100 Years Of Eyebrow Evolution—A Visual Timeline
by Hilary Braaksma
From the thin, dramatic arches of the ’30s to the thick, perfectly groomed brows of today, we’ve covered every brow trend in the last century. Here’s to 100 more years of ‘eyebrows on fleek’.
Eyebrows at the turn of the 20th century weren’t really anything special. There was some combing and shaping, and some women darkened or lightened their eyebrows, but to noticably alter them was considered risque—natural beauty was still considered the only virtuous option. Heavy makeup or tweezing was for actresses and prostitutes.
The roaring ’20s was the beginning of more extreme beauty routines for women everywhere. Eyebrows were no longer to be left in their natural state. Instead, ultra thin brows with a downward pointed tip—to give women a permanently sad or moody appearance—was considered chic.
Women of the ’30s decided they’d rather look surprised than sad, which is a refreshing change of pace. Depression-era brows were all about the arch, plucked to be high in the middle, with even downward curves on both sides. They were still overly plucked, but this is the time when women became filling them in with darker makeup to exaggerate the arch—some women plucked their eyebrows completely out of existence in order draw the desired shape directly onto their skin.
Wartime American meant makeup, while still glamorous, become quicker and less dramatic in the ’40s. Many women were working traditionally masculine jobs for the first time in their lives to replace the labor force taken by World War II. This may have played a role in over-tweezed brows dying out during this decade—many women simply didn’t have the time to dedicate to their brows they had before. Arches were still important, and women started using Vaseline to keep their brows in place.
The ’50s were the golden era for film, makeup, and all things beauty. Heavy makeup was considered glamorous and trendy, and while eyebrows remained thick and arched, using makeup to fill them in became more popular than decades before.
The ’60s were an experimental time for makeup. While some balanced their bold, Twiggy-inspired lash and liner looks with simply groomed eyebrow arches, women who stuck to a more traditional makeup look started going heavy on the brow powder. Seriously heavy.
Thinness slowly crept back into popularity in the ’70s. More room for sparkly eyeshadow, maybe? Whatever the cause was, the ’70s brows were all about natural shape, not a lot of filling in, and a slender arch.
Brooke Shields, Madonna, and other ’80s icons embody the “extra”-ness of the decade. Extra hair, extra accessories, extra shoulder pads, and definitely extra eyebrow. Thick, barely-groomed brows were the business in this decade.
By the ’90s, people were once again over the super-full brow. Instead, pencil thin brows once again came into vogue. Unlike the styles of the ’20s and ’30s, there was no added drama—just an over-plucked, naturally arched line of hair without a lot of filling in going on. Hopefully the ’90s killed the tiny-tiny brow forever.
The early 2000s was slow to let go of the terrible ’90s brow. While the super-skinniness of the brow started to lose popularity, other bad grooming trends picked up steam. Instead of making brows thinner, many people began making them shorter—tweezing away much more hair than necessary from the space between the brows.
Here we are, in the 2010s, the first generation to care about our eyebrows so much we created the term “on fleek” to describe the perfect set. Thickness is once again the hallmark of a healthy, beautiful brow—our obsession with eyebrows revolves around the bold, thick brows of celebrities like Cara Delevingne, Kim Kardashian, and Lily Collins. Knowing how to expertly fill in a brow is admired, and most women aren’t touching the tweezers except for a stray hair or two.