I’m old enough to remember a time (I like to call it ‘the nineties’) when the only brows that mattered were Gwen Stefani’s. They were pencil-thin, floating miles above the lash line, and reminiscent of the silver screen sirens like Marlene Dietrich. At the time I was in high school, and there was absolutely no chance my Frida Kahlo situation would ever, ever be beaten into submission. Threading was yet to be popularised in Australia and so I spent my early twenties waxing my Cara Delevigne brows into a poorly executed, unflattering, completely wrong-for-my-face shape. Let’s not even talk about the time I called in sick to work thanks to a home-waxing job gone so horrifically wrong I was too embarrassed to show my face (yes, that bad).
My eyebrows (or ‘eyebrow’, if we’re being brutally honest) caused me much teenage angst. I always felt a little unkempt, ungroomed, and uncool. And I still do – but at least my brows look good.
So what changed? Well, I discovered threading, which certainly helped, but the truth is the only thing that really changed is my perception. While my thick brows have looked the same for years now, trends have changed. Gradually brows became softer, thicker, more natural. Microblading happened. Instagram happened. We discovered brow pomade and setting gel and Glossier’s Boy Brow. Wax became a thing you added to your eyebrows, instead of ripping them off with.
Me? I did nothing differently, other than invest in a nice clear brow gel to tame the fuzzies. But suddenly my brows went from a source of embarrassment, to a source of pride. I stopped wishing for the uber-thin look and started feeling good about my big bold brows. Friends asked me where I got them tinted (my mother’s womb), or to help them with theirs (a very, very bad idea). People were paying hundreds of dollars for microblading, to get the brows I once loathed.
Worrying about your eyebrows is just silly, of course. The height of privilege. But watching this 360 in my own mind proved something really important to me: it’s all in my head. And yours, too, most likely. My eyebrows have barely changed in 10 years and yet my perception of them has flipped. So what if, at the height of the Gwen-Stefani brow wave, I had just decided to love my bushy brows? What if I hadn’t wasted years obsessing over some completely natural facial hair and had focused on, oh, taking my brows on a round the world trip (remember those?)
I hear the nineties brow is making a comeback. And while I’m open to swapping my skinny jeans for a flare, the pencil-thin brow is going the same way as the low-rise jean this time around: nowhere near my body. I’ve learned to love my curves – including the ones above my eyes.
Words: Gemma Dawkins. Holding Shot @katemossagency