With Valentine’s Day a mere 3 weeks away, I have scarlet cabbage roses, candlelit romance, and of course delicious homemade chocolates on the brain. But what is it about February and that loveable martyr, Saint Valentine, that thrust the color red into my every thought?
Chaucer brought romance to Saint Valentine’s Day, but the color red has deeply ingrained origins that predate the birth of our love-holiday. Modern linear thought tells me I should find it odd that red is considered both the color of love and of anger. In America and some other countries, it also means “stop”. Maybe the true association is passion; a burning force that compels you to approach the edge.
From coral to ruby to crimson, the color red has always thrilled. In nature, red is the color of Mars, of the hemoglobin in our blood, roses and rhododendrons, summer fruits, and the faces of alpha mandrills. In psychological tests, people who are exposed to the color red outperform physically, but fall behind cognitively. Red is the color of Scarlett’s letter, prostitution, wrath, lust, negative colloquialisms (“caught red-handed”), Communism, massacre, sacrifice, and of sin throughout western history. So how did a mere portion of the color spectrum come to elicit such a fiery response?
I think, although you may not have consciously known this fact, it will seem quite intuitive when you hear it.
Simply, red light travels farther through air than any other color in the spectrum. Due to its long wavelength (so long, in fact, that it is the longest visible wavelength in the spectrum), it is not scattered easily by microscopic dust particles. It hightails it directly to your eyes no matter how distant it is. Red is, by natural law, the most impulsive of colors. Given a fate to always be first on the scene, announcing its undying presence.
And so I suppose on this Valentine’s Day, I’ll ask Red to dinner. My natural, scientific love affair. Though I am fairly certain I will be in line with all of you, holding a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates at the far reaches of her wavelengths.
An article on the most famous color would not be complete without photos of its most iconic dresses. From Marilyn Monroe to Jessica Rabbit, I present Red’s finest vintage creations: