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Red: the colour of love? The colour of hate? How does one colour manage to encompass so much? 

February is a month when there is absolutely no chance avoiding the colour red. Whether you love it or dread it, it is everywhere: roses, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, pillows.. 

But what is the history behind the symbolisim of this colour?

Red is commonly associated with danger, power and strength, yet in contrast, it also symbolizes passion, love and desire. So how does one go about trying to rationalize why red is the colour of Valentine’s Day, a commercial holiday that celebrates love in all its various forms?

Historically, red is one of the oldest pigments used by mankind, which is exemplified through cave paintings that have illustrations drawn out in red. The fact that it is one of the first pigments that ever existed gives it prominence over other colours. Maybe that’s why it is associated with both good and bad, love and hate, passion and danger because it was once one of few colours that did exist. 

Its also a known fact that red is a primary colour, alongside blue and yellow which adds to its prominence, as artists regard it with great importance for their work to create other colours such as purple and orange. History aside, however, there are other factors to consider when determining why the colour red plays such a pivotal part in society. Science, for example, claims that the colour red increases your heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. 

Do any of these feel familiar? 

Do you not feel something similar when you see something or someone you love?

Maybe you do or maybe you don’t, but these are just some of the arguments people have used to answer the question of why red has such close links to Valentine’s Day and in the larger picture love. 

The argument I agree with the most is that red is pumped full of cultural and societal meaning which is why it easily influences behaviour, be it positively and negatively. For the sake of this article, I will focus on the positive sway it has on people.

Red sends signals. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, it alerts a person to feelings of love, passion and desire. Psychologists at the University of Rochester found that men were more attracted to women who donned red clothing, compared to those who wore other colours

A similar study in France tested out different colours of lipstick on women to see which colour would attract the most number of men. The results of the experiment showed that men approached women wearing red lipstick most often and in the fastest amount of time. 

The result may be due to the fact that red sends signals. But it could also be the fact that red is a striking colour, thus, attracting the most attention in the room. 

Maybe that’s why red is the colour of love because love sells. Let’s face it, Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday after all. Roses, teddy bears and chocolates need to be sold, so why not use one of the most striking and bold colours known to man to get the job done and bring in the cash? 

 

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