Red lipstick is as en vogue as ever this summer. But did you know that behind that color is a rich history steeped in identity, self-expression, and liberation?
Ancient Sumerian men and women were possibly the first to invent and wear lipstick, about 5,000 years ago.They crushed gemstones and used them to decorate their faces, mainly on the lips and around the eyes. Also Egyptians like Cleopatra crushed bugs to create a colour of red on their lips. Around 3000 BC to 1500 BC, women in the ancient Indus Valley Civilization applied red tinted lipstick to their lips for face decoration.
Lip colouring started to gain some popularity in 16th-century England Lipstick’s popularity eventually died out among the upper class, as people considered it only fit for prostitutes and lower-class women. Queen Elizabeth I, however, revived the look as she often opted to don a pale white face with bright crimson lips.
By the end of the 19th century, Guerlain, a French cosmetic company, began to manufacture lipstick. The first commercial lipstick had been invented in 1884, by perfumers in Paris, France.
By 1912 fashionable American women had come to consider lipstick acceptable, though an article in the New York Times advised on the need to apply it cautiously.
In 1915, Maurice Levy invented the first metal lipstick tube — before this, lipstick was wrapped in silk paper, which made it difficult to carry around and apply on-the-go.
As women started to wear lipstick for photographs, photography made lipstick acceptable among women.
World War II allowed women to work in engineering and scientific research, and in the late 1940s, Hazel Bishop, an organic chemist in New York and New Jersey, created the first long lasting lipstick, called No-Smear lipstick.
By the 1950s, red lipstick was worn by most and embraced as a sexy addition to any outfit. Stars propelled the cosmetic even further, with Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, and Ava Gardner known for wearing the bold shade. By then, 98% of U.S. women were wearing lipstick.
Women of all ages and careers continue to rock the red lip, with many celebrities adopting it as their signature look. The red lip — and its powerful effects — are clearly here to stay forewer.