Brazilians aren't known for covering up. In fact, when it comes to the fashion
in South America's largest countryless is more, and if you've got it,
flaunt it! December through February mark the summer months in the southern
hemisphere; the weather is hot, the kids are on vacation, and the beaches
are crowded with bronze teenage beauties sporting Band-Aids.
No, I am not referring
to the itsy-bitsy bikinis so often described as just barely bigger than a
couple of Band-Aids and a postage stamp (the bikinis are small but
this would be an exaggeration). I am talking about real Band-Aids, and Brazilian
girls are using them to cover up the most unlikely placestheir eyebrows.
At the beach, at the shopping
mall, at the beauty salon, and in restaurants and parks, Band-Aids have found
their way over the eyebrows and into the hearts of what would appear to be
nearly every 18-year-old girl. And not just any old plain beige adhesive tape
These girls are sporting
Band-Aids in fashion colors and printsneon pinks and oranges, and characters
from Barbie to Blues Clues. Unlike their shy, flesh-tinted counterparts, they
are meant to be noticed, and perhaps even coordinated with an outfit.
In Brazil, this is not
all that surprising. New fads come and go every season, and they are embraced
as completely and as fervently as they are abandoned when the next one comes
along. But while the prevalence of this apparent new fashion trend is impressive,
its origins are entirely un-haute couture.
In fact, it turns out
those Band-Aids, and what is (or is not as the case may be) underneath them
are significant and not just any girl can wear one. A Band-Aid over one eyebrow
designates girls who have passed the vestibular, the college entrance examination
in Brazil. After passing, girls shave off one eyebrow, and put a colorful
Band-Aid in its place.
The vestibular is the
one and only criterion for admission to Brazilian universities, and so doing
well is of great importance. Unlike the exams of many other countries that
are administered during the final year of secondary education, Brazilian students
complete secondary school, and often spend the entire next year studying for
their exams, generally enrolling in costly full-time prep courses to ensure
they receive the marks that will secure them a spot in the university, and
program of their choice. "Passing the vestibular is a very big deal,"
said one girl who told me her aunt helped her shave her eyebrow, "you
want to show it off."
And show it off they do.
Although the colorful Band-Aids were originally intended to replace the missing
eyebrow, some of the more squeamish simply cover up one of their eyebrows
with a Band-Aid and skip the shaving. "Its ugly, and I was afraid it
wouldn't grow back, but it's tradition, so I just put a Band-Aid over my eyebrow
instead," confessed another girl pointing to the purple powder puff girls
Band-Aid over her left eye.
And what about the gentlemen?
Not surprisingly, it appears this Brazilian Band-Aid phenomenon is razing
more than a few eyebrows, but some heads too. In fact, the whole shaving got
started when the boys began commemorating their exams by shaving their heads.
The ladies, not wanting to be outdone, but understandably unwilling to part
with their long tresses, decided to settle for the next best thing: an eyebrow
and a brightly colored bandage to hide its nakedness.
With summer winding down,
and hair growing back at its usual rate, it's likely that two eyebrows will
be back in fashion again soon, and college age boys will be showing off full
heads of hair. At least until next year, or until the next fashion wave hits
the Brazilian beach.
Gretchen Cuda lives in San Francisco where she works as a freelance writer
and assistant producer for the Science Today radio program. She speaks
Portuguese and travels to Brazil frequently with her husband. Readers can
email Gretchen at email@example.com.
This article was
published originally in Oriental Express, the weekly English speaking
edition of the Shanghai daily newspaper. Author retains all publication