We may think that the current obsession of having our brows look a certain way is peculiar only to this era, but it isn’t. I once read on the online fashion publication Marie Claire, “The Ancient Egyptian Eyebrows of Horus, 3500 BC – 2500 BC consisted of both Egyptian men and women who wore makeup for its supernatural powers. As an homage to the God Horus, heavily-lined eyes were the focal point of the face, which meant that eyebrows needed to be equally as prominent. They darkened, arched, and elongated brows by painting on carbon and black oxide substance.”
For as long as I could remember, I have kept mine somewhat neatly groomed. I think it was around the age of 13 that I started to pluck the stray hairs out at a hair salon. Then when I moved away for university I began having my brows threaded, which is the most painful brow-grooming process. Later on, I settled for waxing. It is habit that slowly developed into an obsession. I tended to feel unkempt if they outgrew the shape.
I have fond memories of watching my former nanny Margaret spend an hour in front of the mirror everyday as she prepared to leave work, highlighting her lips with a black eyeliner pencil and then drawing her brows on. I think this is where I gathered that brows must always look a certain way before one is deemed presentable. She took so much pride in it.
Earlier this week, when I came across British Vogue’s September issue which features Rihanna, the only thing that struck me and I guess most other people were the brows. They strayed from the current version of 21st century beautiful brows. Instead, Rihanna’s fine razor-sharp line brows really resembled my nanny’s.
Considering that we live in a world where makeup trends have aligned to fixate on a particular look (the Kim Kardashian appeal) most see Rihanna’s Vogue brows as ugly. This made me ponder how we define beauty in the digital age.
Naturally, if we are bombarded with the same images repeatedly we are more inclined to feel a sense of normalcy when we conform. Therefore, if anything remotely different pops up, we shun it until the masses choose to gravitate towards it. Makeup trends work the same way as peer-pressure, to put it mildly.
While most people dislike Rihanna’s razor-thin brow trend, by publicizing it in the ‘fashion bible’ the September issue suggests something interesting. It is an invitation to examine how we define beauty and how much we have gravitated from true self to group self. It has become so normal to write off anyone who doesn’t conform, and it takes away from individuality. In retrospect, this essentially impinges on exploring craft, fashion and aesthetics. It makes it much easier to control society to an extent. It changes the whole notion of using fashion and beauty to truly represent ourselves.
I don’t think the razor-thin brows will return but I do think this serves as a wake-up call for us to realize how much we pressure ourselves to look a certain way. It makes us more aware that we are becoming uniformed, for the sake of pleasing society; whether that makes us happy or not.
I don’t think I will ever stop grooming my brows, but I will definitely try to let them grow wild for longer periods. It is a hassle to conform and I know that I did it for public acceptance, not for personal fulfillment.