The Financial Express

Black lipstick in early Hollywood movies : Symbolic or strategic?

Black lipstick in early Hollywood movies : Symbolic or strategic?

"I love black lipstick! I think it's daring, it's bold. There is a way it can be really beautiful." - the statement by Rihanna Fenty, a famous Barbarian singer and actress, went viral on social media platforms and inspired the #blacklipstickchallenge last year. 

Even the trend of wearing black lipstick also had been witnessed on the red carpet of international film festivals through the appearance of Hollywood actresses with black lips.

However, the practice of wearing black lipstick is not something new in the Hollywood film industry. During the 1920s, famous actresses of the silent film era such as May Murray, Louise Fazenda and Clara Bow appeared on the screen with black lips. Though black lipstick was not accepted broadly by the mass people of western society at that period, undoubtedly, the gorgeous looks of mainstream actresses charmed the audience.

As there are multiple colours or shades of lipsticks, each of the colours or shades has an individual symbolic meaning. For instance, bright red lipstick makes a bold statement of confidence and self-reliance whereas subtle red projects modesty. 

On the other hand, hot pink illustrates the adventurous nature of a person while baby pink presents the adorable sides.

So, what does black lipstick represent? Though there is a myth that black lipstick portrays the negative or evil traits of a person, it actually represents the obscure nature of a human being to the world. It also indicates the person has a dark sense of humour and can not be easily amused.

As we are talking about the appearance of old Hollywood actresses with black lips, it can be mentioned that the reason behind wearing black lipstick on the screen was completely strategic.

It is important to mention the name of Maksymillan Factorowicz, the Polish-American businessman, beautician, entrepreneur and inventor, who popularised the term 'Makeup' and who had a big contribution to this 'Black Lipstick' strategy. He is the founder of the popular cosmetics brand 'Max Factor,' which has been running since 1909.

It is easily understandable that the lightings of the old Hollywood films were not as developed as the lighting of today's films. For this reason, heavy grease paint was used as makeup for the actresses. Max Factor came up with a more blendable version of primary colours which is called 'Flexible Greasepaint.'

With the flexible Greasepaint, Max redrew contours and lines on bright red lips with black to make the contrast visible. Such a strategy was applauded back then and suited the film-making technologies. 

Today, black lipstick is used more for symbolic reasons than for strategic ones.

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