AuthorsFrom the Wire

A Very Fine Line: PW Talks with Zahra Hankir

In “A Very Fine Line: PW Talks with Zahra Hankir,” journalist Zahra Hankir explores the cultural history and significance of eyeliner. From its origins in ancient Egypt to its use as a form of rebellion and self-expression in different communities around the world, Hankir highlights the power of eyeliner to symbolize independence and strength. She also discusses its role in Iran, where wearing eyeliner can be both permissible and controversial, and shares a memorable moment observing a Bedouin man apply kohl to his waterline. With fascinating insights and anecdotes, Hankir sheds light on the multifaceted nature of this cosmetic and its impact on individuals and societies alike.

A Very Fine Line: PW Talks with Zahra Hankir

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Eyeliner’s Origins

Eyeliner, a cosmetic used to define and enhance the eyes, has a rich and fascinating history that dates back centuries. Its origins can be traced to ancient Egypt, where the iconic black rimmed eyes of the Pharaohs and Egyptian queens made a lasting impression. One of the most influential figures in the history of eyeliner is Nefertiti, who can be considered the original beauty influencer. When her bust was revealed to the West a hundred years ago, many women were captivated by her look, especially her distinctive eyeliner. Since then, eyeliner has become a staple in beauty routines all over the world.

Eyeliner as a Symbol of Independence and Strength

Throughout history, eyeliner has been more than just a cosmetic product. It has often symbolized independence and strength for the wearer. In many different communities across the world, eyeliner has been used as a form of rebellion and a means of self-expression. This is especially true in the drag community, where eyeliner plays a crucial role in the transformation of performers into their unique and fabulous personas. Additionally, eyeliner has also played a significant role in boosting confidence, as exemplified by the late Amy Winehouse, who was known for her iconic winged eyeliner look. For many individuals, eyeliner is more than just makeup; it is a tool that empowers and boosts their sense of self.

A Very Fine Line: PW Talks with Zahra Hankir

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Eyeliner in Iran and Conservative Muslim Communities

The wearing of eyeliner in Iran and other strict conservative Muslim communities has its own unique cultural significance. While it is considered permissible by Islamic authorities because the Prophet Muhammad himself was said to have worn it, there are certain restrictions and guidelines that must be adhered to. For instance, eyeliner should not be worn with the intention of attracting attention. However, there exists a fine line between what is deemed acceptable and what may be considered controversial. While a subtle line along the waterline is generally acceptable, the decision to wear a winged eyeliner, for example, can be seen as making a bold and statement. Interestingly, the younger generation in Iran, particularly Gen Z, has been experimenting with more creative and distinct eyeliner styles, showcasing their individuality and creativity on social media platforms.

Favorite Research Moment

One of the most memorable moments during the research process was when I had the opportunity to observe Bedouins creating kohl under a juniper tree in Petra. It was truly a remarkable experience to witness their traditional method of producing kohl, which involves extracting the sap from the juniper tree and using the resulting soot to create the eyeliner. What struck me the most was the beauty and effortless application of kohl by the Bedouins. They wore it with such pride and joy, and it was evident that it played a significant role in their sense of aesthetics. There was also an underlying sense of humor in their explanations of why they wore eyeliner, often jokingly attributing it to protecting their eyes from the sun, while their true motivations were more about personal style and expression.

A Very Fine Line: PW Talks with Zahra Hankir

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Eyeliner and Cultural Significance

Eyeliner holds different cultural significance in various communities around the world. It serves as a marker of identity, representing cultural heritage and traditions. In many cultures, the way eyeliner is applied and the styles that are favored can communicate a person’s background and affiliations. Additionally, eyeliner can also be seen as a form of cultural rebellion, challenging societal norms and asserting individuality. It is a powerful tool that allows individuals to reclaim their heritage and express themselves authentically.

Historical Influencers of Eyeliner

Over the years, many historical figures and cultural icons have played a significant role in popularizing eyeliner and shaping its trends. Hollywood actresses, for example, have had a major impact on the popularity of eyeliner. Their glamorous and captivating looks on the silver screen have influenced generations of women to embrace eyeliner as part of their beauty routine. Cultural icons, such as Nefertiti and Cleopatra, have also left an indelible mark on the history of eyeliner, with their iconic eye makeup styles being recreated and admired for centuries. Moreover, eyeliner has been used in ancient civilizations, such as ancient Rome and ancient Greece, where it symbolized power, beauty, and enchantment.

Eyeliner in Contemporary Fashion and Beauty Trends

In today’s world, social media plays a pivotal role in shaping beauty trends, and eyeliner is no exception. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok have given rise to a multitude of eyeliner styles and techniques, showcasing the creativity and artistry of makeup enthusiasts from all walks of life. Eyeliner has become a statement accessory, with individuals using it to create bold, dramatic looks that reflect their individuality and personal style. Moreover, eyeliner has become a staple in fashion shows, where designers use it to enhance and define the models’ eyes, further emphasizing the importance of eyeliner in contemporary beauty and fashion trends. One of the most popular eyeliner styles is the winged eyeliner, which continues to be favored by many for its timeless elegance and ability to instantly elevate any look.

Eyeliner and Gender Identity

Eyeliner has emerged as a powerful tool for individuals to express their gender identity and explore different facets of themselves. It provides a means to challenge traditional gender norms and embrace a more fluid and diverse understanding of gender. For some, eyeliner serves as a marker of femininity, accentuating the eyes and creating a more feminine appearance. On the other hand, eyeliner is also embraced by gender non-conforming individuals who use it to blur the boundaries between masculine and feminine aesthetics. It is a form of self-expression that allows individuals to present themselves in a way that aligns with their innermost sense of identity.

Eyeliner in Historical Art and Literature

Eyeliner has long been depicted in ancient art, serving as a symbol of beauty, power, and allure. Ancient Egyptians, for example, painted their eyes with kohl, creating a captivating and mesmerizing look that is still admired today. Throughout history, eyeliner has also been featured in literature, where it often carries symbolic meanings. In poetry and novels, the application of eyeliner is sometimes described as an expression of seduction and mystery, enhancing the allure and charm of the characters. Eyeliner, in both art and literature, is seen as an artistic statement that captures the essence of beauty and fascination.

Future Trends in Eyeliner

As with any cosmetic product, eyeliner trends are constantly evolving. Looking ahead, there are several predictions for upcoming eyeliner trends. Innovative and unique eyeliner products, such as color-changing or holographic eyeliners, are expected to gain popularity, allowing individuals to experiment with bold and unconventional looks. Additionally, emerging eyeliner techniques, such as graphic and geometric designs, are expected to become more prevalent, offering new ways for individuals to express their creativity. As the beauty industry continues to evolve, eyeliner will undoubtedly remain a cornerstone of self-expression and personal style, continuing to captivate and empower individuals around the world.