by Amanda Cupido
Red has a split personality. She may strut around town on stilettos or be the one chosen to write a love letter. If caught on a bad day, she’ll show up on an angry face. She’s known for catching the eye and stopping people in their tracks.
The colour red is scientifically proven to stand out more than any other colour. Alice Chu, a Ryerson fashion professor and author of Design and Colour, says, “We look at red as a very noticeable and very strong colour.” Red wants to be in the spotlight.
Chu’s book explains how red draws the attention of the human eye because the, “rate of energy which is expressed physically through wavelengths.”
Red has long wavelengths with a low frequency of vibration. The retina distinguishes colours based on these wavelengths. This makes red at the top of the natural order of colours, followed by orange and then yellow.
Red likes to be first. According to Pigments Through the Ages, a web exhibit, red is the first colour humans can see. It also says, “brain-injured persons suffering from temporary colour-blindness start to perceive red before they are able to discern any other colours.”
Historically, red was put on a pedestal, just the way she wanted it. In the Neolithic era, warriors painted axes and spears with red in order to repel evil influence. Cave painters from that time also believed she had magic powers.
But red wanted to show people her darker side. The ancient Greeks associated her with the gods of war, Phoebus and Ares. In turn, she became linked to blood and fire.
In ancient Egypt red was also the colour which represented the destructive god, Seth. She began to develop a negative connotation and was related to all that was evil and wrong. Egyptian scribes used her when writing nasty words.
The schizophrenia begins.
Red moved away from her evil side at cultural events. India, Korea and China used red for the colour of wedding gowns. It is still prevalent to this day. Chu says that in this case, red represents joy and good luck. Red also attached herself to garlands and scarves at Roman weddings where she represented love and fertility.
With every relationship, there is love but there is also sex. Red soon became a colour of sexuality and was being labelled for her promiscuity. Because of this, she is still seen as seductive.
In 2005 Rabbi Eliyahu Abergil, from Israel, banned women from wearing red since it was the colour of prostitutes.
Red pushes her way into the media and isn’t afraid to come across as promiscuous. In Gary Marshall’s Pretty Woman (1990), Julia Roberts portrays a prostitute, where she is depicted wearing red lipstick and a red coat.
Similarly, Kim Cattrall, who played Samantha in the television series Sex and the City, was often wearing red attire to accompany her promiscuous character.
Paula Brancati, the actress who is Jane on Degrassi: The Next Generation, notices how the colour red is is used in television.
“When red is chosen it’s very deliberate,” says Brancati.
“When I’ve played promiscuous characters, it’s always the colour of choice.” She explains that certain costumes allow for specific characteristics to be portrayed and how red exudes “power and confidence.”
Chu explains how red is not only the colour of confidence, but hierarchy. She references the uniform of the RCMP and England’s soldiers. “It’s used to show royalty, power and authority.”
With her booming confidence, red calls the attention of anyone and everyone. She is used by companies to draw in potential consumers. Coca-Cola, Canada Post and the TTC like to use her for what she does best. She is able to get all eyes to look at her, no matter who is else around.
Red will make her escape when it gets to be too much. According to Chu, it is proven that the first crayon out of a child’s collection to go missing is most likely the red one. “That means it is really attractive and they like to use it,” she says.
Design and Colour explains that children learn certain responses to colours as they are growing up and how colour can be related to tastes, sounds, temperatures, textures or scents. She writes, “At times, our feelings for a particular colour may exist only at an unconscious level.”
Red isn’t just about colour, she’s about context. She’s hot, but loving. She’s captivating, but angry. She’s lucky. She’s promiscuous. She’s evil. And it’s certain that she’ll flush your cheeks in every moment of embarrassment and ecstasy