High heels, eyeliner and wigs - these and other items were originally made for men

High heels first came about in the West for men who rode horses
High heels first came about in the West for men who rode horses

For decades, years and even centuries civilisations have been socialised to gendered dressing. These days we know dresses and makeup to be for women and pants to be for men. This binary is certainly odd, especially if you consider that men have worn everything from makeup to high heels and the inverse is only true for women today.

History shows us that items such as dresses, high heels and different forms of makeup were not only worn by men but were initially made for them. Save for the fashion rule-breakers, we’ve rounded up fashion and beauty items that were originally made and worn by men but have become synonymous with women’s fashion today.

High Heels

Men have been seen wearing high heels as far back as 400 years ago. Resembling what we call kitten and block heels today, men initially wore high heels for horse riding.

READ MORE: Lots of men are ready to wear the handbags seen on runways with absolute pride

According to the Bata Shoe Museum, evidence shows western Asian heels had a strong relationship to horseback riding, and the trend later became popular in Europe.

In its online exhibition Standing Tall: The Curious History of Men in Heels, the museum also records that women who embraced masculine fashion (often ridiculed) wore heeled shoes and embraced military-inspired accessories. As centuries progressed, high heels became synonymous with women’s fashion, courtesy of these trendsetters.


The ancient Egyptians are famously know for wearing eyeliner, drawing the cat eye inspired by their gods. The Chinese, Japanese and later the British are recorded to have used makeup as well.

Makeup brand, Charlotte Tilbury, which provides a specific category of men’s makeup and skincare, notes that men and women in China and Japan in 3000BC used mixtures of gum arabic, gelatine and egg to stain their fingernails for signify their societal status.

READ MORE: Big beauty brands are beginning to exploit signs of a rising demand for makeup from men


In its blog, Charlotte Tilbury notes that wigs came about after the Romans painted over their heads to disguise baldness, a preceding the advent of wigs. It has been noted that wigs spread from France and symbolised the rise of a complicated, consumer-oriented society.

Dresses and skirts

In recent history David Bowie has been photographed wearing a number of pretty dresses. He is one of many pop stars who have rocked dresses. Most recently we have seen Billie Porter in a couple of dresses, and Jaden Smith and Odell Beckham Jr. have rocked skirts too.

In many cultures that are not western, men wearing ‘skirts’ and ‘dresses’ is normal – as seen among Zulu men for example.  

In ancient societies, Bustle reports, dresses and skirts were worn by various men, with the exception of horse riders. 

What are your thoughts on fashion and beauty being free for all despite gender? Chat to us here.

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