In beauty, there is no category more timeless—or quintessential—than lipstick. As an enduring symbol of power and femininity, the transformative swipe of classic lipstick is never to be underestimated. Over the decades, brands have met perennial demand with a dizzying array of offerings, leaving no color, undertone, or finish unturned. But despite the scale of options, there are those strikingly universal shades that women keep coming back to. From true reds to nuanced nudes, here, a dozen classic lipstick shades with that certain something loyal masses can’t get enough of.
In 1952, Revlon launched its Fire & Ice ad campaign, starring Vogue cover girl Dorian Leigh, and caused a stir with its kitschy quiz supplement designed to decide if one was, in fact, suited to this tried-and-true bold red.
Inspired by the 1960 Italian drama La Dolce Vita starring Anita Ekberg, this dusty rose strikes a sophisticated balance between retro and modern pale-pink lips.
Since launching in 2006, Chanel's Rouge Allure Luminous Intense Lip Color in Pirate, a deep blue-based red, has been one of the best-selling red lipsticks of all time.
Making a hyper-gothic wash of color both flattering and accessible, the secret behind this deep berry hue is its sheer, glossy, and balm-like texture.
In 1953, Christian Dior created two “perfect red” lipsticks for the runway, “9” and “99,” and more than half a century later, this rich red is the gorgeous amalgam of the two.
A single slick of this matte nude pink will enhance the natural color of your lips to bespoke effect, while a few more layers builds to a more dramatic true mauve for a dose of understated glamour.
The coolest of cool reds, this iconic shade is flattering on virtually everyone, with subtle blue undertones that brighten teeth and the whites of the eyes in one fell swoop.
With its unmistakable vanilla scent, this creamy pinky-taupe nude goes on sheer and supplies a boost of radiance to a wide variety of complexions.
This shade is a darker-than-dark plum in the tube, but when you swipe on the shiny, semi-opaque formula, it reads more like a juicy deep fuchsia that you can layer on to your desired opacity.
Named after Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who made shocking pink her signature color, this electric fuchsia shade is just as head-swiveling as her Surrealist designs.
Known as the “Armani Red,” this rich, highly pigmented crimson strikes a perfect balance between cool and warm, and is a definitive classic for the Old Hollywood look.
In 1979, Yves Saint Laurent unveiled Rouge Pur Lipstick No. 19, a blue-toned dark fuchsia that still remains a best-seller thanks to its vivid pink pigments and stunning satin finish.
Makeup legend Bobbi Brown's debut line of lipsticks hit the Bergdorf Goodman counters in 1991. Of all the shades, her Lip Color in pink-tinged Brown caused the biggest sensation, helping to usher in the '90s nude lip look still being referenced today.
Recently unearthed for Guerlain's Legendary Reds collection by creative director of makeup Violette, Rouge Impériale is a deep berry crimson that was originally launched in 1870 and was the house's first lip color in stick form.