Tinie Tempah can wear a red suit, but he is famous, and black. The rest of us, probably not. Red can be powerful, dynamic, assertive and successful. It is the colour of blood, fire, danger and passion.
Once I was given a red nylon (“sexy”) nightdress that I found so embarrassing that I pushed it back into its box for fear it might escape to torment suburban housewives everywhere. I hope the Oxfam shopper and his wife enjoyed it. And in a similar vein I once mistakenly bought red, knee-length boots in a sale. (I know. I took them back). As well as being associated with tarts, those that wear red can be seen as aggressive and demanding. Red with black is the ultimate drama look for adolescents, vampires, and assorted circus performers. Single-handedly it uniquely stands apart in a sea of ordinariness, and shouts out loud.
Red was the colour I struggled with most – there seem to be so many versions of red – cherry, scarlet, tomato, pillar box, wine, raspberry, watermelon, ruby and blood. I could never quite make up my mind about it. I knew I suited clearer, brighter (non-muted) shades. But I didn’t really understand the difference between warm (orangey reds) and cool (bluer reds), especially in terms of lipstick. It’s hardly surprising that many people steer clear of red as if you get it wrong it is quite uncomfortable. But actually everyone can wear red. It is worth persisting as it is a colour that brings life and energy in its wake.
I made up Style 4666 in a lovely piece of red linen, in just the right shade of cool, bright red, that I got in Goldhawk Road. I made version 2 with short sleeves and went with the white collar and cuffs. For the button I tried white, and I tried red. But both looked wrong. In my button box I found a solitary fabric button in “greige”. When I tried it I thought it did the trick.
In this photograph I have found a narrow greyish belt to go with it. By using white and a neutrals (brown shoes, clear tights, silver jewellery) rather than accessorising with red I think I created a look that was smart rather than overpowering.
Red clearly works well with neutrals. You can put it with white and navy for the traditional nautical look, although it is a bit predictable. Red with white and yellow, or navy and pink is more fun. In fact red with pink can be wonderful. I like to wear a red skirt, say, with a purple, yellow or green top – these combinations seem youthful and fun to me. But it can look a bit too strident. This is when I would use a navy or grey jacket or another tone of the same colour to calm it down. Alternatively use red as an accent colour – maybe a jacket over a dark outfit, or a handbag. Red trainers or Converse type shoes with jeans look nice on longer legged people. Men sometimes need a red tie, or scarf to make a suit or coat come alive.
Let’s consider the six versions of red that help us to choose which shades best complement our colouring.
Deep or Light?
Cool or Warm?
Bright or Muted?