Hollywood may be where cosmetics godfather Max Factor launched his empire, but the city’s most famous contributions to modern lipstick are the sunny (and occasionally frosted) coral shades that were popular in the ’70s and ’80s, when Farrah Fawcett and other bronzed blonds helped shape the world’s perception of the California Girl. As our obsession with tanning faded in the late ’90s, the prototypical SoCal gal turned to a lip color that Max Factor would have approved: ruby red. For more than a decade the hue has been as ubiquitous as Louboutin stilettos at Industry events and a mainstay on the nightlife scene.
Red is certainly not dead; instead it’s reaching depths befitting the harvest season. At the fall 2011 fashion shows, Missoni and Gucci models flaunted burgundy pouts the likes of which haven’t been seen since Courtney Love and Drew Barrymore capped off their long johns and Doc Martens with a wine-stained kisser. The color is tinting the mouths of not only Kristen Stewart and Alicia Keys, but also bartenders, shop girls, and hairdressers. The early-’90s fashion revival (lots of lumberjack plaid at Chris Benz and Y-3) helps contextualize the trend, but Hollywood makeup artist Jessica Liparoto, who’s been reintroducing her clients to the look, offers a simpler explanation: “Red is pretty cliché at this point, so women want something new.”
Cosmetics companies Paul & Joe, Revlon, Sue Devitt, and Smashbox are releasing burgundy lipsticks and glosses for fall after years of cultivating crimson shades. “It’s a great alternative to classic red,” says Devitt, “and perfect for those still unsure about wearing a red lip.” Don’t mistake the new shades for the gothic, gooey offerings of the recent past that riffed on the near-ebony vamp effect of the 1920s. This time around the formulas are sheerer and “have a little bit more violet to them rather than being blackish,” says Jamie Greenberg, an L.A.-based makeup artist. “They’re friendlier. And it’s not one burgundy across the board. You have to think of burgundy like you do red—you need the right one for your skin tone.”