Why should I care about boy beauty?
While the industry was rocked by the news of James Charles as its first guy face for CoverGirl, I was left wondering how it affected me. Or for that matter, most other guys.
To give some context, I’m not your “average” beauty buyer. As a 22-year-old straight man with only a relatively recent affair with cosmetics, I’m not an avid watcher of YouTubers nor am I part of Sephora’s VIB program. I certainly don’t understand the intricacies of blending a full contour. However, if there’s one thing I do know, it’s that I am not defined, nor do I find inspiration in James Charles and the rest of the current crop of industry veterans considered as the pioneers of the movement.
That’s where the industry is missing its mark when attempting to make this entire “boy beauty movement” become bigger. While it’s beautiful that beauty is becoming more inclusive to guys, it’s also a very specific and segmented market that targets an extremely specific demographic. For every James Charles or Patrick Starr, there’s the average guy who doesn’t even moisturize let alone would know what foundation was.
In very much the same sense as the “metrosexual” brands of the last generation, CoverGirl and Maybelline have belittled the male buyer to a flat “one-size-fits-all” character, without ever truly reaching to the physical male market.
So how is it that the industry thinks we expect ambassadors like them to successfully represent the millennial man’s embrace and evolution within the beauty sphere, if the millennial man is not aware of their existence? While the media continues to praise the profound impact that these men have on the industry, they don’t mention that a vast majority of their fans are women, not the men they’re trying to target. In very much the same sense as the “metrosexual” brands of the last generation, CoverGirl and Maybelline have belittled the male buyer to a flat “one-size-fits-all” character, without ever truly reaching to the physical male market. Once again, we are left with the illusion of progress yet no steps actually being taken, just caricatures of men used to sell more products to women.
I may lack the vast knowledge years of experience grants those in the industry, but that hindrance is undoubtedly overshadowed by a passion for the powerful impact beauty can have on our society. The men I idolize have always pushed the boundaries of what is expected of them through their physical appearance, using beauty as a powerful creative tool to express their individuality. Rather than mimic the artistry of their female counterparts, they work to accentuate the beautiful features that are unique to men. From David Bowie and the rockstars of the past, to Jaden Smith, Harry Styles, and the new generation of rebels, there is a plethora of rule-breakers who would make a truly groundbreaking addition to any major beauty brand.
None of this is to say I find the industry in a state of irreversible disarray, to the contrary, I believe we are on the cusp of a major societal shift in our perceptions of gender and how beauty relates to that. Milk Makeup utilized a diverse cast of men, women, and other gender non-conforming models through their “Blur The Lines” campaign to give a middle finger to the rigid standards of the beauty industry. Anastasia Beverly Hills focused on the male form to highlight the striking shades of its cult-favorite Glow Kits. Small victories like these, and the lasting impact they have on those ready to listen, are a sign of what’s to come, and the brands that fail to transform with the consumer are doomed to be left in the past.
Fast forward to a post-Trump era and we find more brands than ever cashing in on male beauty as an industry. From Milk to Maybelline, Tarte to Tom Ford, a new wave of done-up dudes have hit the main stage. Many of these brand ambassadors hail from the world of Instagram and YouTube vlogging, amassing millions of followers eager for the next crazy contour tutorial. In contrast to those of the last generation, these men embody a progressive feminine interest and sensibility. They approach beauty with a bold and brash no-apologies bravado, clashing with the constraints of the gender identities that society has placed upon them.
With boundless praise from inside and out of the industry for this radical man, why am I so unhappy with the new “beauty boy?” Simple – he is not me, or the men I know who wear makeup.