The Business Of Beauty
While beauty concerns have been present since the earliest human civilizations, it is only in recent history that the business of cosmetics has evolved into the immense industry we recognize today. Women’s magazines, which appear commonplace now, are actually a fairly recent creation, not unlike the commercial beauty industry itself.
CREATING THE DREAM
These days we are surrounded by imagery. Whether we are looking through a magazine, watching TV, browsing our phones, or walking down the street, images are impossible to avoid. We’ve already seen that the motives and desires behind makeup use in the West and Far East remained pretty static for a thousand years; what created and accelerated a massive change was the birth of print media, broadcast, and the consumer society.
First take a moment to imagine a world without advertisements and consider how much calmer our visual and emotional pulls might be. Then try and envision a world with barely any imagery at all. It’s an unnerving thought, but less than a thousand years ago this was the world that humans occupied. Of course, cave painting, hieroglyphs, and other forms of ancient art existed, but there were no realistic images of ourselves. Early religious iconography and paintings in places of worship provided the first imagery viewed by regular people of all classes, and though the images were often dazzling and sumptuous, they were largely symbolic, meant to be revered, and lacking in realism.
The types of images people were exposed to even two hundred years ago were very different from what we are used to now. With no methods of communication except speaking and writing available, in order to see something you would have had to go and physically look at it. With no means of seeing facsimiles of other people, the modern concepts of a beauty role model to try to look like someone else didn’t really exist. With a lack of easy transport, most people wouldn’t have had a clue how anyone outside their town or village (let alone in another country) looked. Aristocratic and royal beauty trends would not have been visible outside court: Royal portraits hung in palaces and grand houses, creating a microcosmic world of hair, fashion, and makeup trends that rarely traveled farther than palace boundaries and if they did, it would literally take years (if not decades) for them to filter down. It was a far cry from today’s fast-paced get the look from last night’s red carpet ceremony style media.
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