Expert on all things color, Keith Recker, author of the book Deep Color: The Shades That Shape Our Souls, walks us through the power of red.
Red is a kiss, a caress, a loving embrace. Red is also a warning and sometimes a welcome. Red is a symbol of power and a badge of shame. Red is deeply personal, drawing us into the sensations of our own body as well as toward our attraction to others. It stands for the warmth of the hearth and the scornful flame of vanity. It is beauty. It is violence.
When we “see red,” the flush of anger pushes us to charge like a raging bull and yet bashful blushes are signs of modesty or shyness. On the other hand, the red–blooded among us bravely wade into danger in the name of love, duty and justice. And when those fires burn too hot, red can become a smoldering signal of transgression and decadence, like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
A recent study suggesting that athletes wearing red win more often helps explain why, for many centuries, it is the color of kings and captains. Charlemagne even wore red from head to foot to underscore his new authority when crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800 CE.
Red is also a sign of luxury and until the development of synthetic dyes in the late 19th century, saturated red textiles required great expense and effort, often set aside for the richest members of society. And designers of every era have harnessed its power in dozens of ways to bring the color of human life into rooms of the home. Billy Baldwin created a luxurious, immersive garden of reds for Diana Vreeland’s living room and David Easton deeply infused his adaptation of historical styles with red’s heat.
In a more intimate context, red kindles our passions; think crimson dresses and lipstick. Recent branding for fashion labels like Valentino and Louboutin have used the color to evoke sex and power. In red’s seductive and warming embrace, we revel in its sensuality and potency, and in full doses or as a strategically deployed accent, red kindles the senses and makes us feel alive.