A brief history of eyeliner

We're throwing it back to take a look at where it all began for eyeliner

Cleopatra rocking the liner

We're throwing it back to take a look at where it all began for eyeliner

Words by Olivia Tharian

Who said make-up was strictly worn by women? Definitely not the Egyptians. Eyeliner may be the only cosmetic that has lasted over centuries and worn by both men and women! Eyeliner takes on many different forms, varying in colours, textures and applicators and everyone has their own favourite style. It can liven up your whole look with just a flick of the pen and it’s so easy - no wonder it’s a staple in everyone’s make up bags. And, don’t fret; it is definitely here to stay - phew.

So which genius are we to thank for this vital make-up tool? Take a look at our trip down memory lane…

Ancient Eye-gyptians

Dating back to 10,000 BC, the Ancient Egyptians were the first generation to wear eyeliner and this was for many reasons. Eyeliner was not only used for beauty and fashion purposes by both men and women of all classes, but it was also believed that a line of Kohl around your eyes would supposedly protect your eyes from the sun and ward off diseases – who knew! In fact, it was thought that the dead should be buried with eyeliner to make certain they would reach the afterlife.

Whether you like a feline flick, an understated line or the full on Winehouse look – this quiz matches you with the perfect eyeliner for you!

The liberated liner of the 20s

The roaring twenties saw women wear shorter skirts, shorter hair and with that, more makeup. For the more daring girls, Kohl was used in a smudged fashion around their eyes to create a smoky look, which was a great way of asserting their feminine power after the war. The smoky eye and cupid bow lip was the iconic image of the independent, liberated woman of the 1920s.

The 1950s Cat eye

Goals... Audrey Hepburn

Think Bridget Bardot, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn: the 1950s Hollywood saw liquid eyeliner take to the stage, embracing the infamous cat eye. Unlike Cleopatra’s statement cat eye which used a mixture of eye shadow and Kohl, the 1950s look used eye shadow to lighten the eyelid, drawing more attention to the eyeliner that framed the eye with a neat (not so dramatic) flick.

1960s Mod Madness


While some stuck to the 1950s look of elegant eyeliner, some stepped up the game with a more dramatic eye and bare lips. Twiggy was the beauty image of the 1950s with her pale lips helping to emphasis her eye game. Eyeliner was a key tool in the makeup bag but instead of the cat eye, liner was doubled up with another line in the crease of the eye with white eyeliner drawn over the upper lid to the inner corner of the eye.

The big, bright and colourful 80s

Madonna - 1984

Jumping to the 1980s, the eyeliner made a comeback after having little significance in the 70s. Rejecting any kind of natural look, 80s brought out all the bold colours to the make-up scene. Think Madonna. When her music took to the chart, her retro make up look was a hit. Heavy eyeliner was applied with a generous amount of colourful eye shadow.

The noughty eyeliner

Our girl Amy

Since the turn of the century, eyeliner has come in all sorts of forms - from glitter, to gems, to coloured, to even having it tattooed – the possibilities are endless… The cat eye left its mark on beauty trends and made its way into the new era. If you were an emo chick, you definitely rocked lots of eyeliner and everyone remembers Amy Winehouse for her statement bold eyeliner look, which she definitely called her own.

Now: take your pick

The game changed this decade when gel eyeliner hit the stores. Applied with an eyeliner brush, this eyeliner is popular for its long-wearing and non - smudging qualities. But, with so many options to choose from now there are equally so many looks to sport. From smudgy cat eye to barely-there wings, from thick underline to glitter eyes. The liner world is your oyster.