The Highbrow Unibrow: Susan Boyle’s Secret Avant-Garde Chic

l doonansusan boyle 2v The Highbrow Unibrow: Susan Boyle’s Secret Avant Garde ChicHow come nobody has clocked it? Why the telling silence? Given the relentless dissection of the Susan Boyle phenomenon, you would think some hack or other might have gone beyond ragging on her eyebrows and identified the glaringly obvious truth. But no, yet again, it’s left to yours truly to sort things out for everyone and point his little pocket flashlight at the elephant in the room. So here goes:

Susan Boyle is the chicest woman in the universe.

That debut ensemble, a kind of cleaning-lady-on-a-night-out look, was the very essence of insider fashion. It positively screams Miuccia Prada. The poignant white party shoes with the dark hose, the chocolate-box ribbon slung round the homemade lace dress—bonjour!—it could all so easily have been yanked straight from the Marni/Dries Van Noten/Margiela runway.

And then there was the whole Frida Kahlo unibrow: I have lost track of the number of Comme des Garçons fashion shows where the models were rocking that ferociously avant-garde un-tweezed Boyle brow.

I’ve been thinking a lot about old Sue and about eyebrows in general, especially last Friday, May 1. There I was at the 2009 Cosmetic Executive Women Beauty Insider’s Choice Awards at the Waldorf, surrounded by a sea of rail-thin beauty execs with perfectly arching brows—and that was just the men!

“And that was just the men” is one of those tropes that, no matter how many times you roll it out, always gets ’em roaring. Another example: “Who’s sari now?” Unfurl it anytime an even remotely Bollywoodian person appears on your TV screen and you will have the whole family shrieking.

Here’s another one for you: Whenever anyone mentions Macaw (pronounced Ma-cow), try asking, “Where is Macaw?” Your unwitting straight man then takes an earnest shot at explaining the whereabouts of this far-flung resort destination: “It’s an island somewhere in the blah blah.” You interrupt and say, “No. Ma cow is in ma field.” Trust me, everyone will think you are a total gas.

So there I was at the Waldorf thinking about the deep philosophical meaning of plucked brows versus unplucked whilst clapping my brains out as 135 nominated products vied for 28 awards. From “exfoliating ribbons” to “stretch-mark smoothers,” every unguent received a virtual standing ovation. Having reached no conclusions about brows, I took advantage of a lull in the jubilation to ask my neighbor, a Westchester dermatologist named David Banks, for a beauty tip that I might pass along to you, the ordinary woman on the street. He obliged with a real doozy.

This magical pointer is designed to help those women whose recession-ravaged husbands are attempting to curb their wives’ self-indulgences by checking the credit card statements for unnecessary Botox expenditures, eyebrow-waxing, etc. Dr. Banks got it from one of his glamorous clients. Here’s the tip: The next time you find yourself at the supermarket loading up on family groceries, simply purchase an AmEx gift card for yourself. The amount should approximate the cost of the acid peel, spray tan or whatever. Et voilà! Your expenditure disappears into the quotidian miasma of the household expenses, never to be detected.

Speaking of quotidian: Susan Boyle is in the process of being made over and is, sadly and inevitably, starting to look rather moderate. Along with those eccentric caterpillar brows, she has lost her fashion insider edge. It’s probably just as well: That esoteric frumpy-glam look is a tad codified for her new global pop milieu.

According to People magazine, what stressed-out Sue really needs right now is not more fashion advice, but some R and R before the Britain’s Got Talent semifinal kickoff on May 24. Cue another of those fail-proof one-liners:

“Susan Boyle has gone to the West Indies.”

“Jamaica?”

“No. She went of her own accord.”

Ba-dum-bum!

sdoonan@observer.com