• War Paint is makeup designed for and by men. (War Paint)
Men don't need to disguise their makeup as aftershave - and they certainly don't need to be afraid of calling makeup what it is.
Samuel Leighton-Dore

10 May 2019 - 9:39 AM  UPDATED 10 May 2019 - 9:39 AM

Makeup for men?


At least, that's what new makeup brand War Paint seems to believe. It's just like regular makeup, but don't worry, it's not girly - it's macho. Designed for and by men. And if the name didn't give it away, you can tell it's for men because of the super masculine all-black packaging.

It's essentially the Coke Zero of cosmetics - mostly just the rebranding of a pre-existing product to appease the fragile masculinity of men who are too afraid to approach a Clinique makeup counter in David Jones (or ask for a Diet Coke at 7/11).

According to the brand's website, War Paint is necessary because "men's skin is naturally tougher" than women's due to us having "a whole shedload of testosterone".


Fact is, make-up has been embraced by a growing number of men over recent years. There are endless blogs about which products to try, with some men even opening up about the anxiety they felt while trying to re-stock their girlfriend's concealer.

"Pretty soon my girlfriend’s tube of wonder dust was empty, a hollow shell casing," Sean Hotchkiss writes in his GQ article Can A Manly Man Wear Makeup.

"The day it happened, I snuck out of work, rode the 6 train uptown, and sheepishly showed the tiny tube around the makeup floor of Barneys until someone recognized it and rang me up. 'My girlfriend asked specifically for this one,' I told the cashier."

See, the problem isn't that regular makeup is bad for men's skin. The problem is the stigma attached to men wearing makeup in the first place; the ideals we hold about what makes a man masculine. Attempting to conquer this deep-seated stigma by rebranding makeup as 'war paint' used by heavily tattooed models ready for battle is just like slapping a band-aid on a wound that really needs disinfectant and stitches.

It's cognitive dissonance at its finest.

All men should feel comfortable wearing makeup.

When I had acne in high school, my dad took me into Myer to find a concealer and foundation that matched my skin just right. For us, it was a bonding experience - and one that I hope more parents can share with their sons in the future.

And guess what? The makeup worked perfectly fine on my testosterone-soaked skin. Why? Because makeup is gender neutral.

Yes, all makeup.

While I'm sure the motives behind War Paint were well-intended, the entire brand reiterates the tired idea that men are only manly if they look and act certain way. Men don't need tattoos and skull-shaped rings in order to cover up a pimple with concealer. They don't need to disguise their makeup as aftershave - and they certainly don't need to be afraid of calling makeup what it is.


So, instead of liberally slapping on some 'war paint' and taking on a world that already caters to them, I'd suggest that war painters take a look within themselves and consider going to war with the real enemy.

Their own insecurities and prejudices.

Samuel Leighton-Dore is a queer artist, writer and editor. You can follow him on Twitter at @SamLeightonDore.

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