Looking through make-up brands, it’s difficult not to see the promotional photographs of women showcasing the latest products by that line. It’s only recently that the leading make-up companies have been using men to promote their products. 

Photographer Jonathon Ivan has sparked a fresh debate over men’s make-up brand War Paint due to the way it is targeted at males via its name.

Back in May 2019, the company received backlash over social media because of the way it advertised its products. Founder, Daniel Gray, launched the company due to being bullied at school about the way he looked, causing him to suffer from body dysmorphia. As soon as he started to get spots, he borrowed his sister’s concealer and realised how confident it made him.

Because of this experience, he created War Paint, a make-up line for men. As he explained to GQ, he spent 20-odd years buying make-up pretending it was for someone else, so wanted to create a brand for men who do not feel comfortable buying make-up aimed at women. The website itself says “Our ethos is to break the stigma that makeup is solely for women. We’re about making men feel comfortable to shout about wearing makeup.”

Whereas the brand was created from turning a negative into a positive, Gray insists it’s for men who are exploring the world of make-up for the first time away from feeling ashamed of looking through feminine brands. This is where the water turns murky, with some people suggesting that the term ‘war paint’ gives off an ‘ultra-masculine’ undertone, as if to say they should be ashamed of buying something deemed too feminine for their ‘fragile masculinity’.

Since the birth of beauty bloggers, the notion that make-up is only for women has been challenged by men. Even so, there is still a stigma based upon stereotypes of men who wear make-up. In reality, there shouldn’t be. Make-up is make-up, but it has become a ‘feminine product’. For a history lesson on gender and make-up, read here.

Since the birth of beauty bloggers, the notion that make-up is only for women has been challenged by men

“I don’t feel it’s necessary to have different make-up for men and women anymore,” said Josh, 25, from Manchester. “With War Paint, it’s the thought that men need ultra-masculine products to feel manly, like it’s the only way to get us to wear make-up without feeling ashamed. I’m proud to head to Superdrug and buy my foundation as a heterosexual man.”

Some people we spoke to felt men’s branding was old fashioned, but picking on War Paint was unfair. Such as Mark, 31 from London, who didn’t mind the brand generally, but said, “I can see why it has become problematic, though they’re not doing anything different to other brands who target men. They have produced products that appeal to men, and use terms that are deemed ‘masculine’. That’s where the problem lies, but why is that any different to using feminine words on women’s products?”

But is gendering products generally old fashioned now? With people expressing themselves more openly compared to twenty years ago, do we need the constraints of products being for a man or a woman.

“As somebody who identifies as non-binary, I’m not interested in a brand that wants to come across as a testosterone filled concealer,” said Toby, 24, London. “I do wear make-up which I buy online and in-store, and I’m not embarrassed by it.”

Should we ignore general gender stereotyping and break through the social norms created decades ago, and use products because we like them, or do you think it’s important to gender products because you believe we should all be targeted differently?



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