sex & relationships

The root of red: Why it is the colour of love

Written by kirstiekeate
Ahh, radiant red!

Ahh, radiant red! The colour of valentines hearts, roses and love, it’s also the colour of danger and the teachers marking pen (though that’s a different matter altogether!). Why do we associate red with love so closely and is there really an increased link between love and red more so than any other colour and romance?
The short answer is, yes. Recent studies have concluded that women wearing red are viewed by men as more sexy than those wearing other colours and consequently as more of a sexual threat by other women.  
Men interacting with women were more likely to ask intimate questions and sit closer to women wearing red than those wearing any other colour. Also men viewed women in red as more open to sexual advances, and that perception has a direct effect on how sexually attractive men view women to be, as men tend to inflate a woman’s sexual appeal if they think they will respond more positively to a chat up line.
However, it’s not only the male perception of women affected by in this way by the colour red. Research has found that men wearing red or viewed against a red background are also seen as more attractive to women and were perceived to be of higher social status.
The lure of red is nothing new. In many cultures red is seen as the colour of luck, if we think of sports cars, red is normally the colour that comes to mind and royalty is closely associated with red so there’s already a huge cultural association between red and power which itself is important as there’s a huge correlation between power and sexual attractiveness. Never underestimate the allure of a person in power.
Evolution and origins
So why does red have this effect on us? That’s a more complicated issue.  Firstly, red itself is a bright eye catching colour. Like orange and yellow, visually it’s just more stimulating than say a grey or a brown so you are bound to attract attention wearing it.
But is there more to it than just the visual stimulation that it sparks? Red is used throughout the animal kingdom to attract a mate. The male Frigatebird inflates a huge red sac on his chest to attract a mate, for example, and the bright red male cardinal bird has been shown to have more success finding a mate the brighter red his plumage is. 
It’s our closest relations in the animal kingdom, the monkey family, that perhaps provide the strongest clue as to why red has this effect on us. When female members of this family become fertile, oestrogen levels peak, which in turn causes their blood vessels to open up, giving them a flushed appearance and signifying to the males that now is the time to make their move!  
Humans behave in a similar manner whereby oestrogen is again at its highest level at the peak of a woman’s fertility which makes faces flush slightly and the mouth become redder and more swollen, hence why, throughout the centuries, women have used blush and lip colours to attract a mate, and also why we have the trend for the ‘bee sting’ lip look.
So, if you’re single and don’t want to be, get your best red top on, you never know where it will get you. Although, if you’re after a quiet night out with your mates, perhaps stick to green!
What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.
Image: Liz West