Monday, December 20, 2010

Men in Makeup

Jonathan Rhys-Meyer and Ewan Mcgregor in Velvet Goldmine
Confession: I have had a thing for men in makeup for a long, long time. I didn't grow up listening to David Bowie or Duran Duran, sadly but the first time I remember being exposed (cough) to boys in makeup was in the 1998 movie Velvet Goldmine. Directed by Todd Haynes and starring the sexy trio of Jonathan Rhys-Meyer, Christian Bale and Ewan Mcgregor, Velvet Goldmine was a thinly veiled fiction that heavily referenced the known and speculated relationship between David Bowie (Rhys-Meyer) and Iggy Pop (Ewan Macgregor).

A clip of Jonathan Rhys-Meyer performing The Ballad of Maxwell Demon from Velvet Goldmine:

And here's Ewan McGregor performing Iggy Pop and the Stooges' Gimme Danger...
And Ewan Mcgregor performing Iggy Pop and the Stooges' Gimme Danger:

....OK, I need a moment after that....

Where was I? Oh yes, Velvet Goldmine. The makeup and costumes in this film are outstanding, capturing the glam rock era perfectly. More photos:

Christian Bale and Todd Haynes (director) in Velvet Goldmine

Ewan Mcgregor in Velvet Goldmine

Jonathan Rhys-Meyer and Ewan Mcgregor in Velvet Goldmine

Center: Jonathan Rhys-Meyer in Velvet Goldmine

Jonathan Rhys-Meyer in Velvet Goldmine

Ewan Mcgregor in Velvet Goldmine

Men in makeup - what's the appeal? Well, for one, it's something associated with rock & roll and rock musicians have a danger and sex appeal about them. Then there's the androgyny mystique. A man who wears some eyeliner like he couldn't give a shit is sexy. That's the rock star thing again. Think of David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust period. SEXY. There's something alien, mysterious and dangerous about Ziggy Stardust and that's sexy. 

David Bowie
David Bowie

Men have been wearing makeup, secifically eyeliner, for centuries - so why is it not considered manly today? In Ancient Egypt, kohl powder was used by both men and women for both eye protection (from the bright sun, like football players do today) and for aesthetic purposes. Men of the Punjab wear eyeliner on special occasions, such as weddings. 

I'm not talking subtle, cover-up and powder makeup that most men in front of the camera are wearing these days, I'm talking about makeup you can see - colour, shadow, lipstick. I'm not talking about drag queen makeup either, although I am not saying these ladies don't deserve immense recognition and praise, they're more fabulous than most women! I'm talking about men who are men, gay or straight or whatever, who wear makeup for the sake of wearing makeup. They're creating a character, channelling a personality, standing out.

Look at Boy George and Marilyn Manson. The makeup they wear is part of their personalities and have helped make them icons, just like David Bowie. The photo below of Marilyn Manson was during his more glam rock phase when he was playing with gender roles and androgyny, wearing a fake bust, smoky eyes and a glam wig.

Marilyn Manson
Boy George
Adam Ant
Boy George and Adam Ant were popular during the early 80s and their styles were indicative of the New Romantic/New Wave trend. Adam Ant had a foppish, military/tribal look as in the above photo and Boy George's style was hippy-earthy influenced. Both used lots of colour and striped/winged makeup.

Another movie of note is Hedwig and the Angry Inch, based on the off-Broadway play and written, performed and directed by the amazing John Cameron Mitchell.

It features some incredible hair and makeup looks:

John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig
John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig) and Michael Pitt (Tommy)

John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig

Michael Pitt as Tommy

Hedwig is a transsexual so she is of course, made-up to look feminine. Onstage she's very glam rock a la New York Dolls and her lover Tommy Gnosis (played by Michael Pitt) is the male version of Hedwig, as above, with eyeliner and silver paint.

Tommy Gnosis - Wicked Little Town from Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Marc Bolan
When men have naturally delicate or feminine features, makeup can make them look almost pretty. Marc Bolan, above, one of the big names of the glam rock movement had this effect as did the New York Dolls, below. The New York Dolls' makeup borders on drag. There are few men who can wear make-up and be mistaken for a woman. Men's features tend to be thicker, as is their skin, they have fuller brows and wider jaws and it's not easy hiding stubble.

New York Dolls
The same goes for the pretty, slinky Brits of Duran Duran. Nick Rhodes particularly (2nd from the left) enhanced his pretty features with makeup. Nick Rhodes has features pretty enough to pass for a woman.
Duran Duran
With someone like the young Mick Jagger, who blurred gender lines with his long hair, tight clothes and full lips and wore makeup in the movie Performance, the effect is masculine yet feminine in a compelling way.

Mick Jagger in Performance

Mick Jagger in Performance
Dave Navarro with his perfectly groomed eyebrows and facial hair and makeup (looks like foundation, lipstick and eyeliner/shadow).
Dave Navarro
And the pretty, pretty Jared Leto trying to grunge his face up with scruff, long greasy hair but the eyeliner just makes those baby blues pop.
Jared Leto
Jared Leto could pass as a woman and for proof, check out this video from Youtube of a girl making herself look like him using makeup:

As is befitting of his role as American music's most prominent "punk", Billie Joe Armstrong still wears eyeliner even though he's in his 40s. 

Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day
Even though Bob Dylan fit more in the hippy movement with his folk music, he wasn't a stranger to the gender-bending black smudgy eyeliner that so many of his peers embraced.

Bob Dylan

As a rockstar pirate in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp) wears thick black eyeliner but Johnny wears a touch of makeup outside of character too. See below, on the cover of Vanity Fair.
Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean

Johnny Depp on the cover of Vanity Fair, January 2011

The look suits him, I think.

For some, the definition of rock star is Keith Richards who was Johnny's muse for the character of Jack Sparrow. He rocked the eyeliner then and still does now.
Keith Richards, then.

Keith Richards, nowish
Today's rocker boys may not live up to the legends, but they at least work the look. Here Pete Wentz combines the skater boy attire with black liner and a pout.

Pete Wentz
The same goes for Killers frontman and solo artist Brandon Flowers. He's got the eyeliner, but with slim cut suits and ties, a bit more Bowie than Richards.

Brandon Flowers
Adam Lambert, winner of American Idol, startled mainstream audiences with his flamboyance on the talent show. He veers between glam rock and macho-drag makeup. Here he's working the smoky eye/nude lip.

Adam Lambert
And on the subject of flamboyance and gender-bending, Adam Lambert wouldn't be anywhere without David Bowie and the one and only Prince, who not only wore makeup (blush, eyeliner, shadow and lipgloss) but feminine clothing (including high heels) while straddling the gender fence and making everyone blush.

Oh, Russell Brand, there's just something about you. Pair the crazy rat's nest hair, the heavy brows and the scruff with some rockstar eyeliner and some posturing in barely buttoned shirts, leather pants or a bikini and you've got it.
Russell Brand
See, he's barely recognizable with shorter hair, no scruff, no eyeliner, no leather, and no chest hair as he films a remake of Arthur. No, Russell, no. Go back to your unclean-looking, rockstar madness!

Russell Brand filming Arthur in NYC

And since we're ending with my favourites, here's someone Russell Brand must have been inspired by, Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap (played by Christopher Guest) in full glitter eye makeup.

Rufus Wainwright
And Rufus Wainwright, darling, poetic, drama queen troubadour, Rufus, here wearing a bit of eyeliner to enhance his big sad eyes.
I posted this and then was reminded that I forgot Jack White (of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. Ooops! Jack's worn eyeliner, heavy black eyeshadow and gone for a theatrical, gothic, completely white face with red eyes lately. Unsurprisingly he's not following the guyliner trend, but making his own, just like his music. Thanks Lucky!

Jack White

I'd also forgotten the one and only Eddie Izzard, actor and comedian with a penchant for cross-dressing and makeup. It's not only rockstars who wear makeup. Thanks Sam!

Eddie Izzard

We'll end where we began, with my favourite, Ewan Mcgregor. Ewan has played rockstars and it's common to put eyeliner on a man for photoshoots but he wears a bit of eyeliner for special events, like red carpets and movie premieres just because he likes to. And it looks good.
Ewan Mcgregor
Ewan Mcgregor, is a guy's guy who is comfortable in a kilt, has ridden motorbikes around the world, is a family man, can play gay, bi and straight characters, and has a touch of of the metrosexual about him. He's not a girly boy but he's not a macho man either. No wonder he's my #1!

So what do you think? Do you share my fascination for men in makeup? Should men wear makeup? Do you have any favourites that I've missed?



  1. oooh you forgot Jack White!! great post...

  2. And THIS guy too:!/photo.php?fbid=15158710031&set=t.684260580


  3. Oh Catherine!! I have to say, you definitely influenced and expanded my once budding love for men in makeup when you first introduced me to "Velvet Goldmine". My love for mot only Ewan Mcgregor and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers has only become stronger over the years. But for me boys in makeup is highly associative to Irish and Scottish men, it just feels more right for the makeup to go with those accents, but I guess I biased.
    I must also say this, you have probably forgotten one of the founding fathers of men in makeup...the great Eddie Izzard.
    Great blog though just screams you!!

    Samantha P

  4. Thanks Sam! I've added Eddie to it now. :)

  5. Men's makeup has increased in popularity and is becoming fairly commonplace, thanks to Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, Adam Lambert and others.

    If wearing it appeals to you, check out the kinds of makeup that don't hurt your skin or cause breakouts

  6. Great post Cath!

    I think makeup's role is to accentuate your best features - male or female. I love messy eyeliner and nail polish on men. It can take a lot of confidence for a man to cross such gender boundaries and that confidence can be really attractive.

    And hey, looking like Ewan dosen't hurt either.


  7. Great post. Nothing says, "I'm secure in my sexuality" than a straight guy in makeup.

  8. Love it! Another gem - "Breakfast on Pluto."

  9. I honestly love Bill Kaulitz. I think he is beautiful.
    Here is a picture taken this week.

    And here is one taken in 2008.

  10. Make up for men

    This blog is highly informatics, crisp and clear. Here everything has been described in systematic manner so that reader could get maximum information and learn many things. This is one of the best blogs I have read.

  11. I'd have to agree with Karmilda. Though I don't much think Kaulitz's look fits his music, and even though I'm not a big fan of said music, I believe he deserves a mention. I think plenty of GIRLS would love to look like that man! He fits into the delicate/feminine category for sure.
    Here's another photo of him:

  12. Ewan McGregor is such an incredible actor. And Jonathan Rhys Meyers is g-g-g-gorgeous in this film! Haha.

    I just wanted to point out that yes, Ewan's role was highly reflective of Iggy Pop, but the person that David Bowie was rumoured to being intimate with was Mick Jagger. There's an interview with Angie Bowie on YouTube where they bring it up. Check it out :)

    Other than that, why shouldn't men wear makeup to make themselves look their best? Why just women? It's not gay or feminine, it's just sexist. Some guys need to realise homophobia is a huge turn-off.

  13. I think you forgot the sexiest man in make-up. Where is Tim Curry as Frank-N-Furter? That sexy alien deserves a spot on here. If you like men in make-up you have to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    1. Absolutey!Tottaly agree :D But then again, since you (Cath) like Velvet Goldmine, where's the sexy Brian Molko?

  14. Great article, I def prefer my men with makeup, Jack White and Brandon Flowers are my fave, but there is also the lovely Brendon Urie from Panic! At The Disco who looks smokin with eyeliner and other amazing makeup, check him out!

  15. Aaagh david bowie, and marc bolan! Take me now! :P

  16. I like this post. Wanted to add that Elvis in his early career wore eyeshadow and liner and Little Richard wore and still wears makeup, too! Also, Brian Setzer did

  17. Marilyn Manson Is mighty fine.

  18. I truly think that men in makeup is a HUGE attraction. Gay & bisexual men who wear makeup tends to makes me jealous because they are just so damn good applying it and look 3 times better in it than I do! Straight non homophobic men that wear makeup is a huge sexual attraction because of how comfortable they can be in their own skin and shows how real and dedicating they can be. Also, something about eyeliner around the most incredible pair of eyes enhances the intensity of them and makes you go literally off your rocker. Take Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" and his Rock Star Menace Drippy Clown Makeup as I like to refer to it as. ..and that was enough for me. ;)holy shit completely and utterly gave my brain a hard on<3
    btw Frankenfurther aha ....100% best drag makeup EVER!

  19. No one wears eye make up like Ewan Mcgregor... He got me to change my mind on that matter

  20. OMG awesome post, I love men in make up, darn, Ewan looks amazing, his Curt Wild has obsessed me :F *o*. And Jared Leto girl haha, I wish she was my friend waaa. Awesome pictures you've got, congrats!

  21. You got real good taste gurl

  22. I love guys with makeup, makeup isn't just for women, our strict society made it to seem this way. Makeup is meant to accentuate your facial features, and when men wear it with their big beautiful eyes and such, it just looks good.

  23. Another rocker who looked great with make-up is Dave Varian who morphed from a scary vampire look to a more stylized look, with a prominent white streak in his raven coloured hair for emphasis, around the time the group he was in THE DAMNED released the SAY ANYTHING album back in '86.

  24. Hey there!

    What about Freddie Mercury? and Steven Tyler?
    They wore make up as well. As did Iggy Pop and
    Lou reed! And I, personally, think they totally rock
    ed it! I think Jimmy Page fits right in here too!
    Anyway, thank you for making this! And I totally
    agree with you! Men in make up are HOT.
    I think it's also the attitude of not giving a fuck.
    And I think confidence, sex appeal and charisma
    are very important. Long live Rock 'n' Roll!
    Again thank you for creating this blog. :-)