Paleo Retiree writes:

Good god but there’s a lot of thick-to-downright-bushy eyebrows around these days. The in-style female crotch may be completely bald, but the in-style female brow is hairy enough to more than balance it.


Aside from “arresting our attention,” what are the designers behind these images intending? Any hunches about what it might all mean, culturally speaking? Where this particular trend goes, I’m stumped.

About Paleo Retiree

Onetime media flunky and movie buff and very glad to have left that mess behind. Formerly Michael Blowhard of the cultureblog 2Blowhards.com. Now a rootless parasite and bon vivant on a quest to find the perfectly-crafted artisanal cocktail.
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15 Responses to Bushy

    • Those are some impressively engineered eyebrows. Those duckfaces, though … Gah.


      • I put the pic en mala fide to ridicule those brows, because I don’t really like my horizont to be contaminated by sharpie drawed semicircled and always surprised brows, like the photo of a bad bottox.

        In my country, a lot of low class women, especially older cougars, have their brows completely replaced by a curved line that makes her appear surprised at all times. This women are “guisas”.

        Maybe that’s why I prefer girls with their ‘bushy’ brows, but delineated like on the pic you uploaded. Never an uni.


  1. You’re forgetting the first rule of Fashion: it doesn’t have to make sense. Trends come and go like the wind these days, and not everything is indicative of some broader cultural climate–at least not now. It’s always difficult to interpret a time in which we’re still living. I actually think strong eyebrows sort of naturally go with the sorts of characteristic we generally find pleasing about a face, like high cheekbones, wide eyes, etc. So many mainstream models are apt to have them. I can really only think of one era in which thin, stylized eyebrows were truly the prevailing fashion– in the 1920s and 30s (and that probably had a lot to do with women imitating influential stars who likely set the trend first, like Clara Bow). Otherwise, Western society has always preferred a strong brow. The 80s were the height of it for sure, much more so than what I see in the photos above. And the 80s were a time of empowerment for women professionally, so it makes sense that everything about our fashions were BIG. Big shoulders, big silhouettes, strong, healthy-looking supermodels. So if you’re looking for some deeper meaning, maybe that’s it: our predilection for an especially strong brow is a manifestation of female strength. Oddly enough, just this week I decided to grow mine out 😉


    • A lot of fashion is simply a reaction against prevailing fashion and an attempt to stand out against it, so maybe it was inevitable that the “strong” (your word) eyebrow would return for almost purely abstract reasons. And maybe the shaped-and-pruned eyebrow of recent years has more-or-less demanded a reaction.

      I like your theory about the big eyebrow’s overtones of “big” and “strong” generally. Grown-out eyebrows don’t always have that implication though — Audrey Hepburn had real caterpillars crawling around on her brows. (It can be a shock, how big her eyebrows were.) Yet in her case somehow the package they were part of radiated “gamine,” “ladylike” and “charm.” They were shaped, though … Good lord, I wonder how bushy they’d have been if the makeup artists hadn’t tended to them.

      I don’t know about you, but to me the brows in the pix in my collage above radiate sultry, rebellious and animal-like — strong, but also defiant and a little wild. The Game of Thrones image (lower right) is really striking. The eyes and mouth are carefully, ostentatiously made-up, the face itself is on the border between childlike and adolescent … Yet those unkempt, oversize eyebrows might almost belong to a slovenly male. Whassup with that? I suppose something like “she’s medieaval … but sexy!” is what’s being aimed at. I wonder if young guys find it appealing.

      You’re reminding me of a funny story about Julia Roberts. She was at a small awards ceremony. Some clips of her early movies were shown, then she went up to speak. (Did you ever see “Mystic Pizza”? Julia before she was a star.) First thing she said was something like, “Well, thank you for sharing with the world what my eyebrows were like before we got control over them.”


  2. Will S. says:

    The in-style female crotch may be completely bald, but the in-style female brow is hairy enough to more than balance it.

    Don’t know about that. 😉

    Aside from “arresting our attention,” what are the designers behind these images intending? Any hunches about what it might all mean, culturally speaking? Where this particular trend goes, I’m stumped.

    I wonder whether it’s related to the cultural decline of those of northwest European ancestry, and the simultaneous rise in profile of those of other ancestries, whose bodies are apparently hairier. (Kinda like how ‘booty’ is emphasized more these days than previously.) Just a guess.


    • It’s an interesting theory. I wonder if the strong-eyebrows vogue will have any staying power. Booty-consciousness has certainly shown some.


      • Will S. says:

        I think it might; northern Europeans tend to have fair hair, and the amount that shows other than in areas of high concentration (head, eyebrows and lashes, genitalia, armpits) tends to be fairly minimal, whereas in southern Europeans, Caucasus-region Caucasians (e.g. Armenians, Georgians), Latin Americans, Africans, etc., body hair shows up more generally against the skin, and isn’t seen as something to be ashamed of. Thus, I’d suspect that as fashion models from these other people become more prevalent over time (as they have been, increasingly), we’re likely to see more prominence of eyebrows, same as we have with booty-focus (which has happened, for the very reason of more models, actresses, etc. drawn from these peoples). But I could be mistaken.


  3. Another musing … Maybe part of what these bushy eyebrows represent is the beginnings of a reaction against body-hair-phobia. The fur-less, vinyl-seeming, Photoshop-smooth body has become such a cliche, and so rules pop esthetics these days … Yet body hair is (and always has been) a marker of sex and sexual maturity. I was remembering just the other day the way a woman’s pubic hair used to be considered not a flaw but a plus — an attraction, a turn-on. In eras past, the moment when a girl/woman revealed her pubic hair to a guy was a big, sexy deal: “Hey, look at what I’ve got. Look at what we can explore together.” “Here’s my sexually-mature, animal nature — take a look at it. Drink it in.” Except for a few moments in the ’60s and ’70s a little grooming never seemed to go unappreciated, but it was nearly unthinkable to do away with the crotch-hair entirely. Besides: Why would anyone want to? The pubic fur-V was a big attraction. The editors/designers/models who created the images above can’t do anything about or with crotch-hair in their work, but maybe with the eyebrows they’re asserting something similar: that the markers of sexual maturity are a feature, not a bug.


    • Will S. says:

      I hope you’re right; I’m with you – I love the GNP, and loathe bald eagles, and I want to see an end to pubic deforestation; the range from the 1960-1990 in the graphic there is fine with me; before was a bit much; since 1996, too little…


    • ironrailsironweights says:

      Maybe part of what these bushy eyebrows represent is the beginnings of a reaction against body-hair-phobia.

      I would happily sell my soul and burn in hell for all eternity if that would happen.



  4. Callowman says:

    Living in northern Europe, I have mostly understood the pencil-drawn, super-tended eyebrows as a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern thing. It always felt declassé to me, at least in the context of here.

    Re body hair more generally, I was looking at some porno a couple days ago and had the sudden insight that the reason I’m more turned on by the natural look doesn’t have anything to do with the look per se, but rather with my being old enough and having been with the same woman long enough that all my cherished old erotic memories include hair. I can look at one of those shaven beauties and think she’s pretty hot and enticing, but my actual five senses memories are with a hairier breed.


  5. dearieme says:

    Those are men’s eyebrows on women. Some gay aesthetic at work?


  6. agnostic says:

    The “Gibson Girl” of the early 1900s had fairly noticeable eyebrows:

    By the ’10s they were thicker still. Here’s one of Harrison Fisher’s many covers for the Saturday Evening Post (1915):

    An ad for French hairstyles from 1919 also shows thick brows:

    They may have thinned out a bit in the ’20s, but they still seem more medium (if not thick) rather than penciled-in, and more with a more natural line rather than the artificial arch. I think the really thin thing was more for the niche followers of Vogue magazine. Here are some thicker ones from ’24 and ’29:


  7. agnostic says:

    The cycles back and forth roughly overlap the crime rate cycles. Thicker and more natural in the first 30 decades of the 20th C, pencil-thin and artificial during the mid-century, back to thicker and natural from the ’60s through the ’80s, and back again toward plucked and artificial in the Millennial era.

    If they’re starting to move back, I haven’t noticed it in person… it’s either a fringe thing, or only just getting started. But, it could be another way in which we’re moving into the neo-’50s. The natural brow started to show itself by the mid-late ’50s, after the really plucked look of the ’30s and ’40s. And as the ’90s and 2000s were a repeat of the ’30s and ’40s, we may be behind the worst of the trimmed-down look.

    The main link I see is with OCD and an engineering rather than spontaneous orientation. It rose to a peak in the Millennial era, not just with body hair grooming, but anti-bacterial products, “cosmetic pharmacology,” etc. Last time we saw that was the mid-century (the “Age of Anxiety”) — not just eyebrows, but obsession about how to properly cut your fingernails and toenails, douching regularly, and widespread use of barbiturates, amphetamines, and minor tranquilizers to minimize even slight emotional deviation.

    The early decades of the 20th C. and the ’60s-’80s were all about throwing your cares away. The suntanning craze of the Jazz Age and New Wave Age, nudist / no-bra trends, Flaming Youth, wild hair, medicines used only to treat acute symptoms rather than as part of an elaborate OCD plan to engineer the mind and body long-term, and so on.

    I took a look at how the time-trend in the crime rate relates to the time-trend for cocooning vs. outgoing behavior, and the links between cocooning and OCD-type stuff here:



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