Great Eyebrows of our Time

Denis Healey

Most people subjected to my conversation over the last few years will have come away with the impression that I’m obsessed to an almost monomaniacal extent with beards. This may not be an entirely false impression, but never let it be said I don’t let my interests branch out. Today I would like to draw attention to an under-appreciated part of the human facial anatomy: the eyebrow.

Frequently neglected to the point that many people submit themselves to full eyebrowectomies (opting instead for a sort of trompe-l’oeil arrangement that satisfies neither aesthetics nor function), the eyebrow may in fact be the most important part of the face save for the eyes themselves. As the Dude’s rug did for his room, they tie one’s visage together, and while the data is not conclusive, their removal may well increase the risk of being mauled by a marmot. No less an authority than Wikipedia claims:

Eyebrows also prevent debris such as dandruff and other small objects from falling into the eyes, as well as providing a more sensitive sense for detecting objects being near the eye, like small insects.

We can thus see that not only are your eyebrows protecting you from groundhogs in your bath, but from beetles and small meteorites getting in your eyes, hence the phrase “beetling brows”. It has to be said that I’ve never noticed my eyebrows exhibiting some kind of spider sense in the presence of nearby bugs, but then I’ve never really paid any attention, a failing which is all my own.

As well as these practical considerations, eyebrows have been heavily involved in some of the great politics of the last hundred years, none more so than those of Denis Healey (pictured above), who on special occasions would allow civil servants to twang his magnificent brows in exchange for mint toffees. Reaching the rank of Major during WWII, Healey was greatly prized by his comrades due to his eyebrows’ ability to detect Germans through up to three thicknesses of plasterboard or a thin sheet of lead. But it was only after his honourable discharge that his eyebrows truly came into their own, delivering several hustings speeches when Healey himself was incapacitated from fatigue.

Finally, a great number of entertaining facial expressions would be completely impossible without the humble brow. Even their latin name, supercilium, hints at a whole class of withering expression that would otherwise be unknown to humanity. Napoleon attempted to render his armies immune to the element of surprise by ordering the wholesale removal of all hair above the bridge of the nose, achieving great initial success as his armies rampaged, expressionless, across Europe. In the end, however, he merely hastened his own downfall, misinterpreting as approval the sarcastic reception accorded to his Waterloo battle plans due to his advisors’ inability to appropriately arch their brows. The rest is a matter of record, but the crucial role eyebrows played has been sadly plucked from the forehead of history.


Incidentally, scientists recently endorsed my views on the optimal nature of the Jennifer Connelly eyebrow, and I believe this is only right and proper.

3 Responses to “Great Eyebrows of our Time”


  • The final two sentences (Napoleon, et al) of this article were, I think, the finest two sentences ever written in the English language; in the context of an article written about the prodigious eyebrows of a former UK Prime Minister.

    No, but seriously.

    Thank you. I <3 the way you write.

    Rick in Hollywood.

  • Ta very much, Rick in Hollywood. Cheered up a boring evening in the office, you have.

  • I am heartened that the ‘Connelly’ brow has been given due recognition and thank you for bringing this to my attention. I was recently the victim of an unprovoked and savage attack upon my brows (which had been, prior to the butchery, not entirely dissimilar to Ms Connelly’s) by an expert in the art of Threading. Threading involves yanking out the hairs using a reel of cotton. More than that, I can’t tell you as I had my eyes tightly closed at the time. More fool me. An expert in threading she undoubtedly was, but an expert in ‘styling the brow’, she was most certainly not. I came out of this London salon looking less Connelly and more Pierrot The Clown circa 1970; a resemblance not helped by having extremely buggy red eyes from crying all the way back home to my little pad in Surrey. The devastating execution of her judgment (which she appeared inappropriately proud of), to remove all but a single file line of hairs, was based on an absolute prejudice against a full brow. You’ll be relieved to hear my eyebrows have grown back although the experience has left me understandably shaken and wary of cotton reels.

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