The Evolution Of Winged Eyeliner Is Proof That Cat Eyes Will *Always* Be In Style

An ode to winging it.

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Unlike other beauty stalwarts, winged eyeliner didn’t arrive quietly — the trend began with a bang, sweeping through ancient cultures drawn to its drama and distinction. The evolution of winged eyeliner proves its power, too. How many trends manage to stick around for two years, much less 12,000?

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Egyptians and Mesopotamians started wearing cat eyes starting back around 10,000 BCE. The kohl-based eyeliners were a major status symbol, so it wasn’t uncommon to see inky winged liners stretching all the way up to the hairline — a look virtually synonymous with the ancient era now.Pictures from History/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
The makeup in Elizabeth Taylor’s legendary Cleopatra portrayal isn’t exactly historically accurate but it’s credited with revolutionizing the eyeliner craze. The actor actually did the iconic makeup herself, though it’s debated among experts if the real Cleopatra’s makeup was blue or a green-grey.Silver Screen Collection/Moviepix/Getty Images
After a few demure decades, eyeliner found its wings again in the ‘40s and ‘50s with the rise of retro pinups and silver screen sirens like Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe. The heavy, extended liner thickened the appearance of lashes and made eyes look larger, upturned, and more sultry.ullstein bild Dtl./ullstein bild/Getty Images
Ronnie Spector’s signature sky-high hair and ultra-femme winged liner helped define the mod-influenced ‘60s. An even more concentrated take on eyeliner of the ‘50s, the drama only deepened with deeper finishes, refined products, and even new colors available to the public. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Over in the U.K., the Swinging ‘60s were hurtling full-speed ahead with an entire generation dedicated to emulating Twiggy’s iconic eyeliner and lash look. Often, lips would be left very bare to put all the emphasis on the larger-than-life liner and eyelashes.Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
What didn’t the ‘80s have? The more-is-more decade was paradise for cosmetic creatives who experimented with bright colors, bold placements, and costume-like combinations. Winged eyeshadow liner, liquid liners, and rainbow-hued kohl made the possibilities unlimited.Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images
By the early 2000s, the only thing more alluring than following makeup trends was throwing them out and creating your own. Amy Winehouse’s legendary eyeliner, part of her throwback aesthetic, has spawned millions of copycats over the years. AFP/Getty Images
What a difference 10 years can make — in the late 2010s, dramatically winged eyeliner took a (temporary) backseat to lighter, more ethereal looks. While liner was definitely a key piece of most looks, the winging was often subtle and accompanied by softer, blown-out eyeshadow.Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images
In fashion and beauty, everything’s cyclical — so it was only a matter of time before head-turning eyeliner came back. Ariana Grande’s graphic winged eyeliner is a prime example of a 2020s makeup look: a little futuristic, a little retro. @arianagrande
Sharp, stiletto winged eyeliner — like the kind Zendaya’s been loving lately — is one of the 2022’s biggest makeup trends. The exaggerated cat-eye of yesteryear is there, but the modern version continues the razor-sharp lines through the eyes’ inner corners, too. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

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