18 Of The Strangest, Most Dated Beauty Trends From History

It's impossible to meet the incredibly unrealistic and changing beauty standards of our world, and many of us have already spent way too much time trying to pluck, paint, or contour ourselves into stacking up. It may not be a surprise to learn that this is basically a timeless issue, but some of the beauty ideals of the past are really hard to imagine as fun or glamorous.

Beauty standards through history have shifted into so many forms that some of the hottest styles of the past are basically horrifying, or at least way more trouble - and danger - than they are worth. Sure, makeup is a pain, but at least we aren't shaving back our hairlines or painting our legs with gravy juice anymore. Check out this list for some of the weirdest historical beauty standards ever.

Photo: Wikicommons

  • Erotic Piercings Were Somehow Huge During The Victorian Era

    The Victorian Era is generally associated with starched clothing, lots of black, and showing as little skin as possible. Probably the last thing you would think of is a sexual piercing, but life is full of surprises. During a brief period in Victorian England, wealthy women would pierce their nipples, often connecting them with a chain. As for men, they would pierce the head of their penis, supposedly making it easier to comfortably wear the increasingly tight pants of the era. This piercing is known as the "Prince Albert," and it is rumored the Victorian prince himself sported the look. 

  • The Greeks Loved A Good Unibrow

    The Greeks Loved A Good Unibrow
    Photo: Glyptothek / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Greeks had a very different idea of "power brows." In Ancient Greece, women's unibrows were considered a sign of intelligence and purity. If they didn't have one naturally, women would use kohl pigment to draw one on, for that bold and beautiful look.

  • Veiny Cleavage Was A 17th-Century Must-Have

    Veiny Cleavage Was A 17th-Century Must-Have
    Photo: Cornelius the Elder / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

    17th-century England saw an increase of cleavage in fashion. Necklines plunged, and breasts became one of the most prominent features that women attempted to display. At the same time, extreme paleness was in style, as it suggested wealth and an ability to stay out of the Sun, unlike laborers. In order to extend the paleness achieved by powders on the face to the cleavage, women would draw blue veins on their breasts to mimic translucent skin.

  • Japanese Women Actually Wanted Black Teeth

    Japanese Women Actually Wanted Black Teeth
    Photo: Utagawa Kunisada / via Wikimedia

    If you ever get tired of brushing your teeth, this is a good alternative. For thousands of years, Japanese women would blacken their teeth permanently after marriage. This continued through the 19th century, and it was a symbol of beauty and marital commitment.

  • Men's Calves Were The Abs Of The Middle Ages

    Men's Calves Were The Abs Of The Middle Ages
    Photo: Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger / via Wikimedia

    Women's legs are highly admired these days, but back in the Middle Ages and well through the 18th century, men's calves were what it was all about. Men wore stockings like women in order to show off their well-shaped calves, and some even wore padding inside their stockings to improve their unsatisfactory gams. King Henry VIII, for example, was renowned for his excellent calves.

  • Beauty Patches Were Super Classy

    In the 18th century, the previous standard of bare-faced women disappeared, and women began wearing heavy makeup. They also started wearing beauty patches, small pieces of fabric that were adhered to the face. They came in many shapes, such as stars, circles, and squares, and their placement on the face had specific meaning. For example, one by the mouth implied flirtatiousness, and one on the right cheek meant that the woman was married.