So the news that high fashion house Chanel is releasing a makeup line for men (Boy de Chanel) is a clarion on more than one front. The brand has historically specialised only in women’s clothing and accessories. Outside of a few niche items per season, capsule collections and fragrances, they’ve largely cleaved to this philosophy, and have even had to issue the occasional statement that they are not intending to focus on men or menswear.
That the billion-dollar fashion house is gently breaking suit with a dedicated makeup range, of all things, is a powerful statement that is indicative of two things. One: us guys are, collectively, becoming big spenders on fashion, enough to perhaps justify getting more than a shared floor in certain department stores. Two: cracks in the traditional definition of masculinity are showing, like cheap makeup under the Singapore sun – at least, enough to warrant earth-shattering business decisions by one of the industry’s biggest players.
Well, call me a traditionalist, but as with a good section of males out there, the concept of putting on makeup has been dismissed without hesitation.
Now, to be fair, I’m not the most-image conscious guy imaginable. I’ve let myself (and all my old suits) go over the last four years – ask any of my colleagues, past and present. It’s jeans every day of the work week and berms on the weekends. Most days I come to the office bleary-eyed with Guile-level bedhead, and only crush the hair into submission after my morning cuppa.
What I’m driving at is: I am close to the epitome of laziness in grooming, and here a gent named Peter Khor is changing my mind about makeup. Khor’s a highly-regarded makeup artist with more than two decades of experience, and his hands have worked the visages of international superstars and supermodels like Fan Bing Bing, Alexa Chung and Du Juan.
(Read also: Many men are leading the charge on the male makeup front. )
There’s royalty in there, too – he counts Crown Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece among former clients. The list rolls on. A huge slice of the local glitterati are his personal friends by now. Starstruck by proxy, I shake those hands twice more during the interview. That these A-listers repeatedly entrust him with their livelihood speaks to his skill with million-dollar canvases and associated paints.
And here he is with me at a Takashimaya beauty counter, breaking down the pseudo-taboo of male makeup that’s lifted in the western world and certain bits of East Asia. “Being a man – that’s something inside of you. It doesn’t matter whether you have makeup on or not. If you’re man enough – you’re man enough to do anything,” opines Khor.
“Being a man – that’s something inside of you. It doesn’t matter whether you have makeup on or not.”
Nowhere is this principle more starkly illustrated than during bridal shoots, says Khor. Some grooms make a show of refusing makeup in front of the bride, while others don’t feel the need to assert masculinity quite as much, and gamely do what’s best for the photos. “The more you worry about having makeup on, well, (I think) it just means you are, in fact, more ‘sissy’.” Touche.
But far from recommending that men dive deep into the intimidating sea of products, Khor advocates just picking up two to three simple practices and tools that will make a world of difference (details below). And they’re all apparently easy as sin to work into the morning wash-up. Yet, why would I do that on non-bridal-shoot days?
“Making up is a form of professionalism and (a way to show) respect,” Khor explains. “You want to be presentable to your bosses, clients or subordinates. When you know show that you know how to take care of yourself, you’ll inspire confidence… or be entrusted with good (assignments).”
Gaining an edge in the workplace? Now that’s a cold-hearted spiel many could find more appealing than servicing vanity. I instantly ask for the shortcuts, lout that I am. Here are the three simplest (yet most impactful) steps a guy can begin with.
01: Grab an eyebrow pencil, or groom it
We raise an eyebrow at Khor’s number one priority for the male face, but that’s precisely why he ranks it so highly – the impact of full, shapely eyebrows is often severely underrated. “For guys with lighter eyebrows, you will always look tired or haggard, even if you are not! With well-groomed eyebrows, you will always look very sharp, focused and stunning.” Colouring it in with a pencil is also hard to notice.
Conversely, those gifted with luxurious tufts should visit a beauty counter or specialist, and learn how to keep it neat and in check.
02: Apply light amounts of the right foundation
“Maybe just one palm of foundation, and spread it over the face.” Pick one that is slightly darker than your skin tone – most men don’t like appearing too pasty anyway. Do note – foundation is only there to even up the skin tone. It is no substitute for concealer.
If you do venture into using concealer but have no idea where to start, tackle your undereye issues first.
03: A little bit of lip balm goes a long way
A male essential, especially in today’s world, according to Khor. We can see why – copious amounts of alcohol, fried food and air-conditioned offices don’t do favours for the smacker.
“Chapped lips are awful when you speak to people. Imagine you’re at a presentation (or meeting with clients). It’ll just distract them.”
These products happen to make up the Boy de Chanel line. Coincidence? Well, Khor has recommendations for those not looking to start at the high end.
“Korean brands are a great go-to. Laneige and Sulwhasoo, for example.” Among the brands launching at Takashimaya, Tom Ford and Japanese brand Three, with a dedicated men’s skincare line, have thrown up a presence as well. Score one for the modern-day gent.