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‘Brow About That? A Consideration of Eyebrows and Their Role in Style History

Give some consideration, please, to the humble brow. The brow ridge itself sets us apart from our Neanderthal ancestors. While it may not be considered the defining facial feature by many people, the history of how we view our eyebrows is the history of fashion and society itself. Not simply caterpillars lounging above our lashes, eyebrows are emotional signal posts, seductive as lashes and powerful as a clenched fist.

From the ancient Greek unibrow to the ‘Instagram fade’, eyebrow fashion trends have helped shape fashion history. Here are four defining ways in which eyebrow style has altered our lives and altered our faces.

Ancient Brow lines

Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks all paid special attention to their eyebrows. Most famously, ancient Egyptians believed that makeup had supernatural powers. We agree with them. Egyptian men and women darkened their brows with carbon. They also shaped them: elongated and arched brows were fashionable then as they are now.

Spirituality and aesthetics have always been linked throughout history. The brow line, as a distinct area of the face that conveys emotion, has often been emphasized by those with a more metaphysical approach to beauty.

The Unibrow

In the modern age, the unibrow has often been associated with gruff and evil characters. The evil Count Olaf in Lemony Snicket’s ‘Series Of Unfortunate Events’, with his single eyebrow, has tainted the association of the unibrow.

It was not always associated with evil. In ancient Greek and Roman society, women deliberately connected their eyebrows together. Unibrows were seen as both beautiful and pure, and the most revered women in these societies glared from beneath singular brows.

In the 20th Century, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo sported a powerful unibrow, and the increased interest in her work and life might bring the single eyebrow back into the limelight in a positive way.

Over the Eye, Under the Knife

Cosmetic surgery has a long and storied history. We alter our bodies according to fashion. We have perceived our flaws and our best bits differently throughout the years; alongside the growing popularity of hair transplants, eyebrow reconstruction is on the up.

Getting an eyebrow transplant is now a commonly practiced cosmetic choice. The rise in cosmetic brow surgery re-enforces the significance of the brow in our perception of self. As with many cosmetic surgeries, eyebrow transplants stem from surgeries designed to help people faced with disfiguring illnesses or injuries.

Glamourous Arches

Marylin Monroe was undoubtedly one of the most glamorous people in the world during the 1950s. The starlet boasted natural-looking angled arches, and a trend in eyebrow grooming took over the globe. The doomed movie queen was known not just for her hourglass figure and batting lashes, but for her sophisticated and seductive eyebrows.

Angled arches perfectly suited the mores of the 1950’s fashionista. They were natural but had a suggestive sexual power barely contained under the surface. Eyebrows have often followed social attitudes towards purity and sexuality closely through suggestive shaping and modification.

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