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Boy, You’ll Be A Woman… Soon4 min read

It’s happened at last… a very real prospect of men walking around with painted faces. Cosmetics Design Europe suggests that male grooming is a growing beauty trend, and it’s shifting to include make-up for men [Cosmetics Design Europe, 4 Key Trends]. For a woman like me–a die-hard fan of The Rocky Horror Show who lustfully watched Sweet Transvestite on loop–the news that Chanel launched it’s first make-up for men on September 1 2018 in South Korea, was wildly exciting.

Boy De Chanel is a makeup line that consists of must-have items for men to polish image and boost self-confidence. [Pulse News]

“Must-have items! They’ve done their studies,” I thought, “there’s finally a market for it!” I thought. On the surface this launch seems feminist. It combats the idea that there is a range of feminine interests and activities a Real Man would not hold–such as an interest in one’s personal looks, dressing up and cosmetics. But my initial straw poll indicated that the simple availability of make up for men did nothing to encourage further acceptance of it.

Who’s the target market for make-up for men?

Not all men, apparently.

“What do you think about Chanel launching make-up for men?” I asked my male colleagues in the newsroom. The German sports reporter stared blankly at me. Clearly he hadn’t wasted one iota of brain space considering make-up for men and didn’t intend to either.

“Erm. I think we escaped it thank God,” said his Italian colleague slowly, “we might have to worry about it for our kids though.”

The sports reporter nudged him and giggled uncomfortably, “You don’t need make up,” he said “you’re already pretty.”

His ripost is representative of our society’s insecurity. Feeling inadequate is not the preserve of the female half of the population, but admitting it might be, and this may well impact Chanel’s future success. But is make-up only used when you’re ‘not pretty enough’? Of course not. My three kids use make-up to create an impact and a persona, for fun and to dress up for special occasions. But I limit their use of it because although make-up is a cool thing to play around with, dependency on it is potentially a sign of undue social pressure. It is horribly unhelpful when trying to help kids transition through life feeling valued and confident.

Boy de Chanel… if you’re not ‘man’ enough?

Boy de Chanel is a ‘range’ in the loosest sense of the word. It consists of four products, eyebrow pencil, eyeliner, matte lip balm and foundation. Far from the launch campaign’s war cry this is not trail blazing, it’s barely make-up at all and a world away from Dr. Frank-n-Furter’s kohl-lined, cherry bitten lips. For some men, those who use make up to create impact, the Chanel launch thus seems irrelevant. Jamie Moon, an erotic party DJ in Brighton, doesn’t believe he’s the intended demographic.

“I assume the focus for any mainstream male range is about discreet enhancement, whereas when I wear makeup I’m quite obvious about it – my influences being Bowie, Prince – more New Romantics than new metrosexual.”

Chanel’s new line, doesn’t quite have the pizzazz Jamie Moon is looking for. Maybelline eyeliner is his favourite, and max factor liquid foundation purely because K-Pop band Pizzicato 5 suggested it in a song. Yet for others even dabbing a bit of foundation on a spot before a first date calls their masculinity into question. And on one hand, for these men I am happy such a large, legacy brand leads the way, even if I suspect that such men would be happier nicking the make up from their Mom’s purse instead of admitting that they bought foundation named ‘Boy’. It makes it easier to stay in denial.

Invisibility As A Unique Selling Point

Chanel has similar thinking it seems, since they see the discreet nature of their make up as a selling point; “by wearing Boy de Chanel makeup, products with an undetectable presence, men can feel self-assured and determined, confident about themselves and their appearance.” [Forbes] By inference, Chanel’s target market is men who do not want to appear as if they are wearing make-up, but feel unconfident and uncertain going out without it. And that sounds sadly familiar. Where have I heard it before? From women. And more specifically, myself.

I’ve extensively examined my own issues of self-image and body image–especially in regard to the western media personified Pick-Up Artist which negs the female half of the population, insinuating insults whilst wrapping the solution in a dazzlingly photoshopped model. I’ve competed with those models for years. Until I became a mother and determined to set a better, more feminist example of self-acceptance and inclusiveness. I’m working actively to reduce such influences in my household and even though I laud Chanel’s inclusive make-up-for-everyone-regardless-of-gender initiative, if as I suspect, the end result will be to gouge holes in self-esteem in the name of profit, I’m against it.

Because if beauty really isn’t a matter of gender as Chanel claims, then they certainly shouldn’t have created a gendered make-up line which specifically exploits what make-up insecure men can use to cover up their real selves.

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