A Century Of Beauty In Asia

Every country has different standards of beauty. And these standards tend to change on a dime. You might wear metallic nails be the talk of the town today, but the same trend might take on a different form years later.

WatchCut Video explores how beauty trends change in different countries over the course of a century in its “100 Years of Beauty” video series. Amongst all of the trends explored, beauty standards in Asian countries stood out.

Asian beauty trends also went through several transformations as the years went by. Some of the trends were inspired from beauty trends in the west and even other countries in Asia. Others were heavily influenced from socio economic changes like political instability and local pop cultures.   

If the video series teaches us anything, it is that beauty isn’t just skin deep. It depends on where and when you lived too. From painted lips to hippie hair and kohl rimmed eyes, here is how Asian beauty trends have changed over the years –

1. Korea

The video starts off with a single standard of beauty that was followed across whole Korea in 1910. Glowing skin and ornamented hairstyles were considered chic. Women started fussing less with their and focused on their faces more.

Makeup trends on Korea split drastically after 1945 when the country itself split into North and South Korea. You can see how drastically different beauty looks became after that. In Communist North Korea, the “labor look” was considered high fashion. In the 1980s the standard for South Korean beauty was all about bright eye shadow and hair teasing. Their North Korean counterparts kept it minimalist with stiff hair and muted lips. The year 2010 sees South Korean beauty advanced to contouring and eye shadow while South Korean beauty focused more on glowing skin and shorter dos.

2. China

Chinese beauty standards started with the split bang hairstyle and no makeup to stylish bobs, bangs and perms. Makeup was kept minimal with red lips being a star attraction. The hair was kept elaborate after the 1910s and became simpler in the middle of the century. Fast forward to the 1970s and Chinese beauty focused on a softer standard of beauty before taking on Western influences in later years.

3. Japan

The Japanese sure knew how to party. According to Video researchers Junko and Marina Taylor, “Western styles and Western trends have a huge influence on Japanese beauty and fashion at the time. They don’t just copy what they see; they combine and mix, making it uniquely Japanese.” You can see how hairstyles during the 1910’s were a mix of the Edwardian pompadour and bundled hair. This style was complemented by small red lips that were painted right inside the lip line. So chic!

Over the course of the next few years, Japanese women relied on icons from popular pop culture and even Hollywood stars. The perm with the hidden ear became a staple in Japanese fashion when the country’s first magazine came out and featured the style.

4. India

The Indian “desi girl” look was more simplistic and utilitarian during the first few years. Big red lips and braids took Indian fashion by storm after the end of British rule and after Bollywood influences started to creep into Indian fashion after the 1940’s. Think bindis, pompadours and thick eyeliner. After influences from Hollywood and hippie culture crept in, Indian beauty standards were uplifted to a whole other level. Think side fishtail braids, loud eye shadow, wavy hair and color – lots and lots of color.

5. Iran

Keeping eyebrows on fleek was not in vogue during 1910 Iran and the women kept their hair covered. Hats came back when the hijab was outlawed in the 1930s. But it exited the fashion scene during the forties when women let their hair down in imitation of the actresses of the time. Sixties Iran was all about drama and volume with a big focus on the eyes while beauty standards in later years started to lean towards political preferences of the times.

6. Syria

From glamorous looks from the 1930s to playful styles in the 1960s – Syrian beauty standards have gone through a lot of transformations over the years. The country has gone through years of political instability and most of the hair and makeup of the time are reminiscent of it. In the video, fancy undo’s and bright pink lipsticks are suggestive of its years as a French colony during the 1930s. The hijab made an appearance in later years and makeup became minimal too.

7. Philippines

Filipinos women sported tribal tattoos and headpieces during the Spanish Civil War at the turn of the century. This was before the standards for Filipino beauty were influenced by American beauty trends during the 20’s and 30’s. Red lipstick, heavy makeup and elaborate bouffant updos became the norm in social circles. After the Filipino film industry boomed and mestiza actresses set the trend for rosy cheeks and red lips. The US kept influencing the country’s beauty trends. You can see that American and K-pop trends still dominate with dark brows and full wavy hair.

Beauty standards change as preferences do. As the years go by, it becomes tricky for any country to define any beauty standard that is exclusive to itself as external influences come into the picture. But the results were outstanding nonetheless!

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