You have heard of Big Mac Index, a semi-humorous way of measuring the purchasing power parity between two currencies using McDonald’s hamburger as the main product. But have you heard of Lipstick Index? It is a term coined by Leonard Lauder, chairman of the board of Estee Lauder, to describe sales of cosmetics during the early 2000s recession. Lauder identified that consumer turns to less expensive indulgences, such as lipstick, during times of economic uncertainty.
Lipstick Index is supposed to be an economic indicator – sales of lipstick tends to increase during economic distress. Japanese cosmetics maker Shiseido Co., meanwhile, has taken the lipstick index to another level. Based on 100 years of changes in makeup trends compiled, the company claims that popular trends in women’s makeup hold clues to the condition of the economy.
Here’s how it works:- when the economy is good, thick eyebrows and bright-coloured lipstick become popular, and when the economy is bad, thin eyebrows and thinly-colored lipstick are the trend. The proofs? During 1950s and 1980s when the Japanese economy was bullish, thick eyebrows and bright lipstick were popular. However, during recession in 1970s and late 1990s, women displayed thinner eyebrows and used lipstick with colors closer to skin-color.
Apparently, Shiseido claims Japanese women are sensitive to the atmosphere of the times. When society is in a bright mood, such as bullish economy, they prefer bright and lively makeup. When society is in a dark mood, especially during economic bubble burst, they tend to use less-lively and simpler makeup. Shiseido also believes women are psychologically affected by events going on around them.
Nevertheless, Shiseido notices that eyebrow color now is different than during the bubble period. Rather than straight black, brown and other thin colors are the favourites now. It could be explained that while Japanese women are feeling bullish about “Abenomics”, the thin colour of their eyebrows shows their uncertainty about whether things are really going to improve, or about to turn for the worse.
While one shouldn’t discount the impact that celebrities can have on Japanese fashion, the major cosmetics maker claims that it’s another influential figure driving the boom. Critics say bright red lipstick still isn’t generally seen as something that’s entirely appropriate to wear in an office environment, whether the Japan’s economy is booming or otherwise. Perhaps the lipstick index is applicable to young, fashion-conscious hipsters and not the typical OL (Japanese shorthand for a female office worker).
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