The Edit

Eyeliner: A History

Eyeliner has been a daily makeup bag staple since cosmetic creation, helping us to look more awake for centuries…

From the Egyptians to Amy Winehouse to Johnny Depp circa 2005, it’s remained a firm beauty favourite year after year, style after style. From grungy kohls, pencils, liquids, glitters, gels and who knows whats next, one things for sure – the eyes certainly do have it.

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra

Cleopatra eyeliner

The first recorded use of eyeliner suggests royals in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia were lining their waterlines as early as 400BC. The more the makeup the higher your status was, so Egyptians would pile on the kohl, winging it out to their hairlines and forming the incomparable, first ‘cat eye.’

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe photographed by Milton Green

Marilyn Monroe photographed by Milton Green

The 50’s came and so did the rise of the screen siren as buxom blondes and sultry brunettes sashayed onto the household television set. From Bridgette Bardot and Jean Harlow to Greta Garbo, Sophia Loren and the illustrious Miss Marilyn Monroe, so came the Hollywood flick. Alan Snider, make-up artist to Monroe, crafted her signature look, carving out a sleepy eye with a brown pencil traced close to the lashes, flicked up and out to match that wistful persona.

Hema Malini

In the seventies, Bollywood taught us the importance of the brow and how to double line. A full brow and cut crease was paired with a thick winged liner on the upper and lower lash line for a glamorous doe-eyed look; essential for those all-important romance scenes.

Greta Nissen

Eyeliner Greta Nissen

In the 20’s, style took the soft rouge and delicate powdering of 1910 and sexed it up, casting aside the corsets, cutting off their hair and vamping up their makeup to the upmost degree. Unbeknownst pioneers of the wet-look eye, a mix of Vaseline and soot would act as a liner smudged around the eyes. No tight lining, no flick, just a brown smudge around the outer rims of the eye, paired with a glossy brown lip, for ultimate risk factor.

Twiggy

Twiggy

Twiggy’s model portrait

As life swung into the sixties, fashion and music were punctuated with colour while eyeliner went monochrome. À-la-Twiggy, white liner mapped out baby doll shaped eyes, taken right from the waterline to the top of the lid, finished with lashings of mascara for clumpy lashes that paved the mod look.

Grace Jones

Grace Jones

Rocking into the 80s, makeup made way for the New Romanticism movement. Advocating exploration and expression, eyeliner took on a new androgynous look. From Prince Charming, Alan Ant and his white stripes, David Bowie’s silver streaks, Boy George’s geometric lines and Grace Jones’ purple dream, liner was soaked with a raving-ready dose of colour, no longer refined to only being on the lid.

Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani

Fast-forwarding to the 90’s and a grunge takeover, pioneered by Kurt Cobain, No Doubt, Deep and Moss (swoon) and Winona Ryder saw liner looking lived in. From slept-in kohl around the rims, jagged liner on the lids and smudged shadow on the outer corners of the eyes, time was taken to perfect that just-rolled-out-of-bed look.

Adele

Adele

The comeback queen, Adele returned to our lives this year with ‘that’ look, but better. Michael Ashton, Adele’s makeup artist since the beginning of her career, has collaborated with the songstress over the years to perfect that statement flick. For her 3rd album riposte, Ashton double-layered gel with liquid to create a patent leather shine; one we should all be recreating.

Eyeliner has been a daily makeup bag staple since cosmetic creation, helping us to look more awake for centuries…

From the Egyptians to Amy Winehouse to Johnny Depp circa 2005, it’s remained a firm beauty favourite year after year, style after style. From grungy kohls, pencils, liquids, glitters, gels and who knows whats next, one things for sure – the eyes certainly do have it.

We love seeing all your looks, techniques & more so remember to tag us #illamasqua and show us your work.

Words by Minè Miralay

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Nadine Bourne

Nadine Bourne

Writer and expert