year in review

2021, The Year of the Strong Nose

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos Images

This year on TikTok, a number of videos started popping up where users would turn to show the side profile of their nose and mention their ethnic background. “Showing off me and my mom’s Arab noses,” said one user who took part in the trend. “I used to hate my big Black nose, now I’m obsessed,” posted another. The idea was to celebrate noses from different ethnicities, and far from the usual nose-job content that can be found on the app — or through Instagram filters that thin people’s nose bridge and tip ​​— the trend looked to especially highlight larger noses that don’t adhere to the Eurocentric beauty standard.

2021 was a big year for noses. One of the most anticipated movies of the year, House of Gucci, brought this idea home by featuring powerful noses (hello Lady Gaga and Adam Driver). There has also been a rise in nose-focused makeup and accessories: There were faux freckles; nose contouring hacks; and nose adornments. Hunter Schafer wore badass silver statement nose jewelry to her first Met Gala, created by Evangeline AdaLioryn, and Gucci’s latest campaign was full of nose rings. From makeup artists, we’re seeing nose gems, futuristic-looking nose decorations, and even accent makeup on the nose.

Gabrielle Glaser, author of four books, including The Nose: A Profile of Beauty, Sex, and Survival, says the noses considered “beautiful” are often reflected by what’s going on in society. “Originally rhinoplasty of the nose began to replace noses that had been lost in battle [during World War I] or had eroded due to disease such as syphilis,” she says. Glaser says that in the immediate post–World War II era is when women were expected to look the same — Judy Garland, Shirley Jones, and Debbie Reynolds — and thus the U.S. white body ideal, and the nose that went with it, has dictated beauty standards. “There was a vast expectation for national conformity, especially for middle-class whites — be patriotic; to move to the growing new suburbs; to watch the same television shows and listen to the same music.”

Glaser says this is changing, with more acceptance of different body types, but the standard still hovers. “Lead actors and actresses with strong noses have had a great run for the past 20-ish years — think of Sarah Jessica Parker, Cate Blanchett, Catherine Keenar, Adrian Brody, Don Cheadle, Viola Davis, Lady Gaga,” she says.

Brooke Ozaydinli, creator marketing manager at Instagram and the host of the Naked Beauty Podcast, says the shift towards experimentation with nose makeup is partially due to being masked for a long time. “I think the nose takes up so much real estate on our face that was previously being ignored,” she says. “We’re seeing young creators on Instagram thinking about their face as a canvas, so you can no longer ignore the nose.”

On one end of social media, there’s been a celebration of previously uncelebrated noses, and yet nose job videos are still rife across all platforms. (There were also the bizarre ski jump viral videos, which, less surprisingly, showed off up-turned noses.) What seems like conflicting narratives may be less polarizing after all, says Ozaydinli, who views the documentation of plastic surgery online as transparency around procedures that’s much-needed. “I love that people aren’t finding it a shameful thing or pretending that they were born that way.” Ozaydinli also says nose jewelry going more mainstream is part of the current breaking down of Western beauty standards.

Dr. Melissa Doft, double board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Doft Plastic Surgery, says this year has brought with it a change in nose job requests. People are still getting them, but they’re different now, many of her patients opting for a more natural transition. “Patients wish to correct a crooked nose, asymmetry, humps, and wide nostrils but they also wish to hold onto their ethnic identity,” she told The Cut. “There is no longer the belief that there is one nose for everyone but each nose is individually tailored to fit the patient’s face and beauty ideals.” It’s worth noting that rhinoplasties fell by almost 8 percent between 2000 and 2019.

The fashion and beauty industry’s obsession with the small, turned-up nose is far from being completely over, but 2021 brought in a much-needed shift in direction. No longer ashamed or hiding their noses, people are beginning to view their nose as a defining feature.

Designer Celest Salgado Morale has had an influx of people interested in her winding, wire nose jewelry and handmade nose cuffs. Morale began making the nose pieces for herself, sharing them on social media, and “almost overnight” had people asking where they could purchase them. The more unconventional designs have been the most popular, she says.

“Little by little we’re letting go of Eurocentric beauty standards and are becoming more proud of our features,” she says. “I think eccentric jewelry that showcases the nose is a huge result of that. People used to not want to accentuate their noses at all but I’m glad that’s changed and people are embracing their features more.”

Fernanda Pigatto, global marketing director at beauty trend insights source Beautystreams, thinks this is here to stay: “The trend of underscoring nasal beauty diversity and individualism will become more mainstream in 2022 and beyond.”

While it would be naïve to think the small, sloped nose beauty standard is dead, our thoughts and standards around noses have long shifted as society does — and there have been a number of global shifts recently (the pandemic just being one). Just like in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where Glaser says the widespread availability of the pill and legalization of abortion left women with more choices about their bodies and resulted in a revolt against “sameness,” 2021 has also taken a step towards uniqueness. In an age of the Instagram Face, the diversity of nose shapes has become a way to stand out, and larger noses are slowly taking their rightful place in beauty — front and center.

In Hindsight, 2021 Was the Year of the Nose