Written by Laura Sparling


In praise of caterpillars

Laura Sparling has avoided the plucking hell of over-eye hair maintenance thus far, but has taken a keen interest in the eyebrow trends expressing themselves around her. She was more than happy to wax lyrically (but not literally) about what she’s learned.

‘Illustration by Louise Boulter

“Laura, never ever pluck your eyebrows!”

Mum said that to me every Thursday evening as I sat gabbling on about my day at school, watching her pluck her eyebrows as part of her getting-ready-for-work routine.

I never really asked her why I shouldn’t ever pluck mine; I just assumed she was warning me against carrying out such a tedious and painful-looking chore.

Whatever the reason for her weekly caution, I always got the impression she regretted plucking her eyebrows as much as she had, and it must have had an influence.

I only ever ‘tidy up’ my eye-wigs. I’ve never shaped them like they showed us how to in More magazine and I’ve never pencilled them in either. I just tweeze out any stray brow hairs¬ – plus the rogue recurring bastard white one in my right eyebrow – whenever I can be arsed to do so and/or ignore the fear that one day I’ll pluck the incorrect eyebrow hair and my face will collapse like a game of Kerplunk.

Don’t get we wrong. My eyebrows have never been overly-bushy. We’re not talking Frida Kahlo here, but they’re thick and dark enough to make the ladies at my local walk-in threading bar eye me up like eagles spying prey whenever I walk past.

The most adventurous I ever got was a phase in 1996 where I would a smear a small blob of Vaseline over each one (a More magazine tip I did take on board) before carefully grooming them with a specially-purchased toothbrush like they were My Little Ponies. Wild browhaviour, I know.

Strange thing is, although I have little interest in my own eyebrows, I’ve always found other people’s fascinating. My current favourites are the ones that look like they’ve been drawn on with the aid of a stencil and a black Edding 800 marker pen.

Right now we’re in ‘power brow’ times where a strong, full-bodied eyebrow is popular, thanks to the likes of trendsetting supermodel Cara Delevingne who rightly couldn’t give two hoots that some of the cattier corners of the press have christened them ‘caterpillars’.

Madonna’s eyebrows have always made me feel all right about leaving mine pretty much untouched, the same way she’s always made me feel almost-comfy about my gappy teeth.

This is just the type of negative comment that drives people to do the whole plucked-to-absolute-fuck thing.

Natural eyebrows are fine! They’re meant to be there. They frame your face and allow you to do interesting facial expressions.

Big brows have been in and out of fashion countless times over the years. Cleopatra was probably the first famous power brow wearer. Ancient Greeks and Romans loved a mono-brow on a lady; they were seen as a sign of intelligence. (Notice how I haven’t mentioned the Gallagher brothers?).

During the 16-1700s, European ladies would wear false brows made of mouse fur to achieve a fuller look. Natty!

The 1950s saw the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor sporting full, arched brows and then along came Brooke Shields and Madonna in the 1980s with their gloriously lush ones.

Madonna’s eyebrows have always made me feel all right about leaving mine pretty much untouched, the same way she’s always made me feel almost-comfy about my gappy teeth. (Goodness me, I love that woman.)

At the other end of the brow spectrum (which I’m guessing is more archy than others) is the minimalist and even ‘no-eyebrow’ look . The latter has been popularised by Katy Perry and Lady Gaga and involves bleaching the eyebrows to camouflage proportions. It looks a bit otherworldly and a bit Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Possibly not the look you’d want for day-to-day wear. Odd looks in the queue at Tesco Express would most certainly ensue.

Some folk opt for tattooed-on eyebrows. In some cases these are really done well… although not in the cases of two brow-inkers I’ve met.

One of them looked constantly pissed off and a tad fearsome; the other was blonde but had decided to go for purple brows. I honestly could not look at any other part of her face.

There have been times when I’ve considered having my brows shaped and tarted-up by a trained professional but those moments are always fleeting. My eyebrows might be slightly more au naturel than fashion would like, but sod it – they’re mine, I like them, they’re not purple and as per usual, Mum really did know best.

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Written by Laura Sparling