It was only a matter of time before classic ’90s trends filtered through our wardrobes and into our make-up bags. Rival only to the ubiquity of Y2K’s ongoing resurgence, we’ve welcomed ’90s spaghetti straps, cropped cardigans and claw clips back into our lives with open arms. The latest trend from the decade to hit the digital ether? Dark, exaggerated lip liner that contrasts with your natural lip colour.
Popularised over three decades ago by the likes of Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford, and nicknamed “the supermodel lip”, unblended liner became synonymous with a highbrow, out-of-reach kind of glam. Then it made its way onto our favourite pop stars’ pouts, namely in the music video for Brandy & Monica’s 1998 banger The Boy Is Mine. A year later, Lil Kim wore what’s now considered one of pop culture’s most legendary outfits at the MTV VMAs, pairing stylist Misa Hylton’s purple seashell jumpsuit with a gloriously exaggerated frosted lip.
Ever since Kylie Jenner’s holy grail Lip Kits hit shelves in 2015, the high definition liner trend has slowly been seeping back into the mainstream. Celebrities and MUAs alike gladly and knowingly overline lips in order to accentuate pouts. While we’re here for some contrasting lip liner, we’d suggest approaching the look with deft delicacy and research, and opt instead for red, pink or vibrant coloured liners instead. Why? Well…
It’s important to note one of the major origins of the look: Latina and Chola culture. We all remember the ‘90s, but while it’s easy to be nostalgic, it’s always best to do your research. Dark lip liner was popularised by Cholas, a minority group of first and second generation Mexicans who settled in LA and the surrounding areas in the ‘90s. “Chola” itself is a reclaimed colonial term, adopted by working class Mexicans in the ‘60s who were living and working in the states. The Chola make-up style itself is super distinctive: big black cat eyeliner, quiffed hair, name-plate gold earrings and deep dark brown lip-liner. The 1994 film Ma Vida Loca is a great place to begin with educating yourself on the deeply influential Chola style.
So while we’d encourage experimenting with your make-up, as ever it’s good to do your homework. Now, for some more details on the look…
Why do we care?
Lip liner is a low-commitment, simple way of defining and boosting your pout. Wearing liner without lipstick is a quick win and can create a flattering ombre effect.
What’s the energy?
If you’re caucasian, best to stick to reds and strong pink hues, and embrace the contrast: fresh, modern and less faff than a full red pout. Otherwise look to the ‘90s icons of your youth for inspiration: Brandy, Naomi Campbell, J Lo and Lil Kim are great places to start.
Who’s doing it?
Pretty much everyone. Doja Cat prefers a lower contrast, more blended but still contrasting lip, while FKA twigs is going full Spice Girls with a bare lip and a razor-sharp deep brown liner. Megan Thee Stallion has embraced the full shaded look and Barbie Ferreira has added a futuristic high gloss finish in a Hollywood red. Our favourite runway star Paloma Elsesser took the look back to basics in a polished nude variation, and Alva Claire stuck to the hymn sheet and kept it classic.
How can I DIY?
As ever, head to TikTok for the hacks and product recommendations. Before you apply your chosen lip liner, use a lip scrub or, better yet, your toothbrush to get rid of dead skin and boost circulation to your pout. Shoot for one or two shades darker than your favourite lipstick or natural lip colour. Focus on the cupid’s bow and the centre bottom of your lower lip to maximise and draw attention to the widest points of your mouth.
Who’s the ideal candidate?
Any women of colour looking to live out their early 2000s fantasy.
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