I see red…
Apart from my mom, I don’t think anyone has that many red clothes in his or her closet. Any shade of red from candy to cherry, from blush to berry, from rose to ruby, she has them all.
As for me, my love for red has never extended to more than covering 60% of my body with this colour, including lipstick.
However, I have to admit that red is a conscious colour choice I make whenever I want to call for attention.
It can be when I need:
- to speak in front of a big crowd
- to stand out in a sea of people
- a little energy to lift my mood!
Studies have shown that waitresses wearing red lipstick earn higher tips (although here in Malaysia, I’d argue that it is more of the person being well-groomed rather than the colour of your pout).
Research also shows that men are more likely to find women in red attractive. I’d like to think that it is really the confidence level in being able to carry such a strong colour.
Is red for everyone?
One of the things which one should first consider is whether red will be compatible with the person’s personality.
Someone of a “Peacock” character (try the DOPE personality test to find out which bird are you) would go for every shade there is. On the other hand, a “Dove” would steer clear and might only have spots of red on his/her outfit.
That might explain why within an organisation, there is a higher chance of seeing sales personnel wearing more reds than their colleagues in the accounts department, for example.
So, if you are an introvert who stays mostly in neutral hues, then you need to make a conscious effort to wear more red if you want people to start noticing you.
Go with accessories first if you are not comfortable, and slowly make your way to painting a quarter of your wardrobe red.
The red right way?
Psychologically, red denotes passion, energy and fire. So if you want to ask for something, don’t barge in wearing something fiery red.
Subconsciously, red has the ability to make people feel intimidated or, at worst, evoke aggression.
If you’d like to ask for a salary adjustment, wearing a red camisole underneath a dark blazer is acceptable. But covering yourself in strong chilli red, or even its cousin, the fuchsia pink, is not something I would recommend.
Pick a blue, or grey, or even a white jacket. These are cooler colours, which will be more soothing to the eyes and hopefully, the heart.
Which shade of red to wear?
If you were to place a dozen red blouses next to each other, you would notice that each one is actually a slightly different shade of red.
This is because all colours have at least a small portion of either blue or yellow in them, which makes them either a cooler or warmer red. (See Figure 1)
Knowing whether or not a red is warm or cool is the first thing you need to identify before you can figure out which red is better.
Next, think about your wardrobe in general. If you prefer warm tones like orange, yellow, beige, brown, or olive green, then a warm red would be more flattering.
If you are someone who has a wardrobe filled with blue, purple, or grey, then pick a cool red instead.
Still unsure? Think of your jewellery. If your preference is gold, then it’s warm red. If it’s silver, then it’s cool red.
However, for people who look good in both gold and silver (usually of fairer skin tones), then either one is fine.
A personal observation: Malaysian men generally prefer cooler reds, for example, maroon, wine, and burgundy for their ties. Ladies, keep this in mind when you go shopping for your man (or your dad) the next time.
‘Red-dy’ for work?
Always think of your target audience or the situation you will be in.
If you are attending a boardroom meeting with a group of investment bankers (especially if it’s the first time), then a dark suit is better compared with a fiery red ensemble.
If you need to stand in front of a large crowd to present a new idea, a red suit which will exude confidence might work to your advantage.
As for our male counterparts, unless you are in the creative industry where red blazers, red shoes and red pants are already a part of your daily work wear, knotting a red tie will do for now.
However, do take note that if a red blazer is part of a company’s uniform, then these rules do not really apply.
A uniform is used to represent a company’s brand image and values. So, a red blazer may be used if the message the company wants to convey is “being bold”; or to make their clients identify and remember them better.
My red thoughts
For those who are still not so “into” the colour yet, it’s time to push yourself beyond your boundaries! To me, wearing red has more pros than cons.
How to be fashionably red?
Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Use red as your focal point
Never do red from top to bottom.
Red is a strong colour that can be used as a focal point in your outfit. But once your focal point covers more than 50% of your body, don’t repeat that colour anywhere else. That means if you are wearing a red dress (for ladies) or a red shirt (for men), don’t do red shoes or red ties.
- Use red to add interest
Repeat your colour if it’s spaced apart.
For example, with a red belt, you can repeat the colour with your earrings or shoes. For the gentlemen, if you adorn a red tie, then a tiny dash of red on your socks says you are fashion forward!
- Use red as an emphasis
Emphasise only your plus points.
If you have nice hair, then wear a red hairband. With a long neck, wear a red necklace.
Got yourself a nice shirt? Pair them with red cufflinks.
If you are concerned with the size of your calves and ankles, don’t wear red stilettos.
With a short body, don’t use a thick red belt.
Wendy Lee is president of Mabic (Malaysian Association of Brand & Image Consultants) and a director of BII (Brand Image International Institute). She is a firm believer that with style… there must be substance! Share with us your experimentation with the colour red (better still, with photos!) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Who knows, we might feature you in our future pullouts! For more Image Matters articles, click here.
Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 21 February 2015