Eyeliner has been around for what seems like ages. Style icons like Cleopatra, Louise Brooks, and Brigitte Bardot punctuate the pages of time with their notorious eyeliner looks. From kohl liner to gel to liquid colored eyeliner, this endlessly versatile look has found a home in the hearts of makeup lovers around the world. Adding a splash of color to the eyeliner look, on the other hand, is less than 100 years old! Started in the 1930s to create a softer look, this colored eyeliner trend exploded a few decades later somewhere between the eras of hippies and hair bands. Take a look back with us as we explore the roots of this dominating eye makeup trend.
Colored Eyeliner Trends Through the Decades:
Subtle shading – 1920s - 1940s
Bold colors – 1940s - 1960s
Basic white lines – mid-1960s
Pastels – 1960s and 1970s
Heavy colors – 1980s
Grunge eyeliner – 1990s
Color in layers – 2000s
All the colors – 2010s and 2020s
Subtle Shading with Colored Eyeliner
Maybelline and Max Factor were the first cosmetic companies to advertise brown- and white-colored eyeliners during the Roaring ‘20s, but the trend didn't come into the mainstream until the comic queen Lucille Ball donned brown on her lids to promote Max Factor in the 1930s and 1940s. Though she was there to advertise the company’s lipsticks and foundations, everyone couldn't help but notice the softness of her eyeliner look, which was attributed to her use of brown cake eyeliners.
Real Colors for Bold Eyeliner Looks
Colors such as blue, purple, green, and grey emerged on the scene in the 1940s and 1950s but were only for artistic looks for Haute Couture. The colors weren’t commercially advertised in the media, and the trend stopped there.
Instead, women began to embrace the glamour of the pin-up, which is known for its heavy black eyeliner look. When celebrities like Liberace began to wear colored eyeliner in public in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, Maybelline and Max Factor started to promote the colors in the media. Within the next few years, other brands like MAC, Yardley, and Revlon joined them, and more shades of blue, purple, green, and grey were designed. Even with all of these colors around, the majority of women still prefer the stark black eyeliner look to go with their sleek style.
Eyeliner: Back to Basics
Actresses like Sophia Loren, Jane Fonda, and Brigitte Bardot in the mid-1960s used this surge in the beauty industry to create and embrace their iconic mod styles. Suddenly, using eyeliner in unusual, geometric ways had become a hit and the pin-up transformed into something more luxurious. Colored eyeliner came back into view during this time. However, the only colored eyeliner that was typically used was white to create larger, more dramatic eyes.
Pastel Eyeliner Dreams
As the 1960s came to a close, the mod look died down and the Bohemian style evolved into a decade-long era of little to no makeup that lasted through most of the 1970s. When makeup was worn, this piece of time highlighted the use of pastel eyeshadows and matching colored eyeliners with the goal of looking effortless and almost ethereal. It wasn’t until shows like “Dallas” and “Dynasty” took over the airwaves in the late 1970s that women once again craved a more outrageous eyeliner look in an attempt to imitate Joan Collins or Victoria Principal.
Eyeliner Looks Shift to Heavy Colors
The style shifted once again as models and musicians of the 1980s took to using makeup. The eyeliner looks created by Debbie Harry (Blondie), Boy George, David Bowie, and hair bands like KISS took “creative” to a whole new level. Eyeliner was not only used to line eyes but also used as a form of artistic expression, and the public loved it!
With the public wanting more choices, cosmetics companies designed more colors and combinations, such as Maybelline’s “Dual Color Eye Pencils.” (These pencils don’t exist anymore, but for a great look-alike, try ESUM’s Dual Eye Pencils, the formula is rich and easy to blend.)
Chic Grunge Eyeliner Looks
When punk bands like Nirvana and models like Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer came into the spotlight, colored eyeliner all but disappeared as makeup trends grew dark, grungy, and neutral. Lines were sharp and black, nails were blue, and beverages were lattes and espressos. We may or may not be describing an early episode of “Friends” or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” here—either way, using colored eyeliner was considered childish, which was practically a social death sentence, since anyone over the age of 13 attempted to emulate the older crowd. Colored eyeliner vanished from the scene.
Layers of Eyeliner and Color
It wasn’t until the early 2000s that colored eyeliner made a comeback in any aspect. One of the earliest sightings was Kate Bosworth in the movie “Blue Crush,” where she rocked a green eyeliner look. Celebrities everywhere began to use colored eyeliner to line their eyes.
Initially paired with metallic eye shadows and bright lips, the use of colored eyeliner looked clunky and redundant. Towards the end of the decade, the use of color stayed, but the amount died down. Colored eyeliner was primarily used to line the corners of eyes as a form of contrast from the dark-hued shadows and smokey eyes.
Early 2000s Makeup Trends:
Metallic eye shadows
Color Crushes – Eyeliners in Every Color
In today’s world, colored eyeliner is bigger than it’s ever been. Every cosmetics company that carries eye makeup carries some type of colored eyeliner, whether as a liquid colored eyeliner, pencil, cake palette, or gel. Now that the style has become bold and minimalist, it's seen everywhere! In a world where models like Cara Delevingne become actresses and actresses have become so relatable to the public, it feels like this trend has hit the big leagues. And we’re okay with that!
Whether you want to embrace the colorful eyeliner looks of today or the subtle brown shading of the 1930s, we know you’ll rock your choice. Camera Ready Cosmetics has a wide selection of professional-grade eyeliner in varying shades, hues, and consistencies to meet all your makeup needs. In no time, you’ll be blending beautiful colored eyeliner looks like a pro with products you can trust.