Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. But what defines beauty has been a tale told through the ages, woven into the very fabric of our culture, fashion, and self-expression. The canvas for this tale often starts with something as seemingly simple as eyebrows. Yes, those delicate arches above our eyes have been a symbol of allure, power, and identity throughout history. When we think of the perfect eyebrows today, we often picture beautifully sculpted, precisely shaped brows that frame the face exquisitely. But have you ever wondered how we arrived at this standard of beauty? The history of eyebrows is a fascinating journey through changing aesthetics and evolving techniques.
Our journey through the fascinating history and the evolution of eyebrow trends takes us on a mesmerizing adventure. It's a journey that unveils how beauty ideals have transformed over time, reflecting societal changes, cultural shifts, and individual expressions. From ancient Egypt 3500 BC to the bold statements of today, we'll explore how eyebrow aesthetics have transcended the ages. Fasten your seatbelts as we embark on a voyage through time.
The Ancient Egyptian Eyebrows of Horus, 3500 B.C. - 2500 B.C.
Our expedition begins in the land of pharaohs and pyramids, where beauty was a divine expression. In ancient Egypt, a civilization known for its reverence for aesthetics and symbolism, eyebrows held a sacred place in the beauty rituals. The famed Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, was just one example of how Egyptians used cosmetics as a form of art and spirituality.
The signature Egyptian eyebrow, often referred to as the "Eyebrows of Horus," was meticulously groomed and elongated. These distinctive brows weren't merely for cosmetic enhancement; they were a nod to the spiritual and the divine. The brows were shaped into a subtle, smooth arch, extending far towards the temples. This shape, believed to be inspired by the falcon god Horus (hence the name), symbolized protection and divinity. Ancient Egyptians utilized an array of materials for their beauty rituals, including kohl, a black powder made from minerals. Kohl was used to darken the brows and create an almond-shaped eye, a look that was thought to protect against the harsh desert sun and ward off evil spirits. These meticulously shaped brows exemplify how beauty, spirituality, and cultural identity converged in ancient Egypt, leaving an indelible mark on history.
The Astute Ancient Roman Brows, 750 BC to 475 AD:
The ancient Romans, renowned for their architectural prowess and governance, were no strangers to the art of enhancing their appearance. While Roman aesthetics encompassed a wide range of styles, one striking feature that emerged was the prominence of the unibrow.
During the Roman era, unibrow’s took on a unique role, often signifying one's social status. The brows were meticulously maintained, and achieving a perfectly connected pair was considered a mark of sophistication. Women and men alike employed various tools and techniques to shape their brows, from tweezers made of seashells. It was believed that a well-connected brow could convey intelligence and discernment. Interestingly, the Roman poet Ovid wrote about the art of brow shaping, emphasizing its importance in capturing hearts, this offers a fascinating glimpse into the intersection of aesthetics and societal values, illustrating how eyebrows have long been a canvas for self-expression and status.
The 1920s: The Era of the Thin Brow
The Roaring Twenties, a time of cultural transformation and newfound freedom, had a profound impact on fashion and beauty trends. During this iconic era, eyebrows underwent a striking transformation. The prevailing fashion dictated a shift towards ultra-thin, high-arched brows. The 1920s marked the zenith of the "flapper" culture, characterized by liberated women who embraced shorter hemlines, bobbed hairstyles, and a bold spirit.
Correspondingly, eyebrows took on a sleek, minimalist aesthetic. Beauty icons like Clara Bow and Louise Brooks epitomized this trend, sporting dramatically thin brows that accentuated their smoky eyes. Achieving the perfect 1920s brow required meticulous plucking, shaping, and even the use of eyebrow pencils to create the desired silhouette. The thin brow was celebrated for its modern, youthful look, and it became emblematic of the era's spirit of rebellion and self-expression.
The 1920s exemplify how brow trends are not just a reflection of fashion but also of the prevailing cultural ethos. This era set the stage for evolving beauty standards.
The 1930s: Arch and Sophistication
As the world emerged from the extravagance of the 1920s and navigated through the challenges of the Great Depression, the beauty industry evolved as well. The 1930s brought about a shift in eyebrow trends, bidding farewell to the ultra-thin brows of the previous decade and welcoming a more refined, arched look. During this era, women sought to achieve a polished and elegant appearance. Iconic Hollywood actresses like Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford graced the silver screen with their signature arched eyebrows, setting a new standard of sophistication.
These brows were defined by their gracefully curved shape, beginning slightly further back from the inner corner of the eye and arching gracefully towards the temple. To emulate this look, eyebrow grooming became more focused on maintaining a natural thickness while carefully shaping and accentuating the arch. Pencil-thin lines were replaced by fuller, more shapely brows, reflecting a desire for timeless beauty amidst the economic hardships of the era. The 1930s brows remind us that beauty trends often mirror the collective aspirations and cultural shifts of their time. In the face of adversity, the elegance and grace of these brows symbolized a commitment to enduring style and resilience.
The 1940s: Brow Power Amidst Turbulence
The 1940s was a decade marked by significant historical events, including World War II, which inevitably influenced fashion and beauty trends. The brow fashion of this era embodied both strength and femininity, reflecting the fortitude and determination of the time. As women took on new roles in the workforce to support the war effort, their brows underwent a transformation. The arched, well-defined look of the 1930s evolved into slightly thicker, softer brows. This style, made famous by stars like Ingrid Bergman and Rita Hayworth, was characterized by its gentle curve, beginning closer to the inner corner of the eye and maintaining a graceful arch.
These brows exuded a sense of resilience and empowerment. They were defined, symbolizing the blend of strength and grace required by women during wartime. Many women opted for fuller, natural brows to maintain an air of elegance while coping with the challenges of the era. Achieving the 1940s brow required minimal plucking and a preference for a softer, more natural shape. It was a testament to the spirit of the times, where beauty and strength went hand in hand. The 1940s brows serve as a reminder that beauty trends can reflect not only personal aesthetics but also the collective spirit of an era, encapsulating the courage and determination that defined the decade.
The 1950s: Marilyn Monroe and the Glamorous Arch
The 1950s witnessed the rise of Hollywood glamour, and no one embodied this era's iconic beauty quite like Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn's brows were a work of art, framing her captivating eyes and contributing to her unique allure.
The key feature of the 1950s brow were meticulously groomed and maintained, setting a new standard for elegance and femininity. Achieving the perfect 1950s brow involved careful attention to detail. They typically began closer to the inner corner of the eye, arching gracefully above the iris, and tapering to a delicate point toward the outer corner. This arched style beautifully complemented the cat-eye makeup and red lips that defined the era's beauty ideals. Marilyn Monroe's influence extended beyond the silver screen, making her brows an iconic symbol of the decade's glamour and sophistication. Her look remains a timeless source of inspiration for those seeking to capture the essence of 1950s beauty.
The 1960s: The Brow Evolution Continues
The 1960s marked a time of radical change and expression, and the world of fashion and beauty was no exception. With the iconic influence of figures like Twiggy and Audrey Hepburn, the brows of this era were characterized by both contrast and diversity.
One distinct trend of the 1960s was the ultra-thin, arched brow. This style, popularized by models like Twiggy, featured brows that were slender, high-arched, and elongated. This look was achieved by over-plucking the natural brow and redrawing a thinner, more dramatic line. Twiggy's brows, in particular, were like elegant punctuation marks framing her wide-eyed, doll-like gaze.
On the flip side, there was also a surge in the popularity of fuller, natural brows inspired by Audrey Hepburn. Her brows were well-defined but not overly thick, creating a softer, more classic appearance. This style encouraged women to embrace their natural brow shape and only make slight enhancements to achieve a polished yet natural look.
The 1960s, therefore, presented a fascinating contrast in brow trends, with some embracing the ultra-thin, while others celebrated a more natural, fuller look. This diversity allowed for greater individual expression, emphasizing that beauty comes in many forms. The '60s were truly a time when personal style and self-expression reigned supreme.
The 1970s: A Decade of Brow Freedom
The 1970s brought a spirit of liberation and individuality that extended into the world of beauty and, of course, eyebrows. This era was all about embracing the natural beauty of one's brows, and it marked a departure from the meticulous grooming of the previous decade.
The '70s celebrated a more untamed, bohemian look. Iconic figures like Farrah Fawcett and Ali MacGraw epitomized this trend with their distinctive brows. The arches of the '70s were thicker, softer, and often featured a slight natural curve. Women began to let their brows grow out more freely, allowing the hair to follow its natural pattern. This return to a more natural brow shape was a reflection of the overall shift towards a simpler and less rigid beauty standard. Bold and earthy shades of eyeshadow and mascara often complemented these fuller brows. This era encouraged a laid-back, carefree approach to beauty, and the brows played a significant role in conveying that relaxed and natural charm.
In essence, the 1970s were a period of brow freedom, urging women to celebrate their unique features and embrace their natural beauty. It was an era defined by a return to authenticity and a rejection of overly styled, artificial looks.
The 1980s: Power Brows and Brooke Shields' Iconic Look
The 1980s ushered in a bold and distinctive brow trend. Often referred to as "power brows," the brows of the 1980s were all about making a statement. They were characterized by their bold, thick, and often slightly unruly appearance.
Brooke Shields, with her strikingly full brows, became a beauty icon during this time. Her brows were expressive, youthful, and became a defining feature of her look. Their thickness and dark color made a striking sought-after style. To achieve these power brows, many turned to brow pencils and makeup to darken and define their eyebrows. The goal was to create brows that were intense, expressive, and had a strong presence. This was the era where the phrase "the bigger, the better" truly applied to eyebrows. The influence of Brooke Shields' brows extended beyond the realm of fashion and beauty; it left an indelible mark on popular culture. Her brows became a symbol of strength and confidence, reflecting the bold and ambitious spirit of the 1980s.
The 1990s: Thin Brows
As we step into the 1990s, we encounter a brow trend that took a sharp turn from the bold and powerful brows of the previous decade. The 1990s witnessed the rise of incredibly thin, almost minimalist eyebrows. In stark contrast to the dramatic brows of the 1980s, this era embraced an entirely different aesthetic. Thin brows in the 1990s were characterized by their ultra-fine, barely-there appearance.
They were often over-plucked and meticulously groomed to achieve a shape that was slender, high-arched, and somewhat angular. This trend marked a significant departure from the fullness and natural beauty celebrated in earlier decades. One of the most prominent figures associated with this brow trend was the supermodel Kate Moss. Her slender, minimalist brows became a hallmark of her distinctive look and influenced many to emulate this style. Moss's brows perfectly complemented the "heroin chic" aesthetic that was fashionable during this time.
To achieve these razor-thin brows, tweezers were the weapon of choice. Women would painstakingly pluck away excess hair to create the thinnest lines possible. Brow pencils and powders were used sparingly to fill in any gaps but without adding much thickness.
The 1990s marked an era when less was more in terms of brow volume. However, looking back, this trend is often criticized for its extreme and sometimes unflattering appearance. Over-plucking could lead to brows that looked too thin and harsh.
The 2000s: A Mix of Trends
The turn of the millennium marked a period of diversity in eyebrow trends. The 2000s saw a mix of styles, with some influenced by the previous decades while others embraced a more natural look.
One eyebrow trend that continued from the 1990s into the early 2000s was the preference for thin, well-groomed brows. Over-plucking was still common, but the lines were not as razor-thin as they were in the previous decade.
Another eyebrow style that gained popularity in the 2000s was the "straight brow" look. This style involved minimal arching and instead focused on creating brows with a more horizontal orientation. It was a departure from the high arches of the 1990s. Celebrities like Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera sported bold, well-defined brows during this time, emphasizing a more natural and fuller look. These brows were still groomed but retained a sense of authenticity.
The 2010s: The Era of Bold and Defined Brows
The 2010s witnessed a significant shift in eyebrow trends, with a strong emphasis on bold, defined, and natural-looking brows. This decade marked a departure from the ultra-thin brows of the early 2000s and embraced a fuller, more authentic aesthetic. One of the defining features of 2010s brows was thickness. The trend was all about embracing one's natural brow shape and enhancing it rather than over-tweezing or shaping excessively. Eyebrows were fuller and more prominent, often featuring a defined arch that framed the eyes beautifully.
The influence of celebrities like model Cara Delevingne, known for her striking thick brows, played a significant role in popularizing this trend. Social media platforms contributed to the "eyebrow boom" as makeup enthusiasts and beauty influencers shared tutorials and tips on achieving the perfect brows. Achieving the look often involved using eyebrow pencils, powders, or pomades to fill in any sparse areas and create a well-defined shape. Brow gels and setting products were used to hold the brows in place and give them a polished finish.
Microblading, a semi-permanent makeup technique that mimics the appearance of individual brow hairs, gained immense popularity during this decade. It allowed individuals to achieve natural-looking brows with long-lasting results.
Brows of Today: Embracing Individuality
As we step into the present day, the world of eyebrow beauty has become more diverse and inclusive than ever before. The current brow trends celebrate individuality, allowing people to express themselves in unique ways. Rather than adhering to a single, dominating style, today's brows are all about personal preference and embracing what makes each person special.
As we look back on the ever-changing landscape of brow trends, one thing becomes evident: our brows, much like us, are a work in progress, an evolving journey of self-expression and identity. In the end, it's not about adhering to the trends of the past or present; it's about embracing what makes you uniquely you, brow trends be damned. After all, true beauty transcends time, and in the world of brows, that beauty is as diverse as the people who wear it.
Kelly Martinez is a paramedical permanent makeup artist, owner of INKredible PMU and host of The Scottsdale Permanent Makeup & Aesthetic Conference. She has been featured in Glam.com, Canvas Rebel & Shoutout Arizona. Be part of her vibrant beauty community here.