Photo: "nycuk" on Flickr.
A study published on Tuesday claims to prove that women wearing red are more likely to drive men crazy than if clad in any other colour. We tested the theory on our Observers from Iran to Japan, and found it not far from the truth.
There are few things that have a profound effect on each and every of the world's cultural pockets. The prohibition of incest, noted by Lévi-Strauss, is considered the only truly universal code. The colour red likewise strangely unites people across the world - by causing controversy wherever it's found.
The study released on Tuesday claims to prove that a woman wearing red is found far more attractive than in other colours, with men admitting to spending more money, and being more interested in sex with, a woman donned in rouge. The study, released by the University of Rochester, New York, seems to offer evidence on the long term relationship between human psychology and the colour red. A colour that appears in varying forms in almost every culture around the world; and with an equally provocative effect in each.
Annie Mollard is specialised in the study of colours. She's the author of "The Dictionary of Words and Expressions of Colour", which includes a volume devoted to the colour red.
Red goes back a long way. For a long time it was the only colour that took to cloth, the only colour that dyed. So it become the colour of the powerful, reserved for emperors and banned for the public. It's a sign of pride.
It also represents the original sin and provocation since Eve gave the red apple to Adam and led man to his downfall. Subconsciously, red is the colour of sexuality. For a long time prostitutes have worn a red item of clothing or accessory as a code - and there's the red light in brothels. Fairytales like Little Red Riding Hood, a metaphor for the tempted child who discovers her sexuality too early, have perpetuated this association.
Some cultures are still against wearing red. And yet in Spain it's a common colour and associated with flamenco and tradition. Then in the north of France, and particularly Paris, it goes quite unnoticed."
Farnaz Seifi is an Iranian feminist who now lives in Europe.
It's also considered provocative because it's so related to sex. Personally I remember until around ten years ago wearing red was something you rarely saw; if someone was wearing red everyone turned back and stared at them. Then when [Mohammad] Khatami [a liberal reformist] became president ten years ago and hijabs became more of a fashion statement than a religious symbol, bright colours became more wearable. Junior schools changed their uniforms to bright shiny colours: purple; green; yellow, but still, never red.
You can't go to a governmental office with a red scarf; they'll give you a black one to wear. Some people see it as civil disobedience - those who are against the hijab are saying 'if you force us to wear it then we'll wear a colour you don't like'. Especially with teens - it's important for them to feel attractive, and wearing red shoes is considered the sexiest thing in Iran."
Mark Schumacher writes an online dictionary about Buddhism and Shintoism in Japanese Art. He studies the use of the colours in Japanese iconography; he's currently working on white. He lives in Kamakura, Japan."
Renuka Singh is a sociologist from New Delhi, India.