April 6th, 2021
Danny Gray founded War Paint For Men in 2018, a game-changing makeup range designed for men. Since launching the brand, Danny’s mission has been to eliminate the stigma surrounding men wearing makeup and to help men feel more comfortable and confident in their appearance. He is also an advocate for mental health having suffered with body dysmorphia for most of his adult life.
He has just published a new book dedicated to men’s make up – Makeup For Men – The Manual From War Paint. A Haynes Manual, the book is packed with practical tips, tricks and information on both skincare and makeup, and marks another important step on War Paint’s journey toward normalising makeup for men, for those who wish to wear it.
The manual aims to help men feel comfortable trying makeup, and focuses on simple makeup techniques, with easy-to-follow steps for great results with minimum effort. From looking super-fresh on five hours’ sleep, to concealing a breakout for a big night out, this manual gives men the lowdown on what cosmetics can do. Read our review here.
We caught up with him to chat all things War Paint.
What’s your background and what brought you into makeup?
I grew up in Buckinghamshire, and like many kids, I was bullied in school. In my case, it was because my ears stuck out, which had a big effect on my confidence. As a teenager I developed body dysmorphia, which I still struggle with to this day. I started using makeup as a way to feel more confident. I later realised that for many men, makeup is something that they don’t even consider for themselves, due to the stigma attached.
What’s your earliest make up memory?
My earliest memory is definitely of my mum, she always wore bold red lipstick to go out.
What’s the first product you remember using as a teenager – has this affected your later product choices? What’s the product you can’t live without?
Concealer for sure, I used to borrow it from my sister as a young teenager to help cover up my spots before going into school. Having even skin tone is still my top priority, I’ve been wearing foundation almost daily for twenty years. I keep it very light and natural looking, and it still gives me a confidence boost to have a great base.
How did you end up creating your own brand – what was the impetus behind it?
My early experiences of shopping for my first products were alienating. All the beauty counters were tailored towards women and I didn’t feel like I belonged, or was catered to. Men have different beauty needs to women, and men choosing to wear makeup still carries a stigma in many situations. I created War Paint to give men easy access to simple products that would help them to feel good, and we also do a lot of work to have open discussion around men’s makeup to help reduce the stigma.
What advice would you give someone starting their own range? Would you do anything differently if you could?
Every entrepreneur or founder has had moments of terror, doubt and fear. If you believe in what you’re doing, you owe it to yourself to give it everything, and just trust in yourself. Never wait until you’re 100% sure on something, if you wait for that, you’ll never start. If you’re 70% then go for it. I don’t believe in looking back and regretting the past, so I would never go back and do something differently, you have to keep learning and moving forward.
Who are your icons of male make up? Who blazed (or is blazing) the trail?
I never had someone growing up that I felt I could relate to, or who inspired me, and I guess that’s why I’ve ended up creating my own brand!
Makeup for men is nothing new – we know that the ancient Egyptian pharaohs used kohl to blacken their eyes to ward off evil spirits, and Native American tribes used body paint to prepare themselves psychologically for war. In the 1600s Englishmen routinely used powder and rouge, and more recently David Bowie and other cultural icons regularly used makeup to enhance their personas. Why do you think makeup is now seen as a primarily female preserve?
Our new book, Make Up For Men, has a section in there on the history of men wearing makeup. It’s a fascinating subject and throughout history men have often worn makeup to feel confident, or strong, or powerful. The women’s industry now is so saturated that brands have to push new products constantly, which creates this barrier to entry for men as the learning curve is so high – it can be hard to know where to begin. That’s why we create simple, effective products with ‘how-to’ video guides for every launch.
David Horne’s book The Art of Male Makeup was ground breaking when it published in 2014 as it showcased male make up as something in its own right, rather than just a female impersonation. How much do you think has changed in the intervening period? Do you think it’s now more acceptable socially for men to wear makeup?
It’s going to take time for it to become fully normalised, but without doubt we have seen massive change in how men react to, and engage with, our brand in the past couple of years. We’re noticing a shift already in how men talk more openly, and are more aware of the need to support one another. We’re definitely going in the right direction.
What challenges has the brand faced during lockdown – what positives have you drawn from the experience?
It’s forced us to focus more on our Direct to Consumer sales through our website, so we’ve been busy growing our digital experience, and expanding into new markets. We were lucky to be invited to be part of a TikTok x Shopify Beta program, which was really exciting.
What’s next for you and brand?
We’ve a new product launching in April, which we’re expecting to be a really popular addition to the range, we’ve been planning this one for a long time. We also have a few surprises up our sleeves for the summer, all I can say at this point is watch this space…
Makeup For Men – The Manual From War Paint retails for £13 and is available from warpaintformen.com and select retailers now.
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