Brian Molko, Gilbert Blecken, 1997
Black Market Music, Placebo, 2000
The Cure in the Eighties
Boy de Chanel Male Make-up Collection
Tout Beau Tout Propre Collection, Jean Paul Gaultier 2009
Text Jacopo Bedussi
It was the year 2000 when Black Market Music by Placebo came out, a rather important album both for the band, which was perhaps at the peak of its success, and for the alternative rock scene it was part of. On one track, Brian Molko sang ‘I was never loyal except to my own pleasure zone. I’m forever black-eyed, a product of a broken home’.
The writer was thirteen at the time and remembers it as a small event that perhaps marked his future life: an androgynous, very good-looking boy, with big blue eyes tinged with black, singing about despair and decline and incommunicability and drugs. He was not yet the emo of the 2000s as we know it today, with striped T-shirts and flattened fringes, but he was certainly a forerunner of the genre. In common, in addition to themes that were not exactly cheerful, substantial use of black kajal, eyeliner carefully blended down almost to the cheeks, and smoky-eye make-up as the ultimate goal.
Almost twenty years later, make-up for men is completely acceptable and has carved out an ever-growing market niche, with dedicated YouTube channels that are clocking up views and have propelled their creators onto the covers of magazines and into advertising campaigns for make-up brands. Paving the way with a line ‘for him’, as it used to be referred to, was probably Jean Paul Gaultier, in 2003, with Tout Beau Tout Propre, riding on the charm of a metrosexual David Beckham who suddenly became mainstream and a new male role model.
More recently, Chanel has also announced the launch of Boy de Chanel, a mini line made up of a concealer, a foundation, an eyebrow pencil and a lip balm, for 2019. In order to avoid any gender-related uproar that could come from the right and left, in the same way that it could come from gay conservatives or the queer front, the company declares that ‘beauty is not a matter of gender, it is a matter of style’, settling things once and for all.
Getting back to us and thinking back to the early 2000s, the years before the crisis brimming with discoveries and laxity and capitalist decadence in which to wallow, one wonders where all that black on the eyes and nail polish and highlighter and so on and so forth came from. Perhaps an indie response to the aforementioned Beckham who was a smash hit with those highlights that are more than a little debatable today and layers of mattifying powder.
Perhaps it was all a revival of the Eighties in which we were immersed and from which we still struggle to distance ourselves today, as indeed from all that post-modern swamp which came along like a blob, engulfing everything, chewing it over and re-presenting it. Perhaps it was a dark soul, and Robert Smith and The Cure were involved. Perhaps punk.
Perhaps we wanted to write just how much we did not want to be ‘normal’ on our faces. The truth is that with eyes made up and skinny jeans, we were the first generation to be illuminated by the sun of culture, of the zeitgeist and of marketing and so we were inevitably beautiful. I recently tried to recreate a smoky eye to go to a party. It aged me tremendously and looked terrible on me. I washed it straight off.