Modern beauty standards are often unachievable and born out of toxic ideals, there’s no denying that. More often than not, it’s impossible to really keep up with what the next ‘miracle’ anti-this or anti-that might be. One would assume that this is thanks to modern-day living and the rise of social media trends, but actually, considering the funky stuff we’re willing to slap on our faces today, it seems we’ve always been prone to follow peculiar beauty rituals. In fact, you will not believe what people have done in the past in the name of beauty. Because cultures differ in what is deemed ‘beautiful’, we’ve collected some of the most out-there historic beauty fashions from all over the world. Are you ready for this?
Cleavage styles have changed a whole lot throughout time—from pushed up and busty to strapped back and incognito to the more recent trend of boob contouring—but back in the 17th century, veins were in. At the time, breasts were considered a prominent feature that women should aim to display, but not in any way.
The ashen, paleness of skin that was seen among the wealthy or aristocratic gangs was a trait that women from all classes were aspiring to highlight in their décolleté. But because not all wealthy women were born as pale as they wanted to be, they heavily powdered their bosoms, and then, yes—they literally painted bluish veins onto their skins to make them look a little more translucent to the eye.
Eyebrows have always been in the limelight, I suppose that’s because they are smack dab in the full frontal of our face for all to see, but either way, the hairy things have really been through a lot thanks to us. In ancient Greece, a woman’s unibrow was considered to be a sure sign of beauty, because it meant that a woman was intelligent and pure. As for those who weren’t blessed with the bushier hair trait, they would simply fill in the gaps along the brow with the help of pigments.
Like the British, Asians had their own way of showing off social status. Long nails were for those ladies and gentlemen of leisure who didn’t have to lift a finger of their own for work (at the time, what was considered as ‘work’ included simple things like bathing themselves, dressing or even eating). On average, Chinese aristocrats grew their nails up to 25 centimetres long. They took it very seriously and went as far as to have special nail guards to protect them from their everyday lives. Oh, and sometimes these guards were made of gold, just to, you know, one up their neighbouring wealthy friends. One of the first cultures to perfect nail art? I’d argue that yes, it was.
When you think of sparkly clean teeth, you probably think of Colgate ads and blindingly white teeth. Well, from as early as the third century, the Japanese thought differently about the portrayal of mouth hygiene. The ancient custom is called ‘ohaguro’, the blackening of one’s teeth. First put in place to represent a boy or girl’s coming of age status, pitch-black objects were also regarded as beautiful at the time, so it was only natural for people to want to adopt some of this beauty themselves. The practice was done by aristocrats and nobles, and then transitioned to wealthy married women (although not exclusively), as even now some of the most prominent representatives of the black teeth trend are geishas.
To follow along with teeth for one more point, the Renaissance period made serious waves into what was considered to be beautiful for centuries to come, until even now. A standardly ‘beautiful’ woman would apparently need to have long legs and a narrow waist with wide, voluptuous childbearing hips. However, the Renaissance also thought that short teeth were attractive too. Some even went as far as to shave them down to a respectable size.
There once was a phenomenon known as the ‘Golden Lotus’, which was the practice of bandaging up the feet of girls from a very young age in order to distort the growth of their bones. The heel became bent and the toes grew downwards—allowing their feet to be considered tiny. The most desirable bride would have a three-inch foot. The beauty trend was banned for obvious painful sounding reasons in 1912.
The Maya tribes lived in Central America for centuries and are one of the many Precolumbian native people of Mesoamerica. Mayan people elongated their skulls around the tenth century. They did it by tying a board or specialised tool to the skull of their infants, as the bone is soft and malleable at that age. If they had one of these more egg-shaped and oval heads, they were destined to occupy a higher ranking position within society.
Just to continue the long head conversation—the Renaissance had similar ideas (among many others). To meet the beauty standards of that time women either would shave off or pluck the hair from their hairline to create a larger forehead for themselves. They didn’t just leave it at the hairline though, naturally, the eyebrow hair slipped off too, just to make sure nothing got in the way of a big forehead of course.
Genital piercing is no recent trend or cultural movement, it dates way back. One would usually think of top hats, elegant dresses side by side with sleek tuxedos when they think of the Victorian era—but under those sashes of silk laid piercings galore. It was considered fashionable. Wealthy women pierced their nips and sometimes even chained them together. Men too joined in, supposedly to make their tight trousers more comfortable—this was called the ‘Prince Albert’, after Prince Albert obviously, who invented a piercing to hide the size of his large penis under his clothes. What a gentleman!
In ancient Rome, women would use urine as a mouthwash to make their breath smell fresh, they would brush their teeth with the stuff too. Technically, this makes small sense as urine contains ammonia, which is a natural cleaning agent. The Romans discovered that Portuguese pee in particular was rather good, it was so sought after that Emperor Nero even placed a tax on it.
In South America, the Incas used urine as a form of anti-dandruff shampoo because of the urea (metabolised and converted in the liver to ammonia) in urine. They would allow their urine to ferment for over a week and then use it to coat their scalps.
The corset, which first appeared in the 16th century, is one of the most famous examples of body modification, designed for the sole purpose of squeezing in the waist size and lifting the breasts. It can only be imagined as uncomfortable. The trend was pushed further by the 19th century as the corsets evolved into structures that separated women’s breasts from each other, instead of the tightly compacted cleavage of the past. Naming function, the ‘Divorce Corset’ was born, and in turn, bosoms pushed to the side.
In 1941, Britain introduced clothes rationing to conserve resources. Nylon stockings were one of the first unnecessary fashions to go, but women weren’t ready to give up the trend entirely so went to the lengths of painting their stockings on with gravy brownings (made from caramel, molasses and spices and used for giving gravies in England an appetising brown colour). Some women even drew a black line down the back of their legs to make it look like the seam of tights.
In the mid-1920s a bronzed and suntanned complexion became popular after designer Coco Chanel got a little sunburnt after holidaying on her yacht on the French Riviera. The suntan then became a status symbol for a person who could afford sunny vacations and travel during winter—or a leisurely life with time to not work but sit and enjoy the sunshine. This is another trend that hasn’t exactly fizzled out—just look at today’s sunbed usage (practically fast and intense burns).
Proponents claim that the menstrual blood of women nourishes the skin with all of the properties naturally contained in blood, such as zinc and magnesium. People are quite literally, no joke, collecting their blood on the first day of their periods to lather onto their faces. So if you’re one to scoff at the ridiculous beauty trends of the past, just have a little look around you, it’s all still happening.
There is a lot of discourse surrounding what people are calling ‘nepotism babies’ online with various arguments on both ends. The term is shrouded with many meanings. For starters, a nepotism baby could be someone with extremely famous (and therefore wealthy) parents, the obvious kind—take the Smith kids, Jaden and Willow, or Lily Rose Depp for example. It could also be used to describe someone who was born to parents with connections or even those with a legacy of entertainers in their family line. That being said, many point out that those with familial ‘connections’ (who aren’t famous themselves) should not be considered nepotism babies. Either way, there have also been cases made as to those nepotism babies who actually have some talent and are ‘worthy’ of their roles in the industry, and those who just aren’t.
Regardless of the angle you find yourself leaning towards, we have compiled a list of celebrities who may fit the bill.
Maude Apatow, who plays our favourite Lexi in Euphoria, is the daughter of Judd Apatow—a well established director, producer, writer and comedian—and actress Leslie Mann, who has starred in movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, 17 Again, The Other Woman and This is 40.
The creator of Euphoria is also a nepotism baby. His father Barry Levinson is a film director, producer, actor and writer.
Angelina Jolie is the daughter of actor parents Jon Voight (Oscar winner) and Marcheline Bertrand.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s father, Stephen Gyllenhaal, is a successful film director and his mother, Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal, is a screenwriter. His also-famous older sister is Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Emma Roberts’ connection to Hollywood is well-known, most notably by her relation to one of the most famous actresses in the business: Julia Roberts. The younger Roberts is her niece but her father, Eric Roberts, who starred in Suits, is also a notable actor.
While his father Marc Chalamet is an editor for the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, his entertainment roots can be traced back to his mother’s side of the family. Nicole Flender, who is now a real estate agent, was a Broadway dancer, actor and daughter of writer and filmmaker Harold Flender. Chalamet’s maternal uncle was also a filmmaker while his maternal aunt was a writer and television producer.
Kate Hudson is the daughter of uber-famous celebrity parents. While her mother is Academy Award-winning actress Goldie Hawn, her father is the renowned actor and musician Bill Hudson. Her stepfather is another well-known name in the industry: Kurt Russell.
Dakota Johnson’s family has some history in the entertainment industry. Born to actor parents Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, the actress is third-generation famous with her maternal grandmother—Tippi Hedren—being one of Alfred Hitchcock’s muses. Her former stepfather was also the famous Spanish actor Antonia Banderas.
Star of Emily in Paris—which has previously come under fire for ‘rigging’ its Golden Globes nominations—Lily Collins is the daughter of iconic and legendary drummer, writer and music producer Phil Collins.
Though not uber-famous, Kristen Stewart’s parents were also in the entertainment business. Her mother is a script supervisor and her father a stage manager who worked on a large number of projects including the 2014 Oscar Red Carpet Live.
Blake Lively’s family was also neck-deep in the entertainment industry. Her mother is a talent scout and her father was an actor. They starred alongside each other in The Sisterhood of The Travelling Pants.
Kiera Knightley was also born to actor parents: Will Knightley and Sharman Macdonald.
Another actor with a film legacy in his family, Pine’s maternal grandmother Anne Gwynne was—according to the Los Angeles Times—“a horror [movie] icon at Universal in the 1940s.” His maternal grandfather, on the other hand, Max M. Gilford was president of the Hollywood Bar Association. His parents were also very successful actors.
Stranger Things star Maya Hawke is the daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.
Jennifer Anniston was also born to actor parents and guess what Friends fans? Her father John Anniston was actually an actor on the real-life Days of Our Lives and has also appeared in numerous other projects. Her godfather, a very close friend of her dad, was Telly Savalas, a legendary actor whose career lasted over 40 years from 1950 to the 1990s.