Red is hot
â€The lady in redâ€ is a fabled and sexually charged symbol. She has been celebrated in song, myth, and popular culture. Now new research has shown that the â€œman in redâ€ also packs a sexual punch.
For their study researchers had women and men look at pictures of men. On different occasions the men were framed in either grey, green, blue, red, or white. As a further variation the colour of the manâ€™s shirt in the photo was digitally altered to one of these colours. The subjects were asked to rate the man in the photograph for attractiveness and to indicate whether they would date, kiss, or engage in other sexual activity with the man. They also rated the man on what they thought were his general likeability and kindness.
The first thing to note about these findings is that they are cross-cultural. People in the United States, the United Kingdon, Germany, and China were included in the study. Across all of the cultures men were regarded as more attractive when they were surrounded by, or wearing, red. Interestingly, red did not make a man seem more likeable or nice. This effect however, was limited only to women; men did not make the same judgement.
What then does it all mean?
What it reflects is that we are, and probably have always been, attracted to the colour red. This is true in an evolutionary and cultural sense. If you look at non-human primates like baboons the males with the most red are regarded as alpha males who are the preferred mates among the females. There is nothing that speaks success in primate circles like a nice red face or bottom.
Culturally too, red has been seen as a sign of power and status across the globe and across time. In ancient China, Japan, and sub-Saharan Africa red was seen as a sign of prosperity. In ancient Rome a crimson red (not purple as popularly misconceived) was the province of the most powerful of the upper class.
Biologically and culturally the attractive qualities of red are deeply ingrained.
So gentleman, don your red ties and crimson pants; itâ€™s â€œgo timeâ€; but why stop with your clothes? If we hark back to the news story last Monday on chillies lowering blood pressure perhaps you could combine the face reddening capacity of a powerful chilli with this research and begin your night out with a good green curry; your blood pressure will be lowered and your flushed face will have the fans flocking.