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Five O’Clock Eyeshadow

Do straight guys who aren’t Dennis Rodman ever wear makeup in their everyday lives? Maybe go to the office with a little hider on? Or a little more? If women can wear all this stuff to improve their appearance, why can’t men?

--Curious George

A man improves his appearance by getting into a Jaguar, not Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse Foundation.

Consider your target audience. On one hand, women do want the “strong-but-sensitive” man, the guy tough enough to shed a couple tears when the chick-flick turns tragic. On the other hand, that’s assuming it doesn’t cause his mascara to run into his beard. Of course, women wear makeup because men are attracted to pretty women. Although some gay men and starstruck 14-year-old girls are into pretty men, most women are not. Research shows women prefer tall men, and those with that nice broad-shoulders-into-narrow-hips “vee.” But, in study after study, they rated money, status, power and potential more important than looks -- which is why you’ll see the world’s most beautiful women out with the ugliest little meatballs of men. There’s nothing that makes a stubby schlub look 6 feet tall like 10 million dollars piled on his head.

Of course, money isn’t everything. A woman has to consider how a man’ll handle any saber-toothed tigers they might encounter on their way to the coffee joint. Yeah, yeah, I know, those things died out some 10,000 years ago, but try getting the message to a girl’s genes. She might be partying like it’s 1999, but like all humans, she’s genetically hard-wired for 1.8 million years ago; which means she’s not only drawn to “providers” but protectors, too. That’s why the guy who wants the girl should look like he’ll be the one going downstairs with the baseball bat when she hears an intruder -- and without stopping in the bathroom to check for enlarged pores.

But, wait, what about “metrosexuals,” the hordes of preening, plucking, flaming heterosexuals who supposedly get the girl by becoming just like her? Metrosexuals? What metrosexuals? Sorry, but did you actually notice men across America stampeding out of sports bars to go on a gender bender, and running around like Brit soccer star David Beckham in pink nail polish and a sarong? Sure, there are guys who are femmy control freaks. There always have been, and they’ve never been attractive to women. The term “metrosexual” was coined in 1994 by Brit journo Mark Simpson, to poke fun at the commercialized man. And wouldn’t you know it, after he wrote a follow-up for Salon.com in 2002, American ad agency honcho Marian Salzman proclaimed it a trend. Yeah, it’s a trend all right -- among marketing execs who’d like to see the other half of the population lining up to swipe their Amex at the Clinique counter.

If you’re a 19-year-old skinny kid in a goth band, okay, you can borrow your girlfriend’s eyeliner. If you’re a 32-year-old, paunchy, balding insurance salesman, nuh-uh. For you, and for all men who aren’t rock stars, drag queens, or Pirates of the Caribbean, good grooming is limited grooming: clean fingernails, a shave, maybe a dab of hair gel, and “Aren’t you glad you used Dial?” If you have a zit going off like a car alarm, yes, you can take your big man paw and spackle it with a little colored Clearasil. But, remember, venturing any further into face painting gives rise to all the wrong questions, like the last thing you want some hot woman in a dimly lit bar to whisper in your ear: “Do you happen to have a spare tampon?”

Posted by aalkon at January 31, 2007 3:06 AM


but like all humans, she’s genetically hard-wired for 1.8 million years ago;

I get your point. But it suggests that things haven't changed in 1.8 million years? We've been evolutionarily stagnant since then? No effects of say, women having children later in life and living longer? You might have been exaggerating for effect (1.8 million years ago life was very short and people, such as they were, lived in small roaming hunter-gatherer bands), but this strikes me as a problem for evolutionary psychology to deal with. We've been living in agrarian societies for over a thousand years; the industrial revolution began around 300 years ago. I've yet to see anyone offer a convincing account of when and how the effects of these huge societal shifts are expected to start affecting our mate-selection principles.

Posted by: justin case at January 31, 2007 10:21 AM

Referencing Donald Symons, it takes hundreds or thousands of years for a human adaptation to take hold. Furthermore, due to modern medical care, I don't believe we are evolving anymore (few people die...nobody's "unfit" anymore, thanks to the incredible advances in medicine).

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 31, 2007 10:43 AM

The biggest advance in medicine over the last 100 years was sanitation. We don't live in our own filth anymore, and that's why we live longer!

We still eat animal shit, which makes us sick or even kills us, but we can thank the meat processing industry for that.

Estrogen & testosterone still tell us how to mate, and I'm pretty sure they are still chemically the same as they were a million years ago.

Posted by: Chris at January 31, 2007 11:00 AM

Yet again, I am a statistical outlier (big shock there, I'm sure). A man in makeup makes me swoon. My husband had me put eyeliner and mascara on him for a costume once, and it was all I could do to keep my tongue off him until we left the party!!!

Posted by: Melissa G at January 31, 2007 12:28 PM

Melissa G. - key point there is that it was your husband.

Unattached guys looking for mates are a different story. Once you're in a couple, experimentation is almost mandatory to keep things interesting, but when trying to be in one, single seekers tend to have depressingly conformist mental checklists.

Posted by: LYT at January 31, 2007 3:29 PM

I'm glad Amy threw in the zit disclaimer. I have exactly one stick of cover up in my medicine cabinet that has saved more than a few business meetings for me through the years.

Posted by: snakeman99 at February 1, 2007 7:18 AM

I agree that a man improves his appearance via status symbols, but there are other reasons to not want to have a huge zit on your face than merely attracting members of the opposite sex. A lot of guys want to be attractive rather than hideous, although if they are hideous, being rich helps. Even in terms of attracting the opposite sex, women may want to marry the provider, but we still stare at Abercrombie ads and date a few musicians in our youth. We are attracted to hotties. I wouldn't advise full make up, but it doesn't hurt to take care of your appearance. Hell, evolution aside, plenty of attractive women marry dead beats... check out your local strip club for examples.

Posted by: Jen at February 1, 2007 7:22 AM

Hi Amy,

Nice post, as usual. I would only add that if a man wants to wear make up, well, it is his body. But you are right that to maybe 99% of women that would be a turn off.

Posted by: Vladimir at February 1, 2007 7:54 AM

Can I add just two more things to the grooming kit? Perhaps he wouldn't feel the need for makeup if he used these two items.

Sun block, and it goes all the way up your face to the bald spot.

Moisturizer. Winter can be hard on your face and hands, and those sandpaper paws and scaly forehead are kinda gross. It would be nice for them to know there are other brands besides Jergens (aka the brand of choice for jerking off) though those gentlemen do always seem to have soft hands. I could see why perhaps they balk at also rubbing it on their faces.

Posted by: robyn at February 1, 2007 10:22 AM

Amy, I am thrilled to hear you make that point about evolution. I have been thinking that same thing for years. The only way we have to evolve now is socially, culturally, and through technological augmentation (which does nothing for the species itself).


Posted by: Jay at February 1, 2007 12:46 PM

Just a little detail about Evolution, Humanity is still under her control but in a more subdued way. Now, it's stupidity who is weeded out of the human genepool. May I suggest the reading of the popular site DarwinAwards.com? Quite informative I may say.

Posted by: Toubrouk at February 2, 2007 6:13 AM

I totally agree about moisturizer, especially in the winter. As for moisturizer choices, I prefer Aveeno now. Can get a good deal on it at Costco, and it does not leave a film or a scent as many do. Better than Intensive Care. (And very good at moisturizing that "special place," too. You know the old Navy joke, right? "It's my soap and my cock and I can wash it as fast as I want!")

Posted by: Charly in SJ at February 2, 2007 8:36 PM

Re evolution: it still applies. It works by people _not_ reproducing. There are lots of people who don't have children, for lots of different reasons, but whatever the reason, these are extinctions. (It's not _just_ stupidity, Toubrouk.)

Posted by: Norman at February 4, 2007 1:56 AM

I've always appreciated guys who know how to use a mascara brush, but have found they tend to be a little...high maintenance. The older I get the more I do appreciate the more masculine look, but looks are a very important determinant as to whether I'm attracted to a guy. I have certain physical characteristics that I like and if he doesn't have those, chances are I won't be into him, no matter what he has piled on top of his head. I also have a fetish for large noses and male pattern baldness, a la, The Transporter. Go figure.

Posted by: Rhonda Jones at February 4, 2007 10:45 PM

Research has shown that what a woman finds attractive in men can change according to the phase in her period. The widespread use of hormonal contraceptives by women MAY be altering mate choice by women and having an evolutionary effect. The effect would be slight but if widespread could begin to show over time.

Posted by: winston at February 14, 2007 3:31 AM

I've read the research, and the effect isn't likely to "show over time," since modern medicine means people don't die like they used to. Most women don't want a highly feminized man.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 14, 2007 3:36 AM

Uh, I find your response a little outdated. I agree that it should stay out of the office, but so should fishnets. As a 20-something, lemme say- my senior year of highschool it was pretty hot for guys to wear skirts, and from the comeback of the kilt it still is. If eyeliner or eyeshadow or whatever else goes with the guy's style on his own time, well - just think about it. Why would they want a woman who WASN'T cool with that? Makeup on guys - applied in the right way - can be attractive.

Posted by: Susan at February 20, 2007 9:17 AM

Outdated? Again, Susan, if you're 17, it's one thing. For a grown man, it's another thing entirely. Also, if you go to some special artsy high school versus some white bread suburban one, that makes a diffference. Didn't I suggest that above?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 20, 2007 10:00 AM

Speaking of things that are not that new . . .

If I am remembering an old newspaper item from the late 1970s, Francesco Scavullo suggested men wear makeup and perfume, women cologne, because each was attracted to what they purchased themselves.

That was around the time of that disco nonsense too, but the punk rockers really seemed to take off with part of the idea.

Posted by: Guy Montag at February 20, 2007 10:51 AM

Posted by: 8j84n at May 3, 2007 9:55 AM

Susan, where are you from? I'm a 23 year old, not too far out of high school and I don't ever remember it being hot for guys to wear skirts, kilts, or makeup beyond halloween or certain school spirit days as a joke. Then, we laughed. But in high school, I, along with the other girls, was attracted to the good ol' tall dark and handsome type. I married the short going-bald type, but I still like to look-and not at guys in cute little skirts.

Posted by: nicole at May 3, 2007 3:33 PM

It's probably true that 99% of women will not be into a guy wearing makeup... if she finds out that he's wearing makeup. I think that skillfully applied concealer will not be noticed as makeup in most contexts, and go a long way to kicking a guys's looks up a notch. Most women like men who look like men. That doesn't me we don't like attractive men with good complections. If I meet two fun, successful men in the same day, if I have to choose I'll go with the one who's better looking.

So, I'd say experiment. See if you can put on makeup in a way that isn't noticeable. And if you prefer how you look in makeup that IS noticeable, I'd still say go for it. Sure, 99% of women will find it to be a turnoff, but that 1% who finds it attractive will find it REALLY attractive.

I'll give an example from my own life. I like to wear running shoes when I go out dancing. I'm sure 99% of guys would prefer a woman in heels. But the 1% of men who prefer a woman in running shoes really, REALLY dig it. And I have the added bonus of being comfortable!

Posted by: gennette at November 6, 2007 12:56 PM

Posted by: Zilbermanur at November 12, 2007 10:58 AM

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