Because of the multitude of different looks, the 1960s is my favorite decade in terms of beauty. If you have any memory of high school history class, you know that the 1960s was an era of big changes. Civil rights, women’s rights, the sexual revolution, the start of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War–this was not a quiet decade. Political and social changes happened at a rapid pace, and the younger generation was heavily involved.
In terms of beauty and fashion, the sexual revolution and the re-emergence of the feminist movement strongly impacted the average woman. By the mid 60s, she no longer felt as constrained by the male’s definition of what she should look like. Hot pants and bikinis became popular, marking the first time women routinely showed that much skin in public. Many women felt they no longer needed to wear what their fathers or husbands deemed appropriate for them, so whether that meant miniskirts and go go boots or bell bottoms and paisley tunics, they didn’t all conform to a man’s standards.
The re-emergence of feminist movement effected women in two ways in regards to beauty. Some revolted and didn’t wear makeup at all, while others embraced makeup and wore it as a badge of honor, like many suffragettes had done some 50 years before. In the 60s, it was finally up to women what they wanted to do. There were of course still trends, which many blindly followed, but it was unlike past decades because women did not feel they only had one or two options.
“The Single Girl,” a fashion photography look, was meant to represent movement. The Single Girl was young, single (duh), independent and active. She didn’t have to depend on a male for her financial or emotional needs. Empowering, right? Except for the part where she was also supposed to have an almost adolescent figure. Model Jean Shrimpton popularized this look.
In terms of hair and beauty, the early 60s looked like the late 50s, as is the way with the beginning of any decade. Just because the ball drops on New Year’s Eve doesn’t mean new hair, makeup and fashion trends immediately begin. So early 60s makeup brought in the black winged liner of the 50s, as well as the popular late 50s frosted eye shadows and coral lips. Hair, makeup and fashion were still very ladylike, inspired by women like Jackie Kennedy and Ann Margret. By the mid 60s, lips were often light, almost white beige. (They got darker at the end of the decade, with brown reds becoming popular.) There was a trend of pink lipstick on the bottom lip and red on top, but it didn’t become a huge look. Foundation was still used, but not as heavily as in the 50s. Blush was normally light pink or peach, but it wasn’t a standout part of most women’s looks.
The cut crease eyeshadow look was popularized by British model Twiggy, with her white shadow on the lid and dark shadow in the crease. Black eyeliner was used on top and bottom lashlines and was usually winged out on top. Mascara–often tube mascara but still sometimes block form–was loaded on top and bottom lashes, and sometimes bottom lashes were painted on with eyeliner. False lashes were extremely popular and used on both top and bottom. White eyeliner was often used on the bottom waterline to emphasize this doll-eye look. This cut crease, heavy-lashes eye makeup look was very popular in the mid 60s.
When it came to the all important eyebrow, some women threw out the brow pencil and went with a more natural look, while others did the opposite by shaving their eyebrows off and penciling them back in. From my research, it looks like more women (thankfully) chose the former. In the 1960s, you didn’t see much of the highly arched brows that were popular in the 50s.
French Actress Brigitte Bardot had a different take on 60s beauty. She did her own twist on a smokey eye with blacks and browns. Her skin was tan and not caked with foundation. Her cheeks were a light peach, and her lips were a pale matte color. She wore her hair long, wavy and teased. She was the sexpot of the 60s.
Another look that was en vogue for a lot of the younger population was the hippie look. Hippies didn’t typically wear much (or any) traditional makeup, but often drew colorful flowers and peace signs on their faces. Their hair was usually long, straight and center-parted and maybe topped with a flower crown. The completely naturally hippie look, demonstrated by people like musician Janis Joplin, was a true no makeup-makeup and wash-and-go hair (with the washing part optional for some).
As far as the beauty industry, Max Factor, Revlon, CoverGirl, Coty, Maybelline and Yardley were the big players in the American market. Welsh clothing designer, Mary Quant, created a cosmetic line for her “miniskirt wearing customers.”Helena Rubenstein, Estee Lauder and Elizabeth Arden continued to rule the luxury cosmetics sector.
Polished, perfect hair reigned in the early 60s, but it was much bigger than it had been ten years before. Vidal Sassoon introduced the bob in 1963. Beehives (updo or half up style) and bouffants remained popular until the late 60s. Straight, center-parted hair (literally often ironed on an ironing board–ahem, Mom) became popular in the mid-late 60s. Wigs were popular, as were hair pieces to help pump up the volume. Many African American women started wearing their hair natural, and the Afro peaked late 60s through the early 70s. Head scarves were popular for much of the decade.
There was a drastic change in beauty and fashion from 1960 to 1969. The television series Mad Men did an excellent job of showing this transformation. The drastic changes in appearances coincided with the drastic changes in America at the time. There was upheaval in many areas, and it was both an exciting and scary time for the country.
But I’m not historian (just a bit of a history geek, if you can’t tell), so I’ll stick to what I know. As a makeup artist, I love doing 1960s looks both on clients and on myself. Big hair, black eyeliner, lots of lashes, pale lips–I can’t get enough of that Priscilla Presley look. There is some element of 1960s beauty that will appeal to almost anyone. So take some Swinging 60s inspiration and apply it your look. It’ll be boss, man.
Have a beautiful day 🙂
*Double click on the images above to see them in greater detail*