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5 Shocking and Odd Beauty Trends from the Past

Did you think that only the modern age has weird beauty trends?

Every historical era had its own beauty standards and trends that people followed. When we look at the ones we see nowadays, it is easy to dismiss them as strange and incomprehensible. Yet we forget that this has been a practice throughout history and that some of the strange beauty challenges or trends we see today have no bearing on what has been practiced in the past.

Although a lot of us are aware of the fact that people ignored personal safety in the name of appearing more beautiful (with lead-infused makeup and other weird products), it is still fascinating to look back and see what was seen as pretty or the biggest proof of being good-looking. It may be our first instinct to think about what women were doing, but a lot of these shocking and at times comical trends were also followed by men!

Here we have gathered some of the most bizarre and even terrifying beauty (and fashion) trends of the past, so you can also have a good time and think about what it meant to be socially attractive all those years ago. Who knows? Since fashion and beauty are circular, we may be seeing some of these trends make a comeback in the years to come.

And you will be one of the lucky ones that will be able to say they know where this trend originates!

Let us know if any other bizarre beauty trend comes to mind that would be odd enough to join the ones on our list!

Piero della Francesca, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

#1 Extreme hair removal

Hair has always been a contested topic throughout history, and even today, hair removal is still a big topic. From new ways to remove it to changing attitudes toward body hair, it is truly one of the most widespread beauty obsessions of all time. One of the weirdest related traditions and beauty standards related to hair removal comes from the medieval age when what has been dubbed the “baby alien” look was extremely popular.

What did this look contain? It all started with the fact that large foreheads were highly sought after, and men at the time thought them to be extremely attractive. This meant that women tried to make sure that their foreheads were as high as possible, even going so far as to shape their foreheads to make their hairlines as high as possible. Combine this with the trend of plucking their eyebrows and eyelashes, and we start to understand why it was called the “baby alien” look.

Hairlessness had been associated with being innocent and pure, which in turn created this weird hair removal trend. Women went as far as to remove all their facial hair and push their hairline back as far as possible. While it would be considered odd and suggestive of something wrong with you today, the look was so popular that it survived the Renaissance period.

Even Queen Elizabeth I adopted it, though not to such an extreme level as the ladies in the medieval period. She just made sure to remove her eyebrows so that her face would appear larger and thus fit in with the beauty standard of the era.

#2 Tuberculosis was a beauty standard

Yes, we know how that sounds, but since this beauty trend has its origins in the Victorian era, we should not be that surprised. After all, they were known for all the fads they had going on, which were both health hazards and horrible by today’s standards. which includes the corset horror stories and other medicine and beauty products they were using in order to fit what society found attractive during the 1800s.

This trend, which was known as the “tuberculosis look,” was followed by both men and women, and it became the most popular one in high-class circles. People during those times found pale skin, red lips, and what they liked to call a “fragile form” (which probably just meant you looked as sick as possible) the most attractive human form!

This is the trend that gave rise to some of those dangerous beauty products, but some of these fashion victims went even further to meet this standard. They went out of their way to actually contract this deadly illness because they believed it would just elevate the natural beauty a woman possessed. Men were just as involved in this decision, as they ended up loving the “sparkling look” the eyes had when women had high fevers.

In the end, this brought about the romanticization of death and the demise of a lot of women, as the decline and thinning of a woman’s body were put on a pedestal. While it may sound like a horror model, we had a similar obsession in modern times as well, with how thin some models are and the obsession with weight being a variation of this old beauty standard!

Image Courtesy of Pinterest

#3 Chinese aristocracy and long nails

We turn our attention to ancient China and its aristocracy because not only medieval Europe had some strange trends.A lot of high-status people thought that having long nails would show others their status, power, and wealth. This trend could have originated from the belief that this was a way to show that they did not need to do manual labor, which showed that they were wealthy enough to achieve this.

Another theory was that it went along with their reverence for the body. They did not want to cause any harm or alteration to their bodies; therefore, they wouldn’t cut their nails but rather kept them long and maintained them.

Either way, they went to great lengths to ensure the safety of their nails, which became of utmost importance. Thus, all through the Ming and Qing dynasties, nail guards became popular among rich women. Made from an array of materials and bedazzled with precious stones, they came in anything from gold to jade! While it is not too outrageous, it is still bizarre to think people had nails so long they needed guards to make sure they did not break.

#4 The Greek Unibrow

We all remember the 90s, when pop stars used to pluck their eyebrows so much that they barely had any. Some of them went to great lengths to get rid of their eyebrows, but you would be surprised just how different it was back in the times of Ancient Greece! They went crazy for a woman’s brows, but only because it was a unibrow!

Yes, you read that right! Something for which children nowadays are being bullied in middle school used to be the epitome of beauty! Back in ancient Greece, a woman would not be considered attractive, good-looking, or worthy of her high title unless her brows met in the middle. Unibrows were the beauty standard back then, and they ended up being synonymous with intelligence and purity!

While some were blessed with some unibrow and could just resort to rubbing some soot in between their brows to enhance the colors, others weren’t as lucky. This is why Greek women of the time did their best to imitate the trend, coming up with a few tricks to fool the eyes of those who didn’t know any better. Using some dyed goat hair and resin, they stuck the hairs on their face to fool people into believing they had a natural unibrow!

Talk about dedication!

Image Courtesy of Pinterest

#5 Have you heard of English Codpieces?

As we mentioned earlier, some of these weird trends were not just for women. Some were also followed by men, and some were really just for them. This is the case with the codpiece, which has been in and out of favor with those of high status in England and Europe for about 500 years! But where does this weird triangular fashion statement originate from?

Back in the 1400s, men would generally be seen in leggings and tunics, an attire that didn’t leave a lot to the imagination when it came to the genital area. As a result, which surprised no one, religious figures and moralists were highly against this type of attire. It all culminated with Edward IV, who imposed a law under his rule requiring all men to cover their private parts, giving rise to the codpiece.

Over the years it evolved, coming in a lot of different versions, being added to armor as well, and being as big or as little as the style of the era allowed. It became a symbol of power and masculinity, and people in high society went overboard with it. So much so that you would think they were something invented for historical television, but in reality, they were what was the height of fashion at that time!

In the end, they would come in huge proportions, attempting to convey as much masculine prowess as possible, and they were made of various materials. From velvet to silk, it was embroidered or even bejeweled, as seen in many paintings from the time period.

And since beauty routines are part of overall body hygiene, read all about what hygiene was like in Colonial America! Some of these facts are bound to shock you!


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