Eyebrow Trends Throughout the Decades
With a new eyebrow trend seemingly cropping up on social media every week, it’s easy to forget that we’ve been tampering with our brows for years. In ancient Egypt, both men and women darkened their brows with powdered minerals, achieving a strong look that offset their heavily-lined eyes (that’s right, Cleopatra was the first to pioneer bold brows – sorry Cara!). And though the 20th century gave us plenty of iconic hairstyles, beauty never forgot about eyebrows. Whether plucked and pencil-thin or au naturel, it turns out that there’s a distinctive brow for every decade.
By the early 1920s, the film industry had flourished in Hollywood, giving rise to the movie star. Hollywood helped to harness a look that would come to define the decade, though post-war prosperity and innovations within the cosmetic industry also influenced beauty trends during this time. With her cupid’s bow lips, dark eye makeup and thin, downward-arching brows, Hollywood star and original ‘It’ girl Clara Bow (pictured below) is the quintessential flapper – brows and all.
By the 1930s, eyebrows had become less almond-shaped and more rounded with an upwards arch. As makeup became more affordable, the pencilled-on look remained in vogue, as women – rich and poor – were shaving and plucking their natural brows into near or total extinction (then drawing them back on again). German-born Hollywood icon Marlene Dietrich reportedly shaved off her eyebrows and drew them back on – in an perfect rounded arch – just above where they naturally grew.
During wartime, brows became fuller and more natural looking. Though they were still very shaped (just look at Katharine Hepburn’s perfect arch!), brows were definitely heavier, which created a softer look.
Marilyn Monroe’s red lips and blonde curls weren’t the only things that helped to create the ‘bombshell’ look; her dramatic brows came to typify 50s femininity too. Perfectly groomed with a high arch, the squared-out shape of Marilyn’s eyebrows undoubtedly added to her sultry look. Since darker eyebrows were preferred at the time, women tended to pencil over their natural brows too.
A decade later, thin brows were back and treated as a kind of afterthought for many young women; in the 60s, it was all about bold eye makeup instead. Brows were neat and understated; Twiggy’s rounded arches work to offset – not compete with – her graphic eye makeup here.
There were a few exceptions to the rule during the decade though. Audrey Hepburn continued to embrace her naturally full brows well into the 60s (though her career had taken off a decade before), and in doing so, inspired some women to keep filling in their own.
When it came to her brows, actress Sophia Loren forged her own path too. As one of the most in-demand stars of the decade, her look was distinctly different to the mod aesthetic that we usually associate with the 60s. Her unique approach to brow grooming involved shaving them off completely, before drawing them back on. She would apply short, thread-thin strokes to make her eyebrows appear more natural.
When it came to brows in the 70s, there were two camps; ultra-thin or naturally full. The former came with the birth of disco; preened and plucked into a high arch, Donna Summer’s groomed brows match the high-octane spirit of disco’s look and sound.
At the same time however, the rise of the hippie movement led some women to forego brow grooming altogether. The sub-culture tended towards a freer aesthetic (as demonstrated by actress Ali MacGraw), so there were just as many women putting their tweezers down, as fans of disco were taking theirs up with zeal.
By the 80s, everything had gotten bigger and bolder; hairstyles and shoulder pads were just the start. “Caterpillar” brows started creeping onto the faces of every A-lister worth their salt as a bushier look was favoured. With her full, natural looking brows, actress Brooke Shields became a beauty icon of the decade.
And just like that, the bushy brow trend was over. In the 90s, thin, low-arched eyebrows graced the pages of Vogue one again, as Kate Moss made waves in the fashion industry. Modelling themselves after her, a generation of women plucked their brows with abandon; some of us took it too far (and have the school photos to prove it).
Brows stayed ultra-thin well into the noughties, though the arch had raised to become almost angular in shape. Towards the end of the decade however, a more natural shape began surfacing once again, as brows started filling out – call it a sign of things to come.
As Cara Delevingne’s modelling career took off around 2012, so too did the bold brow trend. Showcasing her ample arches (whilst keeping them looking gorgeously groomed), Delevingne inspired us all to let our brows grow back – or learn how to stay on fleek with brow pencils, powders and pomades.
How to Do Your Eyebrows
Since not everyone is blessed with statement-making brows à la Cara, it’s become second nature for many of us to ‘put our brows on’ before heading out in the morning. Streamline the process with this simple guide:
- As a general rule of thumb, the inner edge (or head, where your brows start) of each eyebrow should line up with the outer edge of each nostril. You can measure this by placing a makeup brush along the side of your nose; your brows should begin where the brush sits. Then, angle the brush from the outside of your nose to the corner of each eye; each brow should finish at a 45-degree angle from the outer edges of your eyes. If you’ve lost the shape, or if your brows are looking a little unkempt, start by booking a beauty treatment at your nearest Rush salon.
- Using a spoolie brush, brush your brows upwards. This will help you to ascertain the shape of your brows, and spot any patchy areas that you’ll need to fill in. You may also want to carefully trim any longer hairs with brow scissors.
- Using a brow pencil, outline your brows and fill in any particularly patchy areas. You should apply short, light, dash-like strokes to create the illusion of natural hairs; this will prevent your brows from looking ‘painted on’ at the end.
- Define the shape of your brows with an angled brush and a pressed powder or pomade. Don’t go overboard at this stage; avoid overly filling in your brows or making the tail-ends too harsh.
- Using your spoolie again, lightly brush the brows to soften any harsh lines and blend the colour out.
- Comb through the hairs with a gel to hold them in place.
- Using a small fluffy makeup brush, apply a touch of translucent powder around your brows to make the edges look sharp and clean.
- Et voila! Perfect brows every day!