Lip Service

‘The curves of your lips rewrite history’ -Oscar Wilde

This blog is all about lip makeup, tracing it’s evolution from the 20’s, to beetroot stained lips in WW2, to the 50 shades of Kardashian nude of today, to explore the idea of whether any trend is really ‘new’.

London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 17 had my interest piqued by the ‘on purpose smudgy lip’ trend. Val Garland (VG) created and dubbed it the ‘snog-mouth’ look (i.e. been snogging all night) to rebel against the “boring perfection you see on Instagram these days… imperfection is modern”.

Indeed, I couldn’t agree more, I LOVE the nonconformist and provocativeness of this look, it’s the total opposite of the crisply lined, symmetrical, ‘perfect’ lips we had to master at makeup school..

Creatives know that history is the ultimate ‘influencer’, but was ‘snog mouth’ brand new? To fully appreciate where current lip trends come from, we must go down lip history lane because it all started a long time ago.

Rewind to the start of the C20th..


The roaring 20’s were all about jazz, prohibition, bootlegging and ‘flappers’…

Flappers were a generation of young Western women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. (Wikipedia)

Love-heart shaped lips we’re made popular by starlet Clara Bow and brooding colours of burgundy, merlot and plum in the coveted ‘Cupid’s Bow’ shape, were what every flapper wanted. Lipstick was a powerful symbol of rebellion for the new feminist movement. This iconic style has inspired countless Haute Couture looks for Dior, Chanel and Galliano; our current love of vampy lips harks back to then.


Skip to the 1940’s overdrawn lip – everybody was doing it then, just as now. During WW2 women were encouraged to show their patriotism by wearing bright red lipstick and sending pictures to their sweethearts at war, to keep morale high. This gave rise to wartime

lipsticks like Helena Rubinstein’s ‘Regimental Red’. When resources were scarce, women turned to beetroot and red onion skins to colour their lips rather than succumbing to ‘war face’. The 40’s lip screams confidence, strength and pin-up girl sex appeal. Another iconic lip look representing what was happening for women who at the time started working in factories and other traditionally male dominated roles, while their menfolk were at war.


The 50’s lip was a lot like the 40’s but much more conservative (as were the times post WW2), attempting to look ‘smiley’, innocent and coquettish by tapering the fall from the Cupid’s Bow to the corners. This look is timeless, feminine and has remained popular to this day.


50 shades of Kardashian nude is an understatement, but well before Kylie’s Lip Kit, (circa 1998) most of us were just using concealer as lippy. Nude lips stem from the 60’s and 70’s when pale, nude or glossed lips ruled supreme.


The 80’s were the era of excess and futurism and makeup was no exception, looking as bold and strong as the shoulder pads that accompanied it. Lips went back to being vividly coloured and voluptuous once more. Capturing 80’s sentiments but in a modern way is Vlada Haggarty MUA with look after look of textured, studded, metallic, colourful macro-shot lips dripping with metallic gloopy glossy goodness


The 90’s: no one left home without a swipe of brown lipstick during a time when ‘indie’ wasn’t just a music genre but a movement and there is very little photographic evidence… Then it hit me – ‘Snog Mouth’ also had another adjective: ‘grungy’.

Snog Mouth…

is a throwback to the 90’s but with a mix of Vintage colours and coquettishness. VG had created something truly new and it stands out because like lip trends of the C20th, it reflects what is happening right now by rebelling against ‘Instagram perfection’, an idea captured perfectly by The Alex Box:

By taking Snog Mouth to the runway, VG ensured that this look would permeate out and gain momentum:


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