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Seeing Red on Womens Day

Fashion seems to be ignoring Pantone’s decree of Viva Magenta as the colour of 2024 and insisting instead on cherry red hues.

On the pavements outside the FW24 catwalks the street-style set - the best barometer of what will actually end up in our wardrobes - showcased a variety of red hues from crimson, tomato and scarlet to darker shades of wine, garnet and blood reds. Inside the shows, data from Tagwalk evidences red as the joint 6th most prominent colour as shown by the top 20 [most online views] shows. Add to this the current blanket coverage of TikTok’s 'Unexpected Red Theory' for interiors, it seems that Red - originally trending for AW23 - will continue to dominate the colour palette for the next couple of seasons. But why is red so powerful and why are consumers so influenced by it?


Unlike other brights, studies suggest red creates a unique physical and psychological response, influencing our emotions and behaviour. The different colours in the spectrum are perceived due to different light wavelengths, with red having the longest wavelength (around 700 nanometres, fact fans). Research posits that longer wavelengths are experienced as physiologically exciting and stimulating, with shorter wavelength colours such as green or blue experienced as relaxing (1). Red is considered to increase the speed and force of our physical responses (2) and influences explicit cognition, making us more alert and increasing sensory perception. With regards to this, red may also affect pain thresholds with researchers finding that a reddened arm significantly decreases the pain threshold in comparison to normal or blueish skin (7). Furthermore, other studies suggest that exposure to red elevates blood pressure, and increases respiratory and blink rates, with decreases occurring when blue light is perceived (3,4).

Red is also considered to increase metabolism, which in turn serves to increase hunger, explaining why red is a popular choice for restaurants (5). The perception of the colour red is also considered to make food taste sweeter (6), a reaction which is thought to be due to evolutionary factors for assessing potential food sources for ripeness.

Head to Toe Red at Outside the Catwalks during FW24/25 Fashion Month

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Red and Emotional Response

Research shows that the most prominent colour-emotion association is yep, you guessed it, red, with 'red-anger' associated by 73% of study participants and 'red-love' by 68%. The next most associated colours to emotion were ‘pink-pleasure' (63%), ‘pink-love’ 63% and then ‘yellow-joy ‘(61%) (8).

An alternate theory in colour perception suggests culture impacts the colour-emotion association. This ‘colour in context’ theory assumes that both evolution and experience will impact an individual’s response (13).  Research in this regard has mainly concentrated on the colour red, with the proposal that red can be perceived either negatively or positively depending on the context. The 'red-romance' association, in this case, is considered to be derived from both evolutionary (significance of the colour amongst primates) and social learning (e.g. red for Valentines' Day). In heterosexuals, both women and men wearing red clothes are regarded by the opposite sex as more desirable, although the effect is lesser on women’s perception of men. It is worth noting too, that effect sizes are considered to be reducing over time across both genders, suggesting that society is moving away from this perception (14).

A Pop of 'Unexpected Red' seen outside at FW24/25

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Other research suggests red is associated with dominance and power (15). During the 2004 Olympics competitors in four sports were randomly assigned red or blue kits to wear whilst competing. Researchers found that contestants wearing red were significantly more likely to win, even after the results were controlled for skill level (9). Suggestions for this effect range from the psychological impact the colour had on the wearer, the increased visibility of the red competitor (10), to referee bias in perceiving the players in red as more dominant (11). Another study suggested that poker players who gamble with red chips also feel more dominant, making them more intimidating to others, which had the effect of a more aggressive playing style. (12) Together these studies provide strong evidence for the red effect of either boosting confidence and/or intimidating opponents.

Red as a signifier as seen at Tate Britain's 'Women In Revolt'

In the 18th century, red was identified as the colour of resistance and revolution. A red flag hoisted before battle meant that no prisoners would be taken. Given its association with dominance and anger it could be suggested that red's current popularity reflects the shift, post me-too in the way women are fighting for their rights. Examples of the historic association between red and feminism include feminist magazines such as Red Rag and art movements such as Seeing Red. In 1912 Elizabeth Arden handed out red lipsticks to New York Suffragettes marching past her salon, aligning herself with the cause and forever associating a red lip with female empowerment. The use of red in the artworks at Tate Britain's 'Women in Revolt' exhibition provides a salient representation of how women in history have adopted the colour to protest the patriarchy. With increasing awareness of gender inequality and the recent erosion of womens rights in the US and Afghanistan - and if it is truly the colour of anger and resistance - then we should expect to see red for a long time to come. 

To understand the long range forecast for red and how it may impact your customer base please contact us or email


1.             Crowley (1993) Crowley AE. The two dimensional impact of color on shopping. Marketing Letters. 1993;4:59–69. doi: 10.1007/BF00994188.

2.             Elliot, A. J., & Aarts, H. (2011). Perception of the color red enhances the force and velocity of motor output. Emotion, 11(2), 445–449.

3.             Gerard (1958) Gerard RM. Color and emotional arousal [Abstract from the program of the sixty-sixth annual convention of the American Psychological Association] . Abstract 340American Psychologist. 1958;13 

4.              AL-Ayash A, Kane RT, Smith D, Green-Armytage P. The influence of color on student emotion, heart rate, and performance in learning environments. Color Res Appl. 2015;41(2):196-205. doi:10.1002/col.21949

5.             Thorndike AN, Sonnenberg L, Riis J, Barraclough S, Levy DE. A 2-phase labeling and choice architecture intervention to improve healthy food and beverage choices. Am J Public Health. 2012;102(3):527-533. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2011.300391

6.             Harrar, V., Piqueras-Fiszman, B., & Spence, C. (2011). There’s More to Taste in a Coloured Bowl. Perception, 40(7), 880-882.

7.             Martini M, Perez-Marcos D, Sanchez-Vives MV. What Color is My Arm? Changes in Skin Color of an Embodied Virtual Arm Modulates Pain Threshold. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Jul 31;7:438. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00438. PMID: 23914172; PMCID: PMC3728482.

8.             Jonauskaite, D., Parraga, C. A., Quiblier, M., & Mohr, C. (2020). Feeling Blue or Seeing Red? Similar Patterns of Emotion Associations With Colour Patches and Colour Terms. I-Perception, 11(1).

9.             Hill, R., Barton, R. Red enhances human performance in contests. Nature 435, 293 (2005).

10.          Rowe, C., Harris, J. M., & Roberts, S. C. (2005). Seeing red? Putting sportswear in context. Nature, 437(7063), E10-E10.

11.          Hagemann, N., Strauss, B., & Leißing, J. (2008). When the Referee Sees Red …. Psychological Science, 19(8), 769-771.

12.          Ten Velden, F. S., Baas, M., Shalvi, S., Preenen, P. T., & De Dreu, C. K. (2012). In competitive interaction displays of red increase actors' competitive approach and perceivers' withdrawal. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(5), 1205-1208. 

13.          Elliot, A. J., & Maier, M. A. (2012). Color-in-context theory. In Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 45, pp. 61-125). Academic Press

14.          Lehmann, G. K., Elliot, A. J., & Calin-Jageman, R. J. (2018). Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Red on Perceived Attractiveness. Evolutionary Psychology, 16(4).

15.           Mentzel, S. V., Schücker, L., Hagemann, N., & Strauss, B. (2017). Emotionality of colors: An implicit link between red and dominance. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 243242.



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