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History 101: A Look Back at Cat-Eye Liner

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Amy Winehouse and popular vloggers with a surplus of scotch tape may have you thinking that the perfect cat eye was their invention, but this signature look goes a long way back. Cat eyes are one of the most timeless beauty looks in human evolution. Nothing compares to the simplicity and versatility of a cat eye and its ability to transform its wearer from classy, to glamorous, to edgy. This winged liner look has reinvented itself time and time again, which is why we consider it to be the ultimate beauty shape shifter. Beginning its beauty time travel in 10,000 BC, ancient Egyptians rimmed their eyes with kohl to protect them from the sun. Cleopatra is said to have layered it on for practical reasons – protection from the sun and, as the story goes, to ward off a potential curse from an Evil Eye but we still give her major props as a beauty pioneer.

While you’re brushing up on your history of the pyramids and all things Queen of the Nile, we’re going to spring forward to the early 1920s, a time when flappers wore a full face of rouge, ivory powder, brow pencil, lipstick, and eyeliner. Eyeliner was used to bring the outer corner of the eye to a pointed almond shape. If you look closely at the beautiful faces of the era, you will see cat eyes here and there – most often very thin and short. If you have ever been to a Great Gatsby-themed party, you’ve probably recreated (and Instagrammed) this glamorous look.

Today, you can hardly make it to the shoe section of a department store without being spritzed with a new fragrance or encouraged to try this season’s newest shade of lipstick, but it wasn’t until Selfridges introduced the notion of testers at makeup counters that we reinvented the way we try and buy cosmetics. Nobody paid any mind to the modern “eyes or lips” dilemma – cheeks were rosy, lips were red, brows were drawn on, and eyes were both lined and shadowed.

As styles revolutionized, so did formulas. In 1950, Max Factor introduced the first liquid liner, and with it, a worldwide trend was born. “Where there’s line, there’s shine,” was the catchphrase for their Shiny Eyeliner campaign, which featured an avant-garde navy blue cat eye.

Remember when we mentioned Cleopatra? Hollywood quickly took note of her iconic look and the movie industry began to cast leading ladies like Elizabeth Taylor in films set in Ancient Egypt, propelling the cat eye to the silver screen in a major way. Soon, actresses like Brigitte Bardot were rocking this sultry eye on and off camera as their signature style.

With celebrities leading the way in the 1970’s, Twiggy made graphic liner a far-out trend by using liquid liner to draw on bold bottom lashes. In the 1980’s, eyeliner transformed again, this time, dark and smudged. It evoked vibes of Madonna’s rule as the president of pop-rock music and the sultry surrounding culture. Scroll through Instagram today and you’ll see a refined cat eye is not only a defining street-style look but is a commonality between diverse beauty icons like Adele and Lana Del Rey, who each sport their version of the cat eye as a striking and individual statement.

With countless brands, colors (rainbow, glitter, metallic, oh my!), and mediums of liner on the market, expressing your personal style through your eye makeup is easier than ever, whether you’re gracing the red carpet, walking the runway, or having a glamorous Netflix & chill kind of day. Witnessing this beauty look in the pages of a magazine or browsing for your next daring liner color is always fun, but achieving your best cat eye is not always an effortless adventure.

We know that nailing the perfect line can be intimidating, so in 2015, ABLE Cosmetics launched Cat Eye 101 to solve this scary makeup dilemma. Attached to the lid of the liquid liner is a traceable rubber edge, which helps the user create a beautiful and even flick every time. The product will re-launch with an updated, sleeker design in August 2017. ABLE knows that nothing is more classic than a cat eye and we believe that everyone deserves to have the confidence and tools to achieve their version of this timeless look themselves – every single time.

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