Famed ancient Greek ruler and military mastermind Alexander the Great had a passion for fragrances. France’s King Louis XIV sported glittering heels and made voluminous wigs fashionable. Vikings, often remembered for their rugged masculinity, had extensive hair grooming routines.
Interest in men’s beauty was socially acceptable before it became taboo, and, as David Yi notes in his new book “Pretty Boys,” it is now reemerging after a long hiatus. Modern, Western ideas of masculinity took root in Enlightenment-era Europe and continued across the pond in America, Yi recounts, and interests in cosmetics, fashion and grooming became increasingly aligned with femininity, queerness and immorality — and even criminalized for men in some cases.