The Instagram Account Celebrating Over-Plucked Eyebrows

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An over-plucked Courteney Cox via @historyofoverplucking

Today’s Follow Friday is @historyofoverplucking, a profile chronicling the brow-based mistakes of years gone by

“I started the account when I was supposed to be doing something else... But isn’t that how this stuff always starts?” says Alex Ronan, writer and founder of Instagram account @historyofoverplucking. “I was on deadline for a story, but somehow found myself deep in the Met Museum’s online collection, and I noticed that these elaborate paintings of women in ornate dresses featured eyebrow situations that reminded me of my favorite celebs in the late-90s and early aughts. I started digging around more and found myself wondering, “What happened to The Mona Lisa’s eyebrows?! What about The Girl With The Pearl Earring? Did they even have tweezers back then?!”

The resulting collection of images – sourced from film stills, museum archives, paparazzi shots and vintage beauty advertisements – make for an arresting feed. For where else would you see Popeye’s Olive Oyl juxtaposed with Queen Elizabeth I and Tyra Banks (pre-America’s Next Top Model) besides Art Deco paintings by Tamara de Lempicka? Not to mention the wealth of fashion photography spanning across the 20th and 21st centuries, clearly demonstrating the cyclical nature of beauty trends. “My phone has, like, a bajillion screenshots saved and I post whenever I’m in the mood,” says Ronan. “I love finding fitting stills from cartoons I grew up watching, too. Turns out, very few characters on The Simpsons have eyebrows.” 

The account’s bio simply states: “Everybody makes mistakes.” And indeed, those who went gung-ho with the tweezers back when a bushy brow was an absolute faux pas may still be suffering from a follicular deficit to this day (thank God for microblading). @historyofoverplucking just goes to show that when it comes to fashion mishaps, we’re all in this together, and there’s no shame in celebrating a time when skinny brows and chunky highlights were the hottest ticket to unadulterated glamour. “Celebrity style, make-up, and public presentation has gotten so much more professionalised over the past decade or so that sometimes it’s just a relief to see a pic of a current favourite on the red carpet in 2001,” explains Ronan, standing in solidarity with the brow-pluckers of yesteryear. “It’s like, ‘okay, you were also over-tweezing back then! It wasn’t just me!’”