If I had taken mascots into consideration when I applied to colleges, I probably would’ve ruled out the school I ended up going to, Florida State University. Although its use of “Seminoles” is technically sanctioned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, I just feel like it’s very uncool to turn marginalized people into mascots, especially when it involves having white guys play the part of Chief Osceola with makeup-darkened skin, a black wig with feathers, and face paint applied to resemble traditional war paint. And speaking of the insensitive misuse of war paint, I’m gonna go ahead and definitely rule out a new brand I learned of, not only because it calls itself War Paint, but also because it claims to be “makeup for men.”
War Paint came to a lot of people’s attention—mine included—after it posted a tweet on Wednesday, May 8, stating, “We couldn’t find a makeup brand formulated specifically for men’s skin; so we created one.” It’s accompanied by a video of a muscular, heavily tattooed model vaguely applying several of the brand’s products, which its websiteindicates include concealer, tinted moisturizer, foundation, powder, bronzer, and a couple of application tools.
What the website doesn’t indicate is why the brand founders went with the name War Paint. I’m guessing they probably just thought it sounded macho, a quality they might have misguidedly believed was required to make makeup appealing to men. And I’m also guessing that they’re ignorant of the expression’s etymology and didn’t consider that the term and concept of war paint have historically been associated almost exclusively with ancient Native Americans, because if they did consider that and decided to go with War Paint anyway, that just makes it even worse. (Has the term been used informally over the last few decades to describe makeup in general? Sure. But that doesn’t mean it’s OK.)
Beyond the unfortunate name, War Paint is really going for the “doesn’t get it” gusto by insisting that it’s selling “makeup for men,” a phrase that’s right in the brand logo. Last I checked (approximately 10 seconds ago), makeup doesn’t inherently belong to one gender and therefore doesn’t need a gender-specific earmark; what’s out there already, regardless of how heavily it’s marketed toward women, is available to and made for everyone. War Paint justifies the dudely designation by saying men’s skin is different from women’s — it’s “thicker and oilier,” to be specific — and therefore needs its formulas containing vitamin E, tea tree oil, and BHA (salicylic acid). Because there’s definitely no complexion makeup that already contains those ingredients (*cough* The Body Shop Matte Clay Skin Clarifying Foundation *cough* Neutrogena SkinClearing Blemish Concealer *cough* countless others *cough*).
I’m not the only one who’s like, “Seriously?” The aforementioned tweet has received over 1,500 replies in less than one day, many of which contribute to one big ol’ collective dragging. “I fail to see how ‘makeup for men’ is anything like war paint used by Natives in battle,” one person wrote, while another replied with, “There’s already makeup for men. It’s the same as makeup for women.” And then musician Two Feet said, “weird i dont remember telling u it was ok to use my music for free and without credit.” Yikes.
War Paint does seem to be pretty conscious when it comes to other important topics. All of the products are cruelty-free and vegan, and the brand has teamed up with CALM, a U.K.-based organization dedicated to men’s mental health. I can only hope those displays of empathy and awareness can eventually cross over into its marketing materials.
We reached out to War Paint, and a brand representative declined to comment.