Up until the 1920s, having a tan was only common among the lower classes. Never would a lady be exposed to the sun. Being trendy meant being as pale as possible. For example, during the reign of queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) whitening your face with carbonate compounds, lead hodroxide and other chemicals, in order to turn the skin porcelain white, was usual. Yet, the daily use of these substances in the skin was responsible for numerous health problems, including cases of muscular paralysis.
When it comes to an ideal weight, it too has suffered changes through time and has depended upon social stratum. For instance, if the 17th century models painted by Rubens wanted to conquer the cat walk nowadays, they would have to go through several months of dieting.
When it comes to hair, there's a lot to tell. In the 18th century noone worried about maintaning it cared for or even clean. Nobody would dare to appear in public without a bizarre wig. This habit was so popular and the wigs were so big and so dirty that finding a mouse living inside them was actually not unusual.
But the beauty stereotype doesn't only reflect the changes in time, it also depends on geographic position. For example, even to this day, in the Padaung tribe, in Myanmar, in Southeast Asia, the lenght of the neck is more important than any other feature. According to tradition, when a little girl reaches the 3 or 4 years of age, they recieve their first rings around their neck. For each year that goes by they add another ring. When the time comes for a young woman to marry, those with their necks longer than 25 cm, are considered the most attractive.
In men's case, the differences are also noticeable. If I were to pick today's most handsome man, I would struggle to choose between Adam Rodriguez, Anson Mount, Chace Crawford, George Clooney, for being simultaneously beautiful, athletic and charming.
However, any of the aforementioned men would eventually be considered a freak of nature in the 18th century, when any handsome man would wear a wig, tons of make-up, litres of perfume and cry in public, a fundamental practice, that showed gallantry. Speaking of which, it has been told that when Lord Spencer Percival (British prime-minister) met with King George IV to give him bad news, both would sit and compulsively cry.
And even today, if Chance Crawford were to go live with the Dinka tribe, in Sudan, he would certainly have trouble finding a wife, for in this tribe, beauty is still influenced by the saying - the bigger the more beautiful. According to tradition, yearly, men compete for title of "bulkiest". Whoever gets this title is sure to be the favourite among women, because for the women, fat means wealth and power.
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