Iconic, bold, and beautiful — these are only a few qualities lent by the classic red lipstick to anyone who dares to wear it. Rocking a red lippy can make you stand out and feel empowered to take on anything. But why is that so? In this article, we delve deeper into its vivid history and the science behind this powerful color in search of clues that connect our current perception of red lipstick as a secret weapon to feeling chic, confident, and ready to conquer the world.
Red Is for Royalty
From Cleopatra to Taylor Swift, there’s no arguing that red is a fabulous color fit for royalty. Ancient civilizations considered painted red lips a status symbol of opulence and sophistication. In Egypt, both men and women loved accentuating their features with makeup, with Cleopatra, Queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, crushing red ants and beetles to make a gorgeous scarlet color.
Meanwhile, in a peer-reviewed study published on Plos ONE, researchers revealed that women wearing makeup, like red lipstick, are perceived by society as more attractive, competent, and socially prestigious.
Red Is for Winners
In Chinese culture, red is highly regarded as the colour of luck and prosperity. Believe it or not, it could be that they’re on to something. A study published in Nature suggests that wearing red is consistently associated with a higher probability of winning across all ranges of sports. In addition, researchers of color psychology noted a strong connection between dominance and red coloration as a sexually selected and testosterone-dependent signaling among animals.
Red Is for Rebellion
Wearing red lipstick has also been used as a form of protest or to express defiance against systemic oppression at different points in history. Here are some excellent examples.
Hitler infamously hated red lipstick, preferring a flawless face as the Aryan gold standard. According to an article by We Are The Mighty, female visitors to Germany were explicitly instructed not to wear excessive makeup and not to wear red lipstick and nail polish. Allied women did the exact opposite to show their rebellion against the dictator. Cosmetic companies even released special shades, such as “Victory Red” and “Montezuma Red,” which were mandatory for women serving in the U.S. Airforce during the war.
For Equal Rights for Women
In 1912, American suffrage leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman embraced the power of red lipstick to highlight their call for equal rights and women’s right to vote. Beauty maven Elizabeth Arden herself handed free tubes of red lipstick to people marching along the Fifth Avenue suffragette march route in New York City.
In 2018, the men and women of Nicaragua made waves on social media as they posted photos of themselves wearing red lipstick to condemn their government for beating up and arresting protesters.
Violence Against Women
Female-led, anti-government protesters dressed in black, wearing blindfolds, and red lipstick flocked the streets of the capital of Chile in 2019 to call out the government for its lack of action against the rampant sexual assaults suffered by women in the country.
Red Lipstick Is for Everyone
Knowing what we know now, we can say that anyone can rely on the power of classic red lipstick when they need a little confidence boost or a creative way to express themselves. And contrary to the common misconception, anyone can rock red lipstick. Try on different shades, finishes, and textures. Experiment with different looks until you find the most flattering shade for you.
Then, own it and channel your most unapologetically beautiful self.