Why Lee Suckling thinks society is still not ready for men wearing makeup.
Twelve months ago, I nervously walked into a Mecca store . I left with a bunch of compliments, some under-eye concealer, and a vague idea of how to look a little less tired.
A year later, I'm no men's make-up expert. I've tried various other products – from BB Creams and setting powders to bronzers, even mascara and eyebrow gel – and YouTube has been an excellent resource for teaching a newbie how to beat their mug. But what have I really learned?
The main takeaway is that make-up for men – or at least this man – only works if it looks and feels completely invisible. Anything beyond that makes me feel like I'm pretending to be someone else. As if I'm a fake with a mask on.
This sentiment comes from the fact I still don't think society is ready for men wearing makeup. We can talk about equality all we want or put the likes of James Charles on Queen Street billboards, but a man with a face of makeup has to be willing to make a public political statement. He is sending out a message bigger than "I take care of myself". He's essentially saying, "f**k gender norms!" and making himself a poster boy for non-conformity and subversiveness.
This is an important role to play in society, but not one many men are comfortable with embodying themselves. It's a function you have to have the confidence to step up and embody. I know I'm not there. It prevents me from feeling anonymous. And I like going about the world incognito; I'm uneasy encouraging stares.
I mentioned feeling like a fake when wearing makeup. It's most notable when hanging out with other guys where none of them have a stitch on. If I have applied tinted moisturiser, my under-eye circles are covered, and there's some clear mascara and a bit of translucent setting powder over the top of it all, technically I've mastered the "no-makeup" men's makeup look. It would appear to be invisible, until you can see other men in the same frame.
When next to them, their skin looks grey and patchy. They look exhausted and un-slept. It's obvious because I look like I've just walked Paris Fashion Week while my mates appear to be running on caffeine and three-hours' shut eye. This makes me feel guilty. Underneath my face, I know I look the same as they do. I worry they look at me (not knowing why I look so fresh) and become insecure and worry what they're doing wrong.
The physical sensation of wearing makeup bothers me too. After one or two hours, I can literally feel it in my pores. I've been out in public trying to enjoy myself, but inside desperately yearning to rush home and wash my face. One light layer of coverage quickly feels like dirt and grime to me. It doesn't feel clean. I feel stiff and unnatural.
Over the year, I've figured out what works and what doesn't when it comes to my makeup. Concealer under the eyes is my only essential when going out. You can apply it only to the black bags though – mine are genetic, not tiredness-based – not on any creases (the product will eventually cake in your crow's feet). Clear mascara and eyebrow gel is a no-no for me, because I look too manicured. The pretty Bambi look isn't what I'm going for. It also feels gross and starchy when it dries. A good compromise is using an eyelash curler (on naked lashes) to give them a little volume, then using a dry toothbrush to tidy the eyebrows.
BB Creams, tinted moisturisers, or any kind of foundation are out. My skin wants to breathe, and I don't think it's honest to change my skin tone or hide my freckles. It's near-impossible to blend any of these products with stubble, which grows more prominent throughout the day (and gives you away). Setting powder I don't really like either. It is excellent for photos, because it removes any chance of looking sweaty. However, in real life you look like a ghost – your face is just too flat.
Bronzer and tinted lip balm I can get behind. Apply the tiniest bit of bronzer to your forehead and the tip of your nose – where the sun would hit – and it makes you appear you've been at the beach. A lip balm with a hint of rose colour makes your lips slightly pinker, plumper, and more kissable. Nobody can say that is a bad thing.
That's my limit. Any colouring or contouring looks clown-like. Perfection, while unfortunately still pushed on women, isn't desirable for men's faces. A dude with a flawless face looks too pretty. Yes, this is societal conditioning at work; telling us what masculinity SHOULD look like. I suppose I'm simply not personally brave enough to be a martyr each day to combat that.