The History of Bold, Red Lips

Bold, red lips are all the rage right now. They scream confidence, sex appeal, and femininity. Being a history major, I decided to research the origins of this beauty trend, and offer some tips and tricks on how to rock it for yourself. 

The Ancients
Ancient Mesopotamian women were possibly the first to invent and wear red lipstick by decorating their lips with crushed gemstones.

In the ancient Indus Valley civilization, women applied lipstick as face decoration (think face paint).

In Egypt, women extracted red dye from focus-algin, iodine, and bromine mannite. Then, these women extracted fish scales to add a pearl-like shimmer to their red pouts. This Egyptian process was more like a crazy science experiment than a beauty regimen. Unsurprisingly, these women (Cleopatra included) succumbed to serious illnesses associated with this process.

By the 16th Century, the process of making lipstick was a little safer. Queen Elizabeth I, who popularized cosmetics, was famous for her pale white complexion and crimson lips. Her lipstick consisted of a mixture of beeswax and red stains from plants. During this time, Medieval European women believed cosmetics (especially lipstick) warded off death. This explains why the Queen's ladies-in-waiting applied makeup to their post-mortem Queen. This tradition of beautifying the dead continues to this day.

In 1770, British Parliament passed a law which annulled marriages if women wore cosmetics before their wedding day. This ushered in a strict anti-cosmetics reign in England whereby only prostitutes were exempted and could wear makeup. France, on the other hand, took a different approach. Around the 1780s, elite French women were encouraged to done cosmetics. In France, the 'bare face' was only acceptable for prostitutes and working women.

By the 1800s, the English Queen Victoria deemed makeup 'impolite' and the trend went out of style during her reign. However, the French still pushed the envelope. French actress and early film star, Sarah Bernhardt, was famous for wearing red lipstick. She even publicly applied the product, which was a major social taboo at that time.

In the 1890s, lipstick made its way to the U.S. in its first advertisement featured in the Sears Roebuck Catalog. At that time, lipstick was manufactured using carmine dye extracted from cochineal insect scales (yum!).

By the early 20th Century, lipstick was back and bigger than ever! In 1915, Maurice Levy invented the first metal lipstick tube. Soon after, the modern swivel lipstick tube was patented in 1923. From there, companies like Chanel, Guerlain, Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubenstein, and Max Factor started to create and manufacture lipsticks.

Early film stars (such as Clara Bow pictured below) were lipstick trendsetters. Clara wore the darkest lipstick shades available so they would show up on black and white film.

Emerging marketing and advertising industries significantly bolstered the 1930s lipstick industry. Helena Rubenstein, founder of Helena Rubenstein makeup, was the first to advertise lipstick as promoting sun protection (before SPF was important). Also, manufacturers promoted lipstick as an 'important part of the war effort.' American society encouraged women to go to work for the war effort and look glamorous while doing so with slogans like, "Do your bit, but with a little bit more."

During World War II, lipstick was a scarce commodity. The solution? Hazel Bishop, a chemist, developed a 'no-smear lipstick.' Her revolutionary product was the first of its kind, and claimed to stay put all day. World War II also saw the emergence of the famous pin-up girl, most notably Betty Grable. Betty's 'million dollar legs' and puckered pout increased lipstick's popularity. By the late 1940s, 90% of American women wore lipstick thanks to marketing campaigns from newcomer companies Maybelline, Revlon, and CoverGirl.

By the 1950s, red lips oozed sex appeal. Starlets like Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, and Elizabeth Taylor skyrocketed red lipstick into the homes of 98% of American women. 

During the 1960s and 1970s, red lipstick was replaced by trendier beige, white, purple, and black hues. Beige and white lipstick colors were popularized during the Mod era of the 1960s, and the 1970s punk movement saw a surge in black - and purple- hued lipsticks.

Red lips made a comeback in the 1980s thanks to M.A.C. and Madonna. M.A.C. introduced their first line of lipsticks, and Madonna jetsetted the line's "Russian Red" color to cosmetic stardom while wearing it throughout her Like a Virgin concert tour. 

The early 1990s grunge movement introduced brown and plum shades of lipstick with actress Drew Barrymore being the movement's biggest trendsetter. However, red lipstick was the prevailing go-to shade for starlets, supermodels, and just about every woman looking to make a standout statement.

Today, the bold, red lips trend is bigger and sexier than ever. Starlets such as Scarlet Johansson, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Dianna Agron, and Taylor Swift have brought the red lips trend back into the spotlight. After Taylor released her 2012 album Red, the country star commented, "I'm always wearing red lipstick!"

How to Rock the Trend
Feeling inspired? First thing's first, click here to match your perfect shade of red to your skin tone. Next, start experimenting with different beauty brands. If you need help getting started, the below red lipsticks are some of my personal favorites. 

Be sure to comment below which brands and hues are your favorites, and have fun rocking this bold look!

Inspired by Elle Beauty

No comments:

Post a Comment