From Issue 50 of Ten Men: Boy Meets Beauty – A (Love) Story of Men and Make-Up
In 2013, men spent more money on male-specific toiletries than on shaving products. That same year, a 22-year-old in California started playing with make-up after getting a job at Sephora. “I would wear it so that I could practise creating these looks and doing make-up on others because that was literally my job,” says Manuel Gutierrez, aka Manny MUA.
He is the man behind one of the top YouTube beauty channels in the world. With more than 4.8m subscribers at the time of writing, Gutierrez is the third-most-followed man in the beauty category on the video-sharing platform, after James Charles (16m) and Jeffree Star (15.7m). In the 419 videos he has published to date, his focus shifts between trying new make-up and skincare products, doing a wide variety of beauty influencer challenges (such as “I do my dad’s make-up” and “Full face using only [insert brand] make-up”) and story-time snapshots made up of his personal stories. Gutierrez opened his channel in June 2014 after accumulating a dedicated following on social media. “People were asking me to show them looks I was doing on Instagram, so that’s why I created it,” he tells me. He remembers his first video well: “It was my base, foundation routine, for when I would go to work.”
As with most make-up lovers, Gutierrez originally became transfixed with the art behind it while observing his mother getting ready. “When I was three, I would sit and watch my mom do her make-up before she went to work. I loved seeing her go from zero to 100 and the transformation aspect.” What was the first make-up product he bought? “A brown Wet n Wild lip liner that I used for my brow.” Since then, his cupboard has evolved exponentially – the make-up mogul now has a dedicated room in his house that he calls his “mini Sephora”. A list of his favourite brands include Tarte, Fenty Beauty, and his own, Lunar Beauty, which he launched last year. “I wear make-up for work, though – I do it for a living but it’s not my entire life. Sometimes I go days without wearing any,” he says.
When he started as a male influencer in the beauty industry, a lot of brands were skeptical about the phenomenon of these flawlessly made-up boys and thought it was just a fad. “I couldn’t even get a PR package,” he remembers. But with his (and his colleagues’) popularity consistently growing, those same brands grew as well. “They have become so open and so willing to work with everyone in the beauty space – not just men and not just women.” In 2017, Gutierrez became Maybelline’s first male ambassador in a bold move for such a global brand that’s been around since 1915. “I didn’t think it would be as crazy as it was. It ended up turning into such a big thing,” he says now. In the first advertisement he appeared in, which has been viewed more than 8m times on YouTube, he and his fellow influencer Makeupshayla get a delivery of a suitcase filled with the new Big Shot Mascara. In the ad, he sports a pretty demure look, compared to his usual colourful extravaganza, that consists of a sparkly nude lip and perfectly highlighted cheeks. And, of course, his flawlessly groomed beard.
What makes Gutierrez’s make-up style stand out from his fellow male beauty influencers’ is his facial hair and traditionally masculine facial features. While Star revels in his androgynous beauty looks, which are reflected in his extravagant personal style (custom-made Gucci pink lace-up boots with crystals), Gutierrez’s most-worn on-screen item is a simple black T-shirt. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t give it his all in the beauty department – he sometimes uses his face as a canvas, as seen in a look featuring a full scene from The Lion King in homage to the film’s remake. Other times, he goes for full glam, with a dramatic eye in rainbow hues, the rest of his face virtually dipped into a bucket of perfect glow. And then there’s what he calls his “unclockable glam” – concealer that matches his shade perfectly and a tiny bit of blush. But whichever version of glam he chooses, his devoted audience follows – the majority of them being teenage girls. When I start the topic of male-targeted make-up brands, Gutierrez laughs it off. “I think that make-up, in general, shouldn’t have a label on it. Make-up companies do cater to women more but do they say only for women? No, not necessarily,” he argues.
While the idea of gender-free might rule the Manny MUA universe, the commercial reality of the industry is slightly different. According to market researchers at JUV Consulting, the global men’s make-up market currently totals $1.14 billion, while Euromonitor’s forecast anticipates it hitting $5 billion in the next five years. Major beauty brands including Tom Ford and Chanel have already launched lines for men with a limited range of products. They aren’t the first, though – Jean-Paul Gaultier launched his short-lived men’s beauty collection in 2008, which, perhaps due to being ahead of its time, ended up being more of a novelty than a successful business move. “We weren’t kidding when we said men are the new women,” said a feature on New York Magazine’s The Cut at the time of its release.
At Boy de Chanel, the full look includes multiple shades of foundation and eyebrow pencils, as well as a transparent lip balm. Packaged in sleek black components, the products visually correspond with the men’s perfume range while also nurturing a relationship with the aesthetic of Chanel’s mainline make-up. And according to Fiona Firth, buying director at Mr. Porter, Tom Ford’s concealer sticks and eyebrow gels are the most popular make-up products in the e-tailer’s beauty cupboard, which is constantly expanding the routines of their customers.
There is also a wave of emerging make-up brands created by men for men. One of them is Altr, founded by 25-year-old Brit Alex Doyle. “I grew up with acne and skin problems, but despite it damaging my self-confidence, I’d never even considered using cosmetics because of the stigma.” He first tried using concealer upon the recommendation of a female friend, but the formula didn’t sit right on his face. “After trying, and failing, to find an innovative company that sold cosmetics to men and appealed to me as a 22-year-old guy, I decided I wanted to create one myself!” The brand’s offer currently includes five cruelty-free products, the hero being the Face Fix – a concealer packaged in a round tin container that resembles Vaseline’s packaging. While Doyle says an important part of the story is the sustainable aspect of the recyclable components, the visual language of their product is pretty unassuming and resembles those of teenage skincare products. Imagery used on the website furthers the notion of a young-ish guy wearing make-up to get rid of his obvious “imperfections”. Since the end of 2018, Altr has been regularly selling more than 3,000 units per month to their target customer – “urban males who are new to the cosmetics field between the age of 16 and 35”.
Instead of developing new ranges, brands such as Charlotte Tilbury and Fenty Beauty have curated a selection of existing products into male-targeted bundles. Once again, these include foundations, concealers and several other colour-neutral products, the common goal seemingly about perfecting what’s already there rather than creating a statement look. “Everyone wants to look and feel their best – it’s about time that guys discovered the impact make-up can have on your confidence,” says Hector Espinal, the global make-up artist behind Rihanna’s beauty brand as well as her own face. For $109, Gentlemen’s Fenty Face will provide you with a foundation, a multipurpose brush, blotting papers, a concealer stick and Espinal’s favourite, the Invisimatte Blotting Powder. “It minimises shine, you can use it to touch up throughout the day and it blurs the skin without any additional coverage because it’s translucent. It’s so undetectable and perfect for men!”
While it’s true that the customer doesn’t necessarily need to listen to what a brand is telling them, it seems like most of these brands are focused on providing men with products that will fuel their confidence while mostly going unnoticed by the rest of the world. In that sense, the fragrance and skin care industries seem to be ahead of the game. This August, Gucci launched Mémoire d’une Odeur, a gender-and age-neutral scent with designer Harris Reed and musicians Harry Styles and Zumi Rosow just a few of the diverse faces fronting its campaign. This perfume is the latest in the long stream of non-binary approaches used by perfumers. Perhaps the first mass-market fragrance was Calvin Klein’s CK One back in 1994, imagined by the same nose in charge of Mémoire d’une Odeur, Alberto Morillas.
The skincare industry also seems to be looking more towards products that aren’t just targeting a single gender. “Women historically tended to take better care of their skin, but this is changing. Everyone is an individual, so individual repair processes are more relevant and also more universal to respect for the skin than sex differences,” says Professor Augustinus Bader, the founder of his three-product skincare brand known for its highly scientific approach. Aussie industry giants Aesop also thrive thanks to their all-inclusive range – they are globally known for their neutral brown bottles, clean design and herbal scents.
That’s not to say the make-up industry doesn’t have its own trailblazers. In 1994, RuPaul became the first drag queen and man to front a global Viva Glam make-up campaign for MAC. “Our very idea of gender identity is evolving, and to achieve true gender equality we need brands to remove their definitions of what is male and female,” says Dominic Skinner, MAC’s global senior artist. The brand has long been at the vanguard of gender equality in the beauty world: even their tagline is “All Ages, All Races, All Genders”. Today, mainstream celebrities and pop stars such as Troye Sivan and Ezra Miller are not only using bold, colourful make-up as part of their artistic expression, but are also ambassadors of big brands. As part of this year’s Viva Glam campaign, Sivan modelled along with his boyfriend, model Jacob Bixenman, and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner for 2018, Aquaria. Sivan is also one of the faces of Glossier’s make-up line Glossier Play, while Miller appears in a recent advertisement for Urban Decay with a statement red lip. Fashion designer Marc Jacobs is the best spokesperson for his own beauty brand, for which he personally oversees the development of the products, names them, designs the packaging and wears them, too – metallic eyeliner included.
“You know, we’re all together in this beauty space,” says Gutierrez, admitting there’s still a way to go. “If you’re a man and you want to experiment, I think you’re going to be able to.” We’re still living through a transitional process of men being truly incorporated into the conversation. Undoubtedly, the notion of (homo)sexuality is deeply rooted within the idea of men wearing make-up, a phenomenon that hails all the way back to the term “metrosexual” being coined more than two decades ago, giving (straight) men an excuse to embrace their vanity. In the mid-Noughties, it was David Beckham’s turn to revolutionise the field. Bare of body hair, tanned to match the shade of his wife and positively glowing, he was a new vision of masculinity. Now, that role has shifted to the likes of Gutierrez, Sivan, and Jacobs. Away from masc4masc, they are giving a green light to everyone who wants to feel fabulous. The future seems bright, and not just because of their liquid highlighter.
Taken from Issue 50 of 10 Men – BOYHOOD, MAN, EVOLVE – on newsstands now. Images courtesy of @mannymua733.