Code Red


A/W17 Trend Review Part 1: Any colour as long as it's R E D!

From deepest burgundy, through ruby and onwards to bright scarlet and tomato shades, if there’s one colour to be seen in next season it’s red.  Indicative of danger, aggression and even war, while simultaneously signifying willpower, warmth, love and leadership, this polarising primary appeals and repels in equal measure.  

"All my life I've pursued the perfect red." —Diana Vreeland

This season fashion has taken a grown up approach to the colour – less Jessica Rabbit, more Julia Roberts – in the form of upmarket, columns of red that simply ooze sophistication.  Fitting then, that for a refreshing change, the runways reflected the current mood for ageless beauty and female empowerment by featuring a significantly higher quota of 30+ models.

Red has long been associated with passion, lust and sexual desire, making it a favourite of womenswear designers looking to enhance the female aesthetic.   

Many a scientific study has shown that men rate women in red as more attractive, and are inclined to tip more if their waitress is wearing red!  Perhaps surprisingly, it cuts both ways – women tend to find men in red ties, or shot against a red background more appealing.  Of course, as with most perception-based research, similar studies refute these findings.  It is possible, however, to attribute the effect to subliminal evolutionary signals – marginally redder skintones are ascribed to good circulation and, consequently, good health.  Are we hard-wired to draw the same inference from a wearer of red clothes?  


There is another theory.  

Unsure whether the so-called ‘red dress effect’ is in the eye of the beholder or is a function of the wearer’s increased self-confidence, colour psychologists found a clever way to put the theory to the test. 

Their experiment dressed some participants in red, and everyone else in another colour, then showed cropped photographs to the judges, without revealing the colours being worn. 

Red-wearers were still rated more highly! 

Could it be that wearing red makes us feel sexier, thus making us behave more confidently, holding ourselves with more grace, enhancing our allure?

When in doubt, wear red
— Bill Blass

More evidence for the power of wearing red can be found in the world of sport. During the 2004 Olympics, psychologists Russell Hill and Robert Barton, from the University of Durham, found that in combat sports like tae kwon do and boxing, where athletes were assigned red or blue kits at random, those who fought in red were around 5% more likely to win than their blue competitors.  A further study in 2009 by sports psychologists at the University of Munster found that red-kitted players were likely to score 10% more than their non-red-wearing competitors.  One can surely conclude that although wearing red won’t make you an automatic winner, it can give you the edge when the playing field is otherwise level.

“I want to be different. If everyone is wearing black, I want to be wearing red.” — Maria Sharapova

Clearly this bold hue exudes confidence and screams of the wearer’s strength, determination and power.  So in this era of female ascendency, it’s no surprise we’re seeing red dominate our catwalks. 

But are we ready to stalk our streets in it, or indeed, sport it in our offices and boardrooms?  I say “Heck yes!”  I’m no supporter of positive discrimination or quota systems per se, but a little psychological edge never hurt while the 18% pay gap still persists! 

In fact, following the success of the Women’s March on Washington in January, organisers encouraged women to wear red and/or strike on International Women’s Day 2017 in protest at the economic inequality and prejudice suffered by many women in the workplace.  

Similarly, the Red Shoe Movement encourages women to wear red shoes to work on Tuesdays in solidarity with their mission of ‘women supporting women’ to succeed in their career goals.  So by wearing red to work, you might not just help your own career by standing out, exuding confidence and leadership, you could inspire your peers to get involved too.

If you’re still not convinced by the power of red, the colour has also been shown to have several physiological effects – including increased respiration rates (usually caused by pain or fever) and raised blood pressure - but most intriguingly, it can also enhance metabolism.  Sounds like a win-win season, ladies!  On trend and burning calories faster?  Colour me red all over!

"There is a shade of red for every woman." —Audrey Hepburn