Rosie wears NARS x Erdem lipstick in Carnal Carnation.

The beauty equivalent of a strong blazer – a power piece for women-about-town – red lipstick is a bold communicator that commands attention.

Rife with cultural references, a coating of crimson is flooded with feminine, sophisticated and glamorous connotations for its storied history tied to some of 20th Century's most formidable women, like Queen Elizabeth ICoco Chanel, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Madonna. Meanwhile, the inception of painting the lips red starts well before – some 5,000 years! Mesopotamian women (circa 3500 B.C) perfected their pouts with a mixture of lead and crushed ochre (a type of clay that imbues an earthy red tint), while Ancient Egypt's most famous queen, Cleopatra, too created her regal look with the clay – sometimes looking to fish scales to impart a pearlessence effect, and always finishing the look with thick black eyeliner. 

Reflecting on its time-tested and cross-generational appeal, journalist Rachel Felder – a self-proclaimed red lipstick devotee herself – now celebrates lipstick's most iconic shade in Red Lipstick: An Ode to a Beauty Icon. "It looks great on blondes, brunettes, redheads, and women with grey hair; it's as well suited to dark complexions as it fair ones," she writes.

Considering the hue her "uniform, crutch, beautier, mask, fashion statement, loyal companion and reliable accessory", Rachel's passion pours through the pages as she looks back on red lippys staying power, and its defining moments in history and popular culture. From musings on Audrey Hepburn's on-screen looks in Funny Face, Sabrina and War and Peace to Madonna during her Blonde Ambition tour (for which she wore a blue-red lipstick created for her by Mac's co-founder, Frank Toskan); the science of lipstick formulas; and the stylistic nuances across the ages (think the 'Cupid's bow' sported by Flappers à la 1920 versus Joan Collins' wet-look lip in Dynasty), it is a rich investigation into what gives a lick of red lipstick such timeless allure.

Make red lips a part of your story; shop our edit featuring Chanel and Charlotte Tilbury:

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