Bushy eyebrows are in again for Japan's women
EYEBROWS are not usually associated with economic trends, but there is a theory that those of women become thicker when the economy is in good shape.
In the Jingumae area in Tokyo, which attracts many fashion-conscious people, I recently observed many women sporting eyebrows that were at least 1cm thick.
"My eyebrows have been 'nachu-futomayu' (natural, thick eyebrows) for the last six months," a 20-year-old female hairdresser said. Her eyebrows were drawn softly with bright brown powder to match her hair colour. She said her original eyebrows were thin and made her look a little severe.
"Now I look a lot gentler thanks to the thick eyebrows," she said. "It makes me happy."
Thick eyebrows have become popular for the first time in more than 20 years, since the so-called bubble economy in the late 1980s to early 1990s in Japan.
Today, many female entertainers on TV have thick eyebrows, while fashion magazines run stories featuring make-up for thick eyebrows. As thicker eyebrows make faces appear smaller and better sculpted, they are gaining popularity in the fashion world.
According to Anastasia, which operates eyebrow salons across Japan, an increasing number of female customers say they want to have natural-looking, thicker eyebrows.
Thin eyebrows were popular in the 2000s, according to Across, which takes snapshots of ordinary people on the streets of Tokyo and publishes them on its online magazine. However, thick eyebrows began gaining popularity around 2011, alongside brightly coloured lipsticks. In and after 2013, thick eyebrows became dominant.
"Now, women in their 40s and 50s have thick eyebrows, too. About 50 per cent of women I see in town have thick eyebrows," said Across chief editor Kumiko Takano.
In 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic stimulus package - referred to as Abenomics - gained impetus and started to revive the nation's sluggish economy.
"Honestly, women's make-up changes with the ups and downs of the economy," said Setsuko Suzuki, a top hair and make-up artist of Shiseido. Thick eyebrows are popular when the economy booms and thin ones are popular when the economy slumps, according to the make-up artist.
The energetic, youthful impression of thick eyebrows seems to match a bright, strong economy.
However, there are a variety of thick eyebrows. Those that were popular during the bubble economy in the 1980s were drawn with heavy black liner, while those today are drawn softly in light brown to give a gentler impression.
The current trend is related to women's preferences for fashion and make-up that look natural, in the wake of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.
Eyebrows are likely the mirror of women's personalities in each era, too.
"Today, thick, flat eyebrows are trendy," said Yuko Uemura of female fashion magazine CanCam's editorial department. This month's issue of the magazine, published by Shogakukan, ran a feature story on thick eyebrows.
The clear-cut, thick eyebrows of the 1980s reflected the wish of women at that time to become equal to men in society and stronger.
Now, as there are many timid, "herbivorous" men who do not feel like approaching women, many women feel they should not look so intimidatingly strong. Thick, flat eyebrows reflect the wishes of today's women to look natural and soft.
It is said eyebrows frame the face, meaning the shape of eyebrows dramatically influences the face's appearance. It is even said that changing the shape of your eyebrows sometimes works better than cosmetic surgery in changing your appearance.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
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