Vanity of vanities; all is vanity*

The other night I watched Kurosawa’s 1950 masterpiece, Rashomon, for the first time (yes, I know that’s hard to believe but it’s true).

It did not disappoint! Rashomon inspired many deep thoughts (I promise) but in this post I’m going to discuss the fashion depicted — specifically, hikimayu, the odd Japanese practice of shaving women’s eyebrows off and replacing them with two, thick smudges higher on the forehead.

According to Wikipedia, hikimayu started in the 8th century and kept going until the practice was banned in 1870  along with ohaguro, blackening the teeth. Apparently, the government saw the ban as a way to force the modernization of Japan. 

Well, at least they didn’t bind anyone’s feet. It’s interesting how different cultures develop different beauty standards, some of which last for centuries. Certainly the west has had its share of uncomfortable fashion habits, the extremely restrictive corset being one. No wonder women needed fainting couches.

In the case of extreme women’s fashions, people often blame the patriarchy, but  it seems to me (and notwithstanding the government interference noted above) that the women themselves have always used fashion as a way to project class and rank and exclude those lacking the means to follow along.

Whether you see fashion as self-expression or a manifestation of the herd instinct, it’s here to stay — as powerful a status marker as ever.


In theory, it can also represent rebellion. Alas, tattoos and piercings, which seemed to start as a means to rebel against the norm, have now gone mainstream. You can even get your teeth tattooed.

Ye gods, what next?

This post has wandered from the sublime to the ridiculous, but that’s the way I’ve been operating lately — all over the place. Just bear with me.

Later this morning the DH and I are off to a Scottish Festival in Hammond, NY where we expect to encounter nothing stranger than men in kilts. I’ll report back on Wednesday. In the meantime, wear whatever you want and don’t do anything permanent to your body (no piercings or tattoos) until you’ve consulted your fashion advisor!

*Ecclesiastes 1:2 (KJV)