Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Perception of Beauty

After one girl made some waves with her shmaltztastic video I was again reminded of the never-ending human quest to define and identify the allure of "beauty". A hackneyed theme, but nevertheless enduringly beguiling. When I think on it myself, often my starting point is a poem which although one of my favourites, always unsettles me with its final concluding stanza,

"'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'"

Don't worry - I won't turn this blog into a practical criticism GCSE fest! But it does eloquently build up to the point that true beauty has inherent within it some revelation of clarity - some "truth" to unveil. Such is the essense of 'falling in love' - discovery of a trueness that translates as beauty.

But here you can scoff. After all maybe one can say men can become beautiful when armed with a great sense of humour and a warm smile, but women? Sense of humour can't bridge physical shortcomings in the same way. Sad, but no point masking the facts. However albeit the boundaries are unequal and the fairer sex have more pressure to attain true (literal) beauty, the nature of beauty still has the complexity of a truth: Truth is simple, organised, and clear, though it can be colloquially known as "the ugly truth" rather than anything approaching beauty. But the epiphany of the moment of truth is unrivalled. Truth can be manipulated, measured, controlled; used to dazzling effect. The coupling of truth and beauty thus gains momentum.

But onto the less abstract interpretation of "Beauty", gleaned or at least triggered by Keats' poem.

Contrast, ultimately is master. Truth is valueless and rootless without lies and Fiction; Good is unremarkable without Evil; Silence is deafening without Noise. Beauty is flat without Flaws. Embrace your 'flaws' - your quirks are there to contrast your beauty and bring it to a 'truth'. Kate Moss' crooked teeth give her a jaunty beauty; Cindy Crawford's mole sparks her beauty; Linda Evangelista's hooked nose gives her an unworldly elegance ... (don't mention Angelina Jolie at this point though please don't break the spell!)

My perception of Beauty, to throw my hat into the ring, is the confidence to use your weaker features to offset your classically beautiful features. If you have thin lips, splash them with a bold slice of colour, à la Lily Cole doll face look. If you have a prominent nose, don't keep your head down - wear your hair scraped back and blush up your cheekbones, wear extra eye makeup, a prominent feature gives you license to wear bold looks à la Erin O'Connor. Embrace your individuality and find the truth of your own beauty.

...What is your perception of beauty???

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Beauty Tag

So it's another tag! Thank you Lamiats!

What's your favourite make up look?
Winged eyeliner on the outer third of my eyes, pale eyeshadow, rosey cheeks and a deep lipstick.
Do you have a beauty vice?
No, the very idea of a beauty vice is sacrilege to me... It's an oxymoron.
What part of your body do you love?
Hmm tricky, I'll say kneecap, sometimes thigh?
Who is your beauty icon?
Audrey Hepburn, and to a lesser extent, Dita Von Teese.
What beauty product makes you feel instantly sexy?
It has to be mascara, doesn't it? Although I haven't found the ultimate HG, I am pretty satisfied with Lancome Hypnose.
How do you look after your skin?
Aargh sensitive subject! I am seriously considering booking in for my first ever botox. I am just worried about how high maintenance it'll be. I might try Glycolic acid first. But right now, I am in a quandary.
What is your signature scent?
I most often wear Elizabeth Arden Green Tea, but my special signature scent is Hermes Un Jardin sur le Nil.
What are your haircare secrets?
Oh dear you've hit on another raw nerve. My hair is in rather a pickle too. There is a good hair mask you can get at Sally's called Osmo, that's helped somewhat...
How do you pamper yourself?
Green and Black's dark cherry chocolate. Makeup shopping spree. Long bath. In that order.
What is your beauty pet peeve?
Orange faces, I just don't understand.
What would your desert island must haves be?
I have to say sunscreen (I'm curently using Lancome's and it's ok), my MAC TLC in Popster from the Hello Kitty collection, tweezers, my waxing kit. OK moving on....
Finally, do you have a beauty philosophy?
Actually, in response to my contest, someone said very accurately: "If it doesn't feel right, it probably doesn't look right". And that's very true. You can feel great in a bold eye and bold lip and bold cheek - and look cool, or wear the same exact makeup but feel self-conscious - and it will look too much. It's all in the execution.

I tag....

LoveLipstickandLime (check out her blog if you haven't already!!)

Llyangel (check out her blog if you haven't already!!)

LizzClare (check out her blog if you haven't already!!)

Hope I haven't re-tagged anyone... Please do the tag! Thanks! xx

Neno's Blog Award (Tagged by Mizzworthy)

So once upon a time someone randomly created from scratch an award fashioned out of her namesake, and now it's spread like wildfire. I am the latest honoured recipient, thanks to Mizzworthy. The rules have evolved somewhat since its inception, so perhaps I might be allowed to take that as my cue to not be too stringent...

Rather than the suggested ten blogs, I will be taking this opportunity to nominate just a handful of top blogs that I visit regularly, and highly recommend. I hope you will take the time to check them out too! I chose them specifically because I think they deserve a wider audience.

1. Erryn's Health & Beauty - And not just because she has generously supported my recent contest! Erryn is an absolute expert in her field and regularly posts interesting and highly useful insider knowledge. An extemely valuable blog resource.

2. Glossy Couture - I absolutely love Kathy's popular Youtube channel, and I find her blog really useful. She does loads of review comparisons and dupes, which are excellent to have on hand.

3. Ondine - There is something very relaxing about this blog, I always enjoy browsing through her posts - especially, I must confess, the cocktail series!

4. Lamiats - Again, there is something eclectic about this blog that I enjoy. Always entertaining and engaging, I remember her very first post (insert wistful sigh.)

5. Aestheticcoo - Another fun blog, mainly has interesting hauls, deals, swatches and reviews. Often includes enterprising suggestions on dupes, makeup combinations, or shopping ideas! Great stuff!

I am very tempted to dash off and create my own "Gail Award" and see how that one goes, but for now, I hope this Nemo Award can serve its admirable purpose, spreading the word on great blogs that YOU should check out! Enjoy! xx

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Men and Makeup

You'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger fan of men in makeup than me. Maybe I shouldn't admit it, but there it stands.

However on a recent trip to check out Illamasqua, I was served by an overtly bitchy guy in drag. Did he feel he had to be that way to complement his ostentatious fake lashes and glitter? I could tell he was viewing me as a corporate slave, by dint of my rather austere coat and boots and generally sober garb (it was a weekday). I felt uncomfortable and ended up going on a Trish McEvoy haul instead.

Yet in fact one of my favourite books is "DRAG: A History of Female Impersonation in the Performing Arts" by Roger Baker. The book traces the progress through centuries of female impersonation, which began with pageants as far back as 1100. The catalyst proves to have been the Church dramatisations: It all began as an attempt to make the liturgy of the church more intelligible to the largely illiterate congregations’, which evolved to incorporate comic routines.

The last day of Christmas (Twelfth Night) became associated with misrule and reversal of order. As the various dramas were completely separated from the Church and responsibility for them was taken over by the local Guilds, each Guild chose episodes most appropriate to their skill (mystery plays) and Bible stories were given sub-plots. Noah’s wife in particular, although not imbued with any characteristics in the original story, became a nagging shrew and still stands as a blueprint for countless nagging wives jokes.

Aside from the prevalence of what Baker calls the "Male Actress" in all corners of the world - from the ancient theatres in Japan and China, to the post-war boom of drag acts in Britain, to the trend in American cinema from Tootsie to Mrs Doubtfire, spreading then to Baz Luhrmann's fantastic Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the countless cross dressing comedians, from Benny Hill to Dame Edna, culminating in the revival now of stage musicals: Priscilla Queen of the Desert (with Jason Donovan reclaiming the chance he had all those years ago, and possibly going some way to softening the fact that he killed 'The Face' magazine off....), and Hairspray; The Rocky Horror Show. What's clear is that never has drag lost its audience. The recent passing of Danny La Rue has brought that point back too.

But if drag is at one extreme, does it filter down to the everyman or will it always be at the periphery, and always under the guise of entertainment?

We must remember Superdrug (UK drugstore) picking up Taxi Man, a brand which excels at punning: "Disguys", the concealer; followed by the now familiar "manscara" and "guyliner". The promo pic was accordingly mainstream, featuring a very heterosexual looking cabbie:

However despite the brand holding up Russell Brand and Robbie Williams as examples of their target audience mainstream appeal, the very use of these jocular terms admits their taboo nature.

Even at the other side of the spectrum, where it seems there are genuine attempts to invite male grooming and vanity to come to the fore (in much the same way as a female consumer may be enticed), there lies a coyness.

Notwithstanding the fact that the term 'makeup' is avoided, replaced by a more vague descriptions such as 'complexion enhancer'; the mascara a 'brow and lash groomer', and packaged in masculine affirming black thick robust compacts, Jean Pual Gaultier, who led the pack, had the press release of his Monsieur range as:

'A Monsieur lies hidden in every man. Monsieur is sophisticated and elegant without fuss or complication, but of course not without humour'.

This vital reference to "humour" may be there to relax its male purchaser that it's all just an experiment; a laugh. At the least it acknowledges that these products are usually only to be found at the margins of society and generally associated with rebellious teens, eccentric gay men and cross-dressers.

YSL's famous hero product, Touche Eclat, also seemed to transfer well. It already had a pen design rather than anything too flouncy, so renamed 'L'Homme Touche Eclat" and deprived it of its shiny gold tube (in favour of pewter) YSL used the biggest pleb-magnet - a Big Brother contestant!

Stuart Pilkington as the face of the eyeliner and concealer look:

Johnny Depp in his role as a pirate has done much to popularise the eyeliner look, and of course Pete Wentz fancies himself as another male makeup icon.

For a rock look, it seems in keeping with the role. However, this still means male makeup is marginalised.

Clarins male bronzing ranges, and Clinique's, and the countless male skincare products now launching within mainstream drugstore ranges, all attempt to edge closer to a point where men reach for their bronzer, concealer, mascara and lip tint without a moment's hesitation. Companies, after all, could double their market if they could convince men that they, too, were unsightly without make-up.

Before dismissing any likelihood of this,it is worth remembering that up until the 1850s men did openly wear makeup.

Male makeup has a long history, starting with the Egyptians, whose men applied thick eyeliner to ward off the "evil eye." Roman men used chalk-based foundation to brighten their complexions, and, in the 18th century, Louis XV and his court made it highly fashionable for men to wear (often toxic lead-based) makeup and rouge. During the French Restoration in the 18th century, red rouge and lipstick were used to give the impression of a healthy, fun-loving spirit.

Eventually, their preference for excessive makeup led to the jibe that the "painted" French had something to hide. Thus the trend ebbed as it began to be associated with being a rather too dandy sort. Perhaps by adding L'Homme or Monsieur, these cosmetic houses aim to hark back to a French bygone era?!

It is hard to think that eyeliner on a man will be acceptable outside of the confines of a deliberate artistic flourish, but indeed our times seem to have heralded the return of the dandy:

"Recent reports have revealed that the global sales of men's grooming products reached $19.5bn in 2008. The value of the market in 2009 is estimated to be $21.7bn, an increase of 11.3% as compared to last year.... The desire to look and feel healthy has been driven by male role models such as film actors and sportsmen, and communicated via the huge growth in premium magazines dedicated to men.... As the boundaries between genders continue to be broken down, global companies are expected to find increasingly innovative ways to profit from the evolving characteristics of the male consumer." 1

Is male makeup the last bastion of the gender divide? Will the acceptance of male skincare extend to male cosmetics?? What are your predictions and thoughts???