The Glorious Now of Men in Makeup – GQ

Welcome to GQ’s New Masculinity issue, an exploration of the ways that traditional notions of masculinity are being challenged, evolved, and overturned. Read more about the issue from GQ editor-in-chief Will Welch here and hear Pharrell’s take on the matter here.

Billy Idol the man didn’t become Billy Idol the image—all spiked hair and surly sneer—by accident. When he arrived on the London punk scene in the mid-’70s, Idol started doing his own stage makeup: a little shading to emphasize his razor-sharp cheeks and some liner to frame his piercing blue eyes. “I didn’t always blend as well as I should have,” he admits. But his DIY routine formed the basis of his soon-to-be-timeless look. “That was the fun of it, really,” Idol recalls. “The fashion and makeup, it made a statement, which was that you can control your own image. You can create yourself.”

If the English glam rockers and punks showed the way toward radical self-creation 40 years ago, we have now, finally, reached Full Male Beauty. A dialed beauty routine, whether on the level of Idol’s subtle glow-up or David Bowie’s more theatrical transformations, can be as important a part of that self-expression as clothing. “I see constant support for men wearing makeup,” says model Casil McArthur, 20. If you don’t believe him, consider this: Chanel rolled out a men’s makeup line last year. Not to mention the legions of people who have long embraced beauty products regardless of to whom they are marketed. Daniel Kaluuya became one of the 56 percent of American men who, according to one survey, wore a cosmetics product in 2018 when he showed up to last year’s Oscars with a face of Fenty Beauty foundation. By next year, it’s predicted, the male grooming market will be worth over $55 billion.

So here we are: the first-ever beauty portfolio in GQ‘s 62-year history, starring Idol, McArthur, and five other fearless men. Some, like R&B singer Ian Isiah, feel more like themselves in a little makeup. Others, like the new Terminator, Gabriel Luna, are simply stoked that the concept of masculinity is now wide open for the occasional beauty flex, that we’re freeing ourselves from outmoded ideas of how men can and can’t express—or create—themselves. “If you want to wear makeup,” says McArthur, “your gender identity shouldn’t prevent it.”


Behind The Scenes of GQ’s November Beauty Shoot