernandez on embracing the everyday look

“I find that most men who wear make-up comfortably have an expansive personality. Which is why they can adapt to fit into any mould,” says Elton Fernandez. The hair and make-up stylist to Bollywood elite like Aditi Rao Hydari and Malini Agarwal, consultant on Fox Life’s show, Styled by Neha, with Neha Dhupia, and Maybelline New York’s official make-up artist knows his way around the vanity table. His Instagram is proof enough.

While he admires Johnny Depp and Jared Leto’s devil-may-care attitude when it comes to wearing ‘guyliner’ or ‘manscara’, he says Indian celebs are not far behind. “Ranveer Singh and Jim Sarbh are so comfortable with their natural sexuality, that this expression becomes almost a second skin to them,” says Fernandez, adding that, in the queer community, Sushant Divgikar (Mr Gay India 2014 and reality TV star) “celebrates beauty and grooming, and is unafraid of having a voice” — not just in his drag avatar, Rani Ko-He-Noor, but also as himself.

For men who are just beginning their journey with make-up, he suggests starting out with less. “Don’t spend too much time blending or cleaning things up. The secret to wearing it naturally is to look like you’re wearing it as a celebration of expression, not as some embodiment of perfection.”

What they say

– Mickey Contractor
make-up artist

Using a little concealer to cover under eye issues or pigmentation or scars is OK. Men need to make sure it’s subtle

– Samir Modi
founder & Managing Director, Colorbar

Today, the men’s grooming and make-up market is growing, and India is catching up. We see men coming into our stores to buy products like foundation, concealer, primer and blemish control

– Edward Lalrempuia
Fashion Director, Harper’s Bazaar

Men do wear make-up. Look at Korea — everybody wears it there. Even in Bangkok, a lot of men and boys do, and they are not necessarily gay or transgender. There is a sense of acceptance there, unlike here

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