Since time immemorial lips have been symbols of sexuality and social psychology. We trace the power of the pout over the decades and the lip trends of today.
To many, the lips are the focal point of the face. They are highly suggestive, and their shape and look will speak volumes about you before you have even uttered a word.
There have been numerous studies on the influence of lips on our culture, their social psychology, sexuality and position as a fashion accessory. In this brief timeline, we take a look at the way lip fashions evolved throughout the decades and the directions they are taking in the current day.
1920s, 30s & 40s
As the film industry began to blossom in the 1920s, actress Theda Bara popularised the doll-like shape and vampy lip colour of the time. ‘Rosebud lips’ of deep red were fashionable and popularised by pin-ups such as Gloria Swanson and Clara Bow.
In the 1930s the natural lines of the lips were accentuated with the upper lip being wider than the lower. Joan Crawford, renowned for her wide mouth, sported this ‘arrogant’ look – and by all accounts an attitude to match. Marlene Dietrich in the 1940s also had an arrogant look, but the 40s somewhat reverted to the ‘cupid’s bow’ upper lip of the 20s, while keeping the broader upper lip of the 30s. Judy Garland had these lips accentuated with strong colour and Ingrid Bergman wore hers with a natural look. Red lipstick was the colour of choice in the 1940s, thought to be morale boosting during World War 2.
In the 1950s Marilyn Monroe epitomised the ideal in lips (and everything else). Her strong mouth, with a shorter lower lip emphasised by natural lines, was sensually highlighted by her open- mouthed smile, exaggerated by lip gloss.
1960s & 1970s
Shunning the vividly coloured lips and conformity of previous eras, the ‘free-love’ decade of the 1960s saw pale frosted colours and nude shades prevailing, taken from the hippie look and worn famously by Twiggy and Natalie Wood. This carried through into the 1970s for the day look (think Farrah Fawcett) – but at night disco fever leaned into bright glossy lip colours as seen on the legendary Diana Ross.
In a complete turnaround from the boho look of the previous 20 years, the 1980s heralded shock, gloss and glam – everything was about excess and the fashion and beauty world reflected this spectacularly. Madonna, Grace Jones and Cyndi Lauper pouted in pinks and violets and frosts and slicks.
The 90s was an interesting decade for lips. On the one hand you had oversized and overtly sexy aka Pamela Anderson – which coincided with a huge interest in cosmetic lip augmentation. On the other hand, grunge was very much in, with matte lip shades in raisins and browns paired with thin brows like those made famous by Drew Barrymore.
2000s and 2010s
In the new era of reality TV in the 2000s, super glossy lips reigned supreme, as donned by Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie, while the 2010s firmly cemented the muted matte lip.
In this decade, social media also had an unprecedented influence on the rise of lip filler treatments. Of course, in this era of reality stars and social media no one has been quite as influential as Kylie Jenner. The Keeping up with the Kardashians star has built a career on her transforming and ever-growing lips, with her lip kits repeatedly selling out in seconds and making liquid matte lipstick the new beauty essential.
In the 2020s, there are no general rules: individuality is the key to one’s own beauty. Lip filler has never been more popular, with ‘natural-looking volume’ the most commonly requested look. Usually the most coveted lips (an icon since the 1990s, Angelina Jolie continues to be a source of lip inspiration) are those that perfectly complement the proportions of the face and balance other facial features. CBM
What are the most attractive female lips?
What dimensions might create the most attractive lips in women? A new study published online by JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery* used focus groups and morphed computed images to try to find out.
In the study by Brian J.F. Wong, MD, PhD, of the University of California, Irvine, and coauthors, faces of white women were ranked by attractiveness with varied lip surface areas created for the faces and upper to lower lip ratios manipulated.
As it turns out, lips with a 53.5 percent increase in surface area from the original image with a 1 to 2 ratio of upper to lower lip that make up about 10 percent of the lower third of the face were deemed to be the most attractive, according to the results.
The study noted limitations, including that because there is no established reference range for total lip surface area modification in the general population, the surface area percentage reduction and augmentation extremes in the morphed faces were generated based on clinical experience of what seemed to be feasible.
‘We advocate preservation of the natural ratio or achieving a 1:2 ratio in lip augmentation procedures while avoiding the overfilled upper lip look frequently seen among celebrities,’ the study concluded.