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Red Lipstick in History


You know the drill. Face the mirror with a steely gaze, mouth puckered and ready, your staple shade of rouge grasped between your fingers.





One coat, a good colouring. A second coat, cementing the boldness of the shade. Et voila! You almost feel transformed into another individual, or at least, you feel an upsurge in confidence and now you’re ready for whatever the day or evening may bring.


This is the power of the red lipstick. It is the ultimate tool of any strong and beautiful woman. It is striking, requiring a certain bravery to try it on your visage, and an even more elusive allure to have it as a part of your defining aesthetic.


But did you know that red lipstick has a fitting backstory for it as well? One that was a symbol of independence and rebellion for women everywhere.


Elizabeth Arden, the woman behind the great beauty brand, was a devout feminist, and supported the marching women of the 1912 suffragette movement. Red lipstick was then shocking to men, and this fact was used by the protesters, to signify their rebellion.


World War II also encouraged an affinity for red lipstick, as least for the sake of patriotism and anti-fascism, as Adolf Hitler apparently disliked red lipstick so much. Red-stained lips became the norm in this case, notably in Allied countries.


Before this momentous period in time, red lipstick upheld a reputation for being associated with iniquity and promiscuity. Long before it was normalized as one of women’s assets when it comes to makeup, it was even seen as a sign of darkness or deviance.


The spread of women’s rights throughout the modern world made sure that this is not the case anymore. Today, any woman (or man!) can opt to don red lipstick with ease. In a similar vein, women were once restricted to wearing corsets and all of that quite constraining frock and frill. Nowadays, we are now free to wear whatever we wish. And we can certainly be thankful that this is the case.


So, go ahead and wear your preferred shade of red, and let it embolden you. If this colour is not necessarily your go-to, at least appreciate that this is now a common and acceptable option to all of us, as this has not always been the case. Vive le rouge!


By Sophie Jocson


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