Beauty isn't just skin deep. It depends on when you lived.

Every time period has had different ideas of what defines beauty. You might be surprised by things your ancestors fancied (and even more so by the modern standards of beauty they didn't like). 

Pale For The Win

You know that tan you've been working on all summer? That would have been the height of tacky during most of human history (okay, sometimes its still tacky). 

If you could afford to not be outside working the fields and getting a great farmer's tan, you stayed inside. And stayed pale. And if you couldn't do it naturally, you faked that pale skin with poisonous titanium paint. Its also where the term "blue blood" comes from to describe the wealthy elite. People wanted to be so pale, you could see the blue blood veins on their face (be they natural or painted in).

Showering Was Out, Perfume In


Whether you were sweating out in the fields or holed up at home, with rare exceptions, showering would not have been on your to do list. Except in cultures like ancient Rome or India where baths were social arenas and expected, bathing was a seasonal activity.

Instead, everyone over-perfumed themselves for all they were worth. So you'd have smelled something similar to the bathroom after you've just tried to cover up the odor de toilette with Eau de toilette. Classy.

Curvy Was Always Cool

And the weightier you were the better. In times when food was scarce or hard to get (i.e. all of human history except the past 100 years), being full figured meant you had, had enough to eat and were a potentially healthy and rich mate.

The past century's emphasis on mass consumption meant that the wealthy needed to stop eating in order to stand out from the rising middle class. Skinnier suddenly became fashionable and has stuck around since as the concerning model of femininity we currently aspire to.

Bring On The Wigs

After Pierre Thomas Le Clerc/Bridgeman/Getty Images

Long hair had long been a status symbol in pre-hygenic societies because of its difficulty to maintain under limited bathing conditions. It signified time and energy that only the elite often had.

And when venereal diseases started making the royal courts of Europe bald in the 17th century, they were unwilling to give up the pretense of their locks and started wearing wigs. The bigger the wig, the larger the cost—so the ostentation of the wigs quickly got out of hand. As a sign of aging, being bald unfortunately still has a bad rap, despite the best efforts of Mr. Clean and Bruce Willis.

Blondes Didn't Always Have More Fun /Giphy

Being blonde used to be a less than awesome trait in the ancient world. As a mark you were from the barbaric North, blonde hair was a social stigma—especially during the Roman Empire. 

Blonde's similarity to the fashionable pale wigs promoted the fair haired (and a certain stunning Renaissance painting by Botticelli) made blonde the most desired hair color of the the past few centuries, peaking in the 1950s with classic bottle blonde icons like Marilyn Monroe. Its currently on a downward spiral however. From 2011 upwards, surveys have reported overwhelming preferences for dark hair.

The Ginge Was In

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With rare superstitious exception (and that one singer from Girls Aloud), red hair on ladies has been one of the most preferred colors throughout history—be it natural or entirely faked.

Its rarity made it special. And the ability to dye one's hair with henna or other natural agents to produce a red color made it an elite practice in pre-Industrial societies. Ginger boys, on the other hand, got the fuzzy end of the red-head lollipop. By the Elizabethean era, red hair on men meant they had fiery tempers and a beastly sexual nature.

Ancient Cosmetic Tribulations

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Museums are stuffed full with make-up palettes and tools of the past that women used to maintain their look with artificial goodies. But because the museums of the world are skewed towards the ancient classical cultures of the Mediterranean, we're getting a skewed view of the history of make-up.

It actually wasn't very popular anywhere else—using make-up was a sure sign you were a massive floozy. The rest of Europe wasn't in on the make-up trend until Queen Elizabeth I started painting her face white. And even then, that was a limited use of whole face paint and powder—anything else was rare and rather scandalous. Even our current Queen Elizabeth doesn't deal in macquillage lest her subjects think she's slutty.

The Modern Rise Of Make-Up

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But the modern era really really likes make-up. And for that, you have to thank technology.

In order to get the femme fatales and ingenues of the early silent screen to not look washed out under the lights and cameras, they started exaggerating their eyes and lips with make-up. And the rest of America followed suit. Hollywood make-up guru Max Factor turned his work on the set into a massive industry (and is still the best mascara on the market).

The Joy Of Plucky Faces


Early films also set American audiences on a new eyebrow pathway. Before, eyebrows had usually been left to the forces of nature. But the straight thin eyebrows of "It" girl, Clara Bow launched brows into the fashion mainstream of the 20th century as flapper chic.

It wouldn't last long though. By the 1950s, thick brows were back in vogue. And now we're at a stage in history where almost any eyebrow goes (even, disconcertingly, the unibrow—which made an odd resurgence at this year's fall fashion shows in Paris alongside other non-traditional beauty bits like unclean nails and bedhead).

To Shave Or Not To Shave

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Though there's plenty of evidence that ancient cultures shaved their bodies on occasion, most of that relates to men athletes.

Modern society's current infatuations with shaving their legs, arms, and armpits is an entirely 20th century fetish that seems to stem slightly from the changing hemlines and senses of propriety about what women could and couldn't wear. But even more so from the capitalist attitudes of men's shaving blade companies. They wanted more customers and so began advertising to women about the benefits of shaving until it became an almost ingrained necessity to have smooth legs and armpits.

The Popularity Of The Hair Down There

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And the recent movement to full-scale hair removal below the neckline is an entirely modern phenomena that may have its roots in the popularity and availability of pornography.

Once upon a time, a Brazilian wax would have been the height of scandal. And even twenty years ago, a shaved you-know-what would have been a rarity if you weren't in the Industry. But increased visibility of lady parts on-screen has led to changing fads in landscaping everything down below. Like Clara Bow's eyebrows, we all just can't help imitating the things we're seeing in the movies, even if those films are far from PG. 

Manscaping Is Back

Gif from Movie Clips Youtube Video

Manscaping has a long and ancient history. Egyptian priests used to ritually shave their whole bodies (yep, everything) every three days. Greek and Roman athletes also liked to stay all nice and sleek.

But like with women's make-up, outside these Mediterranean enclaves male body hair was a symbol of virility and manliness—so the more the better for most of the rest of history. Until now. Manscaping has returned from a vengeance and isn't just for priests and sportsman anymore. It's possible up to 63 percent of American males between 18 and 50 have been waxed at some point in the past year. So six of your ten guy friends might have had a bit of work done in the salon—whether you can see it publicly or not.

Plastic Surgery Goes Wild

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Plastic surgery started out as a 20th century fix for people born with birth defects or who had had unfortunate accidents. Quietly, movie stars and the wealthy began patronizing plastic surgeons for superficial reasons—and for decades it was entirely scandalous to have had some work done.

But that stigma seems to have entirely dissipated. And reality television seems to have played a huge part in that. The ease with which the wealthy faux celebrities of certain shows undertook breast augmentations, nose jobs, and Botox has encouraged their middle and lower class audiences to follow suite.

Tiny Waists Preferred

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Before the medical advancements that made plastic surgery possible, the closest popular augmentation undertaken for beautification centered around a lady's waist.

Tiny was better, even if that mean constant binding and rib breaking in order to get your mid-section down to size. And though the whale bone corsets of the Victorian period have fallen out of favor, small waists are still fashionable in certain fetish and burlesque settings (and looks amazing on Dita Von Teese).

Shoulder Pads & Big Hair Are So Wrong But Were So Right

The Fan Carpet/Working Girl

The 1980s in America was an interesting fashion anomaly. Big hair was in. Makeup was overdone. And fashion was faux-paux-ing all over the place in the most bizarre and awesome ways. It was an attempt at mishmoshing all of the previous beauty standards in one go.

And while it failed and resulted in the brief resurgence of 1990s natural beauty, the current regime of 'anything goes' is far more along the lines of 1980s fashion philosophy than any other era that has come before.

Geek Is Now Sheik Giphy

But the best thing about our current fashion free for all is that it doesn't necessarily place its emphasis on looks alone. 

For the first time in human history, intelligence is a recognized prime factor in what makes folks sexy and beautiful. A-dork-able and Geek Sheik is reigning supreme and is everywhere. From full frame hipster glasses, our obsession with actresses and musicians who actually have a lot of intelligent bite to their bark and through to box office receipts for comic book flicks like "Guardians of the Galaxy"—we are all suddenly willing to let out our inner smarty pants and revel in the beauty of our own and others' geekiness. And that's fabulous.