Behind the Trend: The History of Colored Eyeliner

Posted on 28 October 2016

Eyeliner has been around for what seems like ages, with style icons punctuating the pages of time such as Cleopatra, Louise Brooks, and Brigitte Bardot notoriously enhancing their looks with lined eyes. From kohl liner to gel, this endlessly versatile look has found a home in the hearts of makeup lovers around the world. Adding a splash of color to the lined look on the other hand, is less than 100 years old! What started in the 1930's to create a softer look, this 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 trend.


Subtle Shading

Maybelline and Max Factor were the first cosmetic companies to advertise brown and white colored eyeliners during the Roarin’ Twenties, but the trend didn't come into the main stream 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, which was attributed to her use of brown cake eyeliners.
 
 
 
 
Real Colors

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. When celebrities like Liberace began to wear colored eyeliner in public in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Maybelline and Max Factor started to promote the colors in the media, around 1962. 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 to go with their sleek look.

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, as a way to create larger, more dramatic eyes.

Pastel 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 look, in an attempt to look like Joan Collins or Victoria Principal.
 
Heavy Colors

The style shifted once again as models and musicians of the 1980s took to using makeup. The 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 Inglot Soft Precision Eyeliner pencils, the formula is rich and easy to blend.)

Chic Grunge

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 expressos. We may or may not be describing an early episode of Friends or Buffy the Vampire Slayer hereeither way, using colored eyeliner was considered childish, which was practically a social-death sentence since anyone over the age of thirteen attempted to emulate the older crowd. Colored eyeliner vanished from the scene.

Layers of 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 wore green eyeliner. 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. 


Color Crushes

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. Now, the style has become bold and minimalist and 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!

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1 comment

  • Krystal: November 07, 2016

    Love the information in such great detail!!! Keep up the great work!

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