The introduction of the Boy de Chanel line comes at a pertinent time. Perhaps more than ever before, young people feel comfortable exploring their gender and how they express it, from Jaden Smith wearing skirts onstage to the rise of male YouTube beauty bloggers like Jeffree Star and James Charles. Despite the controversy of some of these stars, there is little doubt that they and others like them have made waves in the fashion and beauty industries, redefining what it means to be male and masculine. There is something to be said for the freedoms being offered to people of all genders to experiment, especially when men being seen as anything other than archetypically ‘manly’ has been taboo for so long.
However, it is doubtful that this move by Chanel comes solely from a place of acceptance and enthusiasm for blurring gender divides. Although their statement on the new line of makeup professes inclusivity, it is frankly a shrewd business move to open the market to the other 50% of the population. Their foundation for women can run anywhere from £37 for a tinted moisturiser to £100 for their most luxurious “radiance-generating” foundation. It is unlikely that the men’s equivalent will undercut this by much – after all, they are the first to engage this entirely new demographic and have little to no market competition, why wouldn’t they charge premium?
Makeup being targeted specifically at men also speaks to a rising problem in men’s mental health. Men being admitted to hospital for eating disorders rose by 70% between 2010 and 2016, and this can be linked to the mounting pressures of social media and the emphasis put on appearance in modern popular culture. It is telling that the makeup offered by Boy de Chanel – foundation, eyebrow pencil, lip balm – are not designed with creativity and experimentation in mind. They offer the opportunity to look airbrushed and flawless in real life. Additionally, the plainness of the makeup offered suggests a disdain for the more creative – or possibly “feminine” – side of makeup like colourful lipsticks and eyeshadow. Toxic masculinity seems to be a theme running deeply through the introduction of the line, from the desire for a perfect body to the rejection of femininity.
The idea of makeup for men is not a particularly revolutionary one – men have been experimenting with makeup for as long as it has existed. Although the move by Chanel is in some ways a positive indication of a shift in societal attitudes towards masculinity, in many others it is a testament to clever marketing and a beauty industry driven by perpetuating negative self image. Men are absolutely welcome to express their creativity, but Boy de Chanel in many ways repackages gender stereotypes for a new age – would it not be more beneficial to simply de-gender makeup altogether?
[Image credit: Milk Makeup Fall 2016]