Winging It

Take a trip to ancient times to understand how your go-to makeup product evolved into what it is today.

The history of eyeliner traces back to the glamorous rulers of Ancient Egypt. Eyeliner was originally used to protect its user’s eyes from the sun god, Ra, and ward off the infamous “evil eye” in 10,000 BC. It seems eyeliner fell out of favor between the first millennium and the 1920s, but because of poor historical documentation, we can’t be sure. Luckily, the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in the early 1920s caused an eye makeup resurgence and roaring desire for fashionable eyeliner à la the pharaohs.

Not everything in the history of winged liner has been as glamorous as a well-done cat eye. Our leading ladies of the movement—the Egyptians—were said to have made eyeliner with lead, copper, and antimony, which are all very harmful to our body and eyes. (Yikes!) Jumping forward in history, eyeliner was used by WWII-era women to draw lines down the back of their legs, creating the illusion of wearing silk stockings, which were a luxury during such a time of financial conservation.

The music scene of the ’70s and ’80s revolutionized how the world would view men wearing makeup. Many rock and pop artists began to sport eyeliner and eyeshadow to set themselves apart from the masses. It’s ironic that using cosmetics created for women somehow made these men appear more masculine.

Arguably, the two most cosmetically daring male artists were David Bowie and Boy George. Bowie used makeup to ditch his long-haired, British-rock style, in order to become a more worldly music icon. Boy George, on the other hand, used makeup to push the development of gender fluidity in the ’80s. Other famous male artists who were known to wear eye makeup include Mick Jagger, Prince, and Marilyn Manson.

Rock music wasn’t the only area of pop culture to use eyeliner as a statement. Winged eyeliner has carried on to become one of the most iconic and commonly worn looks on red carpets and runways, and in movies and music videos. A few memorable cinema and stage moments include Audrey Hepburn in How to Steal a Million, the album cover for Adele’s 25, Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Madonna at the 1985 American Music Awards.    

Contrary to the $100 foundations and $130 eyeshadow palettes that the modern makeup-guru has become accustomed to, you can find some quality products at reasonably low prices, these days. (Maybe Cleopatra would have ruled Egypt for longer if she’d known about some of these deals.) If you keep up with any of the current beauty vloggers you’re likely to have heard about how wonderful Marc Jacobs’ Highliners are, however, you can get a formula that’s comparable for only a fifth of the price. The ColourPop Creme Gel Liner is a great alternative and comes in several vibrant shades with the same lasting power as of that of your beloved Marc Jacobs product. For all of you liquid aficionados, we know you can’t live without MAC’s Brushstroke Liner, despite how much your wallet begs you to. The beauty experts as Blush recommend you give the e.l.f. Expert Liquid Eyeliner a chance, so you can create the affordably sharp wing of your dreams.

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