Friday, 17 May 2013

A bit of lippy

It's funny how lipstick has fallen in and out of fashion over the centuries. Nowadays it's so normal that most women wear it regularly and around 25% of women wouldn't leave the house without it. But it wasn't always that popular.

Lipstick was common in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, but as Christianity took hold in Europe in the 4th century it was seen as irreligious and rapidly banished. The Catholic Church condemned cosmetics, linking red lipstick with Satanic worship.

Then it returned in the 16th century when Queen Elizabeth I ignored religious scruples and inspired the fashion of a white face and garishly painted lips.

But lipstick fell out of favour again in the 18th century, increasingly seen as gawdy and vulgar and relegated to lower-status women like actresses and prostitutes. The obvious use of cosmetics was frowned upon by respectable women.

It was only in the late 19th century that lipstick made another comeback when it was marketed commercially during the industrial revolution and American actress Sarah Bernhardt started putting on lipstick in public.

By the early 1920s American and British women regarded lipstick as an essential daily requirement. Lipstick became so popular that by the 1960s it was women without lipstick who attracted criticism, often dismissed as lesbians or oddballs.

And of course lipstick has seldom been used by men, unless they're gay or actors - or both. It's seen as a classic indicator of femininity and woe betide any male who gets in on the act. He'll either be scorned or laughed at for such emasculating behaviour.

Well, just imagine if men always wore lipstick and heels. You simply couldn't take them seriously, could you?

19 comments:

Bijoux said...

Love this post, as I always enjoy a bit of cultural history. It's funny, because I have always worn makeup of some form everyday, but I rarely wear .lipstick. It just looks fake on me, plus I hate having those marks on my water bottle or drinking glass.

Nick said...

Bijoux: That's true, some women just look a bit odd in lipstick!

Rummuser said...

Western cowboys always wore high heeled boots to accommodate the stirrup rod! Since they were out in the open most of the time and had chaffed lips they used lard on the lips too. Perhaps they still do for all I know.

You would take them seriously if you were a rustler!

Roses said...

An interesting thought.

I'll see if I can find size 10 heels for Lawrence. I'm sure I've probably got a shade to suit him...but matt, not sparkly. He's not the sparkly sort.

I'll let you know how that works out.

Nick said...

Ramana: Ah well, that's a pretty specialised use! I guess most men wouldn't have much need of stirrup rods....

Roses: Pictures, pictures!

Wisewebwoman said...

I see men in Canada use colourless lipstick all the time. Chapped lips are de rigeur in a freezing climate so this prevents it.

And high heels too, even if they are boots or hidden "lifts" in shoes, yeah?

XO
WWW

Grannymar said...

There was a stage in recent years where some men tried to reintroduce wearing skirts. Who knows, lipper and hee highles might be next

Nick said...

www: Oh well, colourless lipsalve and boots with big heels are a bit different from crimson lipstick and stilettos!

Grannymar: The idea of men in skirts died a death, didn't it? It was just too feminine for all those rugged males and their masculine hang-ups.

John Gray said...

I just farted
Sorry

Z said...

I don't take men seriously, I enjoy them too much.

Nick said...

John: That's as may be, but what I need to know is - are you a secret lipstick enthusiast?

Z: I don't take men very seriously either, too many of them seem to be from the Planet Zog.

e said...

Amen about the men; Nick, according to my sources, many lesbians also use lipstick now. Hence the term lipstick lesbian which you can look up if so inclined.

Nick said...

e: Oh, I know the term very well, it's been around for some time. Also its opposite, the diesel dyke. Of course the idea that lipstick is a straight/gay signifier is pretty laughable.

kylie said...

i wear lipstick a lot, no always but often. once upon a time i collected all different shades but these days i tend to wear the same one all the time. its a 12 hour, it lasts very very well, hardly needs reapplying. its one of my favourite things.

john, will you go outside next time

Nick said...

Kylie: It must be a shade that matches just about anything....

Liz said...

Like nail varnish, lipstick always makes me feel that my lips (or nails) can't breathe! So I don't wear it.

Nick said...

Liz: I'd never thought of that particular objection!

Secret Agent Woman said...

I'm not a lipstick fan, but I do wear lip gloss when I'm going out or just lip salve if I'm going to be outdoors. I can have lipstick on my lips for all of two minutes before it starts wearing off - too much maintenance for me!

Nick said...

Agent: Two minutes' worth of lipstick is hardly worth the trouble!