Friday, 6 November 2015

Lips Don’t Lie

When Scarlett O’Hara asked Mammy to make her a flattering dress out of the portieres, she had a very specific purpose in mind; to charm Rhett Butler. It’s a pity she didn’t use the lipstick instead.

The real reason behind a simple incident born in the thoughts of Margaret Mitchell in 1939, and was lost equally easily in the pages of ‘Gone with the Wind,’ was elaborated upon by a curious group of researchers almost seven decades later.

Amidst the 2008 recession when unemployment went through the roof and a great many companies, in almost all sectors, registered record plummeting of sales, one industry did not just stay afloat but actually saw an increase of almost 6% in sales. This was none other than the cosmetic titan, L’Oréal. Those who sat to speculate could not attribute L’Oréal’s success to any incredible business strategy; rather the answer came from evolutionary psychology, especially the mating psychology of women and may be, lies somewhere in our concept of beauty.

Make-up, especially lipstick, is not a vain modern invention. Tinting lips in face decoration has played a very important role in civilizations for thousands of years. Both men and women of the Ancient Sumerian civilization used gemstone powder, a luxury only the rich could afford, to tint lips in an attempt to attract the opposite sex; a very powerful emotion in evolutionary psychology of mankind.

Each civilisation has witnessed periods of abundance and scarcity alike. Where periods of abundance may trigger different mating patterns in humans, ferocious competition arises during scarcity. Beautification during scarcity was mainly to attract a resourceful mate. This principle pretty much holds true even today. Signs and symbols that were explicit in the ancient times may have been reduced to mere innuendoes as the world has progressed and has become more civilized, nonetheless, have not been wiped out and never will. Scarcity in the ancient world, which could be the times of famines or droughts, signified a man’s inability to provide food for his mate and offsprings. For single women, it also meant nonavailability of quality mates. So during these times, the efforts to attract a quality male partner are amplified. Today it entails unemployment or lack of monetary support and security that a man can provide, which is often the case during economic recessions.

‘The lipstick effect’ as it was termed, apparently had not occurred for the first time in 2008. During the Great Depression (1929-33) cosmetic sales rose while US industrial production was cut by 50%. All employees in Beiersdorf kept their jobs while unemployment was on the rise in Germany. Japan saw a 10% rise in the sales of accessories while the disposable income remained stagnant or has even reduced since 1997. Stock market investors can rest assured if they have invested in the cosmetics industry. This is a recession-proof industry; numbers don’t lie.

While the hypotheses itself falls short on the number of factors that are at play in the game of attraction; it does present an aspect of human behaviour and the primal instincts of homo sapiens. It articulates the importance of security needs which is pretty much ingrained in our DNA. 

No comments:

Post a Comment