A link between self-portraits and make-up advertising pre-dates the ‘selfie’ age by fifty years!

“You no longer have to ruin your skin to make yourself look beautiful.

Make-up can make you look really good. In time, the wrong one can also clog up your pores, dry your skin and ruin your complexion. All the good you do with cleansing, treatments and night creams is wasted.

But caring for your skin is what we do best. So we have invented a complete make-up range that is clearer and cleaner than traditional make-up. It has no gimmicks, no china doll colours and no heavy, clogging fat. We only use very pure, very clean ingredients. Because we want it to feel as fresh as it looks.

Use our make-up to accent your good points and let your natural colour shine through. Your skin will stay healthy while you’re making yourself beautiful. Your beauty won’t fade, either. Our lipstick colours stay true. Our mascara won’t run. Our eye shadows won’t crease up or dry your lids. And their subtle, shiny colours look right, day or night.

All of which helps you look your best today. It will also help you to stay looking good. Isn’t that just what a make-up should do?”

Okay, so that’s advertising blurb for a make-up brand and it seems quite on-trend with its references to clean beauty, letting your natural skin shine through, subtle shiny colours. It might not surprise you to hear it’s from an issue of Beauty In Vogue; it might surprise you to hear that it’s from an issue that was published in 1972!

Plus ça change, as the French say.

Actually, I think it would only surprise you to learn this is how cosmetics were advertised fifty years ago if you are thirty-something or younger and, let’s face it, if you are you probably aren’t here reading this! So I am, to a certain extent, preaching to the converted, because my tract for today is how easily we dismiss, when we are young, the wisdom of those older than ourselves. And let’s be honest, those of us who are wise now owe a lot of that wisdom to the dawning realisation over a span of decades that we should have paid better attention to older people in our youth.

It’s irritating, isn’t it, when someone older than you deflates your excitement about a new trend by pointing out that it’s all been done before, with the unspoken but implicit subtext of it having been done better in their day? One of the alluring things about new technology when I was in my twenties and thirties was the fact that it hadn’t been done before, this was a brand new world and it was a world for the young. Now, of course, those new technologies are established and I can happily sit in my sixties and imply that if you weren’t around at the dawn of the home computing era you missed the best bit. (Now I come to think of it, that’s a bit of a double-whammy – superiority in my youth and my old age!!) I think that is what a slightly older generation experienced with rock’n’roll; something that’s truly new, something they were in at the start of.

On the whole, though, most things aren’t brand new and a really important lesson which we can learn if we listen to older people is that things not being new is perfectly okay. It’s okay that the skirts you want to wear this autumn look fresh and exciting to you, but actually mimic something your grandma was wearing decades ago. More than that, older people can prepare us for the fact that some things don’t change; that whilst we might make great strides in political and social justice in our youth, following generations will judge that to be insufficient or just plain wrong.

And, illustrating that propensity for the fresh faces of youth to decry any advances made by previous generations, here’s Alexandra Shulman in that same issue of Vogue, a college student spending her money on “records and clothes that don’t cling – very long skirts and smocks”. Fifty years later, her tenure as Editor of British Vogue is being lambasted by the fresh young faces of today for a lack of diversity amongst the staff. Whatever the facts of the matter, whatever the rights and wrongs, those of us who are older know full well that in fifty more years time today’s new brooms will be in exactly the same position as Ms. Shulman is today for nothing any of us can do will be judged sufficient by the generation that follows.

The fact is I’m turning to gold, turning to gold.
It’s a long process, they say,
It happens in stages.
This is to inform you that I’ve already turned to clay.

Leonard Cohen, The Cuckold’s Song