Eyebrows are not usually associated with economic trends, but there is a theory that women's eyebrows become thicker when the economy is in good shape. In the Jingumae area in Tokyo, which attracts many fashion-conscious people, I recently observed many women sporting eyebrows that were at least one-centimeter thick.
"My eyebrows have been 'nachu-futomayu' [natural, thick eyebrows] for the last six months," a 20-year-old female hair dresser said. Her eyebrows were drawn softly with bright brown eyebrow powder to match her hair colour. She said her original eyebrows were thin and made her look a little severe.
"Now I look a lot gentler thanks to the thick eyebrows," she said. "It makes me happy."
Thick eyebrows have become popular for the first time in more than 20 years since the so-called bubble economy in the late 1980s to early 1990s.
Today, many female entertainers on TV have thick eyebrows, while fashion magazines run stories featuring makeup for thick eyebrows. As thicker eyebrows make faces appear smaller and better sculpted, they are gaining popularity in the fashion world.
According to Anastasia, which operates eyebrow salons around Japan, an increasing number of female customers say they want to have natural-looking, thicker eyebrows.
Thin eyebrows were really popular in the 2000s, according to Across, which takes snapshots of ordinary people on the streets of Tokyo and publishes them on its online magazine. However, thick eyebrows began gaining popularity around 2011, alongside brightly coloured lipsticks. In and after 2013, thick eyebrows became dominant.
"Now, women in their 40s and 50s have thick eyebrows, too. About 50 per cent of women I see in town have thick eyebrows," said Kumiko Takano, chief editor of Across online magazine.
In 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic stimulus policy package, referred to as Abenomics, gained impetus, and it started to revive the nation's sluggish economy.
"Honestly, women's makeup changes with the ups and downs of the economy," said Setsuko Suzuki, a top hair and makeup artist of Shiseido Co. Thick eyebrows are popular when the economy booms and thin eyebrows are popular when the economy slumps, according to Suzuki.
The energetic, youthful impression of thick eyebrows seems to match a bright, strong economy.
However, there are a variety of thick eyebrows. Those that were popular during the bubble economy in the 1980s were drawn with heavy black liner, while those of today are drawn softly in light brown to give off a gentler impression. The current trend is related to women's preferences to fashion and makeup that look natural in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
Eyebrows are likely the mirror of women's personality of each era, too.
"Today, thick, flat eyebrows are trendy," said Yuko Uemura of the female fashion magazine CanCam's editorial department. The August issue of the magazine, published by Shogakukan Inc., ran a feature story on thick eyebrows.
The clear-cut thick eyebrows of the 1980s reflected the wish of women at that time to become equal to men in society and become stronger. Now, as there are many timid, "herbivorous" men who do not feel like approaching women, many women feel they should not look so intimidatingly strong. Thick, flat eyebrows reflect today's women's wishes to look natural and soft.
It is said eyebrows frame the face, meaning the shape of eyebrows dramatically influences the face's appearance. It is even said changing the shape of your eyebrows sometimes works better than cosmetic surgery to change your appearance.
Various products to create thick, trendy eyebrows include:
A. Eyebrow Template (Kai Corp. ¥700 (S$7.90) plus tax): Place this resin-made tool against the face so the openings are aligned with the eyebrows, then apply eyebrow powder.
B. Kate Lasting Design Eyebrow W (Kanebo Cosmetics Inc. ¥1,400 plus tax): This uses a combination of eyebrow pencil and eyebrow powder. Draw a line right below each eyebrow and soften it with the attached tip to make the face appear more sculpted. It sells well overseas, such as in Taiwan and Thailand.
C. Pereus (Morishita Jintan Co. ¥2,500 plus tax): This tonic for growing eyebrow and body hair contains male hormones as its principal ingredient. Sold only at drugstores by pharmacists. The pen-shaped product is popular among women in their 20s and 30s.