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Image / Style / Beauty

The collector’s guide to iconic red lipsticks


by IMAGE
27th Aug 2020
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These 8 iconic red lipsticks are instant mood-boosters


We’ve all heard of the ‘lipstick effect’ — the theory that consumers are more likely to spend their money on small indulgences during an economic crisis.

The term was coined by Leonard Lauder, the former CEO of Estée Lauder, who noted a spike in lipstick sales during the 2008 recession, and it explains our tendency to splash out on affordable luxury goods like premium mascara, nail polish and, of course, lipstick, when we’re trying to curtail our spending.

It’s worth noting that the lipstick effect is more of a theoretical claim than a well documented phenomenon, but that doesn’t make this particular theory any less relatable.

Over the last few months, we’ve all been trying to strike a balance between the urge to treat ourselves and the advice to reduce our spending.

Scented candle sales have surged during the pandemic but, interestingly, lipstick sales are down. 

According to a McKinsey report on pandemic beauty industry trends, consumers are spending more on skincare and bath and body products but less on lipstick. 

It’s clear that people don’t see the point in wearing lipstick beneath a face mask but perhaps they’ve forgotten the transformative, mood-boosting effects of a swipe of vibrant lip colour. 

Lipstick — red lipstick especially — is powerful. It lifts the spirits, adds instant glamour and defiantly asserts to the world that you are ready for your close-up. 

“If you’re sad, add more lipstick and attack,” said Coco Chanel. She didn’t mention the colour but we’re inclined to think she was talking about her signature red. 

If you’re looking for a quick — and affordable — pick-me-up, red lipstick is your best bet. It’s instant gratification without the hangover, and the quickest way to feel put-together without the faff of primers, powders and brushes.

Here are a few of our cult favourites — along with a couple of future classics too.


When choosing from Chanel’s dazzling spectrum of reds, most opt for the universally flattering, blue-toned ‘Pirate’. However, we’re going to buck the trend here and plump for Rouge Allure Velvet in ‘Rouge Feu’, a bright, orange-toned colour which looks great with a tan. If you like MAC’s ‘Lady Danger’, you’ll love this.

Rouge Allure Velvet, €36

With exquisite Art Deco-style casing, Charlotte Tilbury’s K.I.S.S.I.N.G lipsticks hark back to old-school Gatsby glamour. ‘Love Bite’ is bright, moisturising and a lot of fun to wear. 

Charlotte Tilbury K.I.S.S.I.NG, €32

  

You knew it was coming, we knew it was coming, but how could we compile a list of iconic reds without including MAC’s best-selling Retro Matte lipstick, ‘Ruby Woo’? Worn by Christina Hendricks, Tracee Ellis Ross, your best friend, the girl you work with and the woman who lives down the street — this is one of those blue-reds that seems to suit everyone who wears it. Added bonus: it makes teeth appear whiter.

MAC Retro Matte lipstick, €20

For French girl chic, you want a matte red with buildable colour. Glossier’s sheer matte Generation G lipstick in ‘Zip’ fits the bill. This poppy red adapts to your natural lip colour so appears different on everyone who wears it — and it looks incredible with soft, neutral eyes. Style with a Breton top and small gold hoop earrings for a dash of Gallic insouciance.

Generation G sheer matte lipstick, €17

In an ideal world we’d be able to buy Gucci’s Dionysus bag, loafers and heron wallpaper. In a post-pandemic world, we’ll happily settle for the Rouge à Lèvres Voile lipstick which comes in a deliciously kitsch floral case. The perfect gift for Gucci lovers — or yourself. 

Gucci Rouge à Lèvres Voile, €38

This one is more future classic than Hall of Fame, but how could we not include a collaboration between the legendary Pat McGrath and street style Mecca, Supreme? The ‘iconic red’ went on sale in the US last week and we’re patiently waiting for it to arrive in Europe.

Supreme x Pat McGrath lipstick, €TBC

 

Another new collaboration, this time with MAC and make-up artists and sisters Sam and Nic Chapman. Sam created the blue-red ‘Amplified’ for the limited-edition collection which launches nationwide today. It comes in slick, 60s mod-style packaging and we’re predicting a sell-out.

Amplified Lipstick by Sam Chapman, €20

‘Jungle Red’ is one of the original 12 colours that Nars launched with, and it was recently reinvented with a new formula and vibrant red packaging. It’s a semi-matte true red “inspired by the 50s silver screen” and it has serious pin-up/femme fatale vibes — depending on how you’re feeling.

Nars lipstick, €29

Photography by Jason Lloyd Evans.

Read more: IMAGE staffers on their all-time favourite lipsticks

Read more: Four new ways to wear lipstick this season

Read more: Kate Moss shares a peek inside her beauty routine

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