For some of us, Zoom professionalism is achieved by rolling out of bed at 9 a.m., throwing on a button-down shirt, and keeping just a headshot within the camera’s field of view. But for executives whose faces are posed as the focal points of important meetings, especially live television interviews, a growing trend has emerged among corporate executives: men’s makeup.
“Makeup, creams or other cosmetic products is becoming very important as a way to express a healthy look,” Hector Abdelnour, CEO of the betting consultancy firm H2 Gambling Capital, told Worth. “Zoom calls and internal video work platforms have become one of the most effective ways to interact with our clients, partners, investors and colleagues. Men have realized the difference it makes when you are on video.”
At first blush, you wouldn’t expect men to be receptive to a style traditionally reserved for women. But as remote working continues on as the new normal, more and more male business leaders are opting for cosmetics for Zoom calls and beyond.
“When COVID restrictions began and our in-person meetings turned into video calls, it became quite clear that our faces were now front and center more than ever,” said Matt Rodrigues, cofounder of TRIBE Cosmetics. “If you’re high up in a Fortune 500 company and have an interview with CNBC, it doesn’t make sense to invest in lighting your space while avoiding the absolute essentials. Your face is what viewers and prospective clients ultimately remember the most.”
“Recognizing the stigma surrounding cosmetics products for men,” Rodrigues launched TRIBE’s line of all-inclusive skincare products from his New York apartment during quarantine. The company offers a sweeping variety of products, with moisturizing creams and blemish cover-ups among their most popular. They also employ American workers at their manufacturing plant in New Jersey.
“We’re all about inclusivity and the idea of Made in America,” continued the entrepreneur. “TRIBE seeks to simplify makeup. We are doing this through education and an easy three-step system using products that you apply using your fingers rather than complicated brushes, sponges and other tools.”
While the rise of men’s makeup in corporate America seems like a new trend, men have been wearing it for centuries. Hollywood actors, New York media pundits and D.C. politicians all apply makeup regularly ahead of on-camera appearances. In John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 debate against Richard Nixon, JFK was done-up with a full face of makeup by NBC’s makeup team. His political adversary made a mistake that proved fatal to his campaign when he refused NBC’s makeup services. As a result, his unshaven, sweaty appearance stood in stark contrast to the youthful glow and perfect complexion of JFK. The debate went down in history as an important lesson for campaign managers that perfection is in the details. Nixon was later made the butt of a Simpsons bit portraying him as a floundering mess and JFK a teenage heartthrob.
Though their products are in high demand, there are still some barriers to entry, and Rodrigues is all too familiar with the stigma that runs with male cosmetics. But for Rodrigues’ target audience, those stigmas don’t matter. Alan Kaye, partner at Fidens Insurance Brokerage, is unfazed by the gender expectations associated with makeup. For Kaye, makeup serves as a crucial tool for the modern businessman.
“A businessman must be well-groomed,” Kaye said. “He is dressed for success. He wants to turn heads, but for the right reasons. He is not making a fashion statement, nor is he trying to pay attention to himself. He simply wants to enhance his features and look good. Whether it be on Zoom, Microsoft Teams or on television, nowadays, men are seeing the strain of busy schedules on their faces. Like women, men too are seeking that boost in confidence that comes with covering up their dark circles and blemishes.”
“With COVID-19 and major Fortune 500 companies shifting their work environments to promote employees to work from home, our visual online exposure becomes even more paramount,” Abdelnour added. “Women and men want to look dynamic, fresh and well put together at all times during these calls.”
While Rodrigues is hopeful about the future of men’s makeup, he acknowledges the hurdles that he needs to overcome before men’s makeup enters the mainstream. “It’s a challenge when you are seeking to lower the barrier of entry for a community that traditionally has had less barriers relative to their assigned gender counterpart,” Rodrigues added. “While there are still many hurdles to overcome in achieving gender equality and reframing gender role expectations, it has become more socially acceptable for guys to wear makeup.”