Red Schmed - There ARE other colours for Valentine's Day...
Bored stupid with the 'wear red' cliche for Valentine's Day? While there IS something to it, there's a whole rainbow out there.
It’s that time of year. Shop fronts are festooned with red heart-shaped boxes of chocolates; scarlet lingerie; crimson shoes, scarves, cards, balloons. My local florist, usually offering a range of coloured blossoms, is now a sea of red roses for the predictable Valentine’s consumer.
This is no sour grapes. I do get it. Research supports that red is a high-arousal colour, meaning it stimulates the senses and increases blood pressure.
Wearing red says, ‘I’m confident – look at me.’
In nature, the colour red signals health and fertility in many animals – think of the robin’s red breast, or red bottom of the female macaque monkey in heat.
Red also has come-hither connotations for us humans, hence the colour’s prevalence around Valentine’s Day.
Research by University of Rochester psychologist, Adam Pazda, suggests that men perceive women wearing red as more sexually desirable. Why? Because the men in Pazda’s study regarded women in red as more sexually receptive (thus making women appear more attractive to men).
Women are not immune to the effects of the opposite sex wearing red either. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that women found men dressed in red as higher status, and therefore more sexually attractive.
But as Dr. Noam Shpancer notes in Psychology Today, wearing red doesn’t necessarily imply that a woman is looking for sex, nor that a man has high status. It could simply mean that the wearer likes the colour (or maybe nothing else was clean).
‘Wearing red is so complicated,’ one of my style coaching clients tells me. ‘I want to be noticed, but wearing red can be just too much. I feel too conspicuous, too OTT.’
For me, the complexities of wearing red become apparent in the fitting rooms of a London department store.
The scene: me trying on a pair of red frilly underpants. The challenge: while inspecting my scarlet-clad backside in the mirror, all I can think of is the macaque monkey.
Then I spot an exquisite emerald-coloured bra and knickers set.
The salesperson, sensing my interest, says with a wink, ‘emerald is the new red.’
Indeed it could be.
Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of Pantone’s Color Institute, notes that ‘symbolically Emerald brings a sense of clarity and rejuvenation, which is so important in today’s world.’
Eiseman adds that emerald enhances our sense of wellbeing, balance and harmony.
There’s even more good news about emerald.
‘Emerald is a very easy colour to wear,’ says Veronique Henderson, Creative Director of Colour Me Beautiful. ‘It’s bold enough to make a statement, but it’s not as domineering as red. And because it suits every skin tone, emerald looks good on everyone.’
Red will never go away – and don’t get me wrong, I adore it. But if you struggle with red (or roll your eyes at the Valentine’s cliché), the power of colour extends well beyond the high-arousal shades.
Coco Chanel famously said, ‘The best colour in the whole world is the one that looks good on you.’ Maybe it’s red. Maybe it’s something else. The power of colour is also how YOU feel wearing it.
For me, emerald might just leave red feeling green with envy this Valentine’s Day.