Red, or any color for that matter, is open for interpretation. The color, however, is associated with a lot of things. It can mean anger, fury, sin, fire, intensity, lust, and most commonly, love. Hearts are drawn and filled in with the color red, and whenever Valentine’s Day rolls along, everything goes red. There are red teddy bears, roses and wrapping paper covered with hearts and ‘I Love You’ written on them EVERYWHERE.
I, for one, have never bought the idea that red symbolizes ‘love’. For me, red is a color that translates to emotions like anger, and even confidence- but not love. Recently, some friends and I were having this discussion and it split us up in groups- those who felt that red really isn’t all about ‘love’, and those who opposed us. For me, and others, over the past few years, red has become a marketing gimmick, and thus this began a very intense discussion about the color red.
Follow our ‘debate’ and some research, here’s what I found.
The color red is actually pretty important; after black and white, red was the first color humans can see and register and if we go back to prehistoric times, it was the first color that humans were able to understand, produce and use, which is why a lot of cave painting are often in red.
Another major use for the color red has come from religion, mostly from Christianity and Hinduism. In Christianity, red is the color of murder and symbol of repenting for your sins; additionally, red is also used to represent the blood of Christ. Another use of red that flows from faith is the idea of the devil and hell. Of course, no faith, in particular, described the devil as ‘red’ but we know he’s built of fire- so the association is there, therefore red has definitely made its mark as a color of wrongdoing.
Uss ke upar se, cartoons, and pop culture have also played a major part in portraying red as the color of the devil.
Then comes a context we’re used to seeing- the desi obsession with red.
Growing up, we’ve all seen brides in red. My friends actually used desi bridals as one of the examples why red represents love, at least in a desi context. I, at that moment, did take their point but now, as I’ve done some searching on the internet, I’m almost compelled to change my opinion. The use of this color in our regions roots from Hinduism. The color selection is based on astrological readings and alignments and is worn to promote prosperity and fertility for the bride is the coming married life. Notice how love wasn’t mentioned, but fertility was.
There is a lot to be said about the psychological and biological effects of the color too.
There has been a lot to suggest how the color has been perceived in a cultural and religious context, however, there is a discussion on how the color affects us. According to research, upon seeing the color red, our blood pressure can increase, as can enthusiasm, breathing, and confidence. Interestingly enough, the color also increases one’s libido- aka, sex drive. Further psychological studies show that red is a color that the mind reads as attractive and alluring- so, thanks to science I can say I am right.
Basically, red registers in the part of our mind that controls lust- not love.
Interestingly enough, this merges quite well with what one of my friends said. The association of red with love might just come from the age-old confusion of love and lust- now THAT makes sense.
That still leaves the question of how EXACTLY red came to mean love.
In my research so far, I couldn’t find a conclusive answer to this question myself, however, there is one popular opinion, which is pretty basic (consider yourself warned). Red was chosen because it’s the color of our blood. As Valentine’s Day become more popular and ‘red’ merchandise became very common, the idea that red denoted love started to settle in our minds. It’s the same with how we associate blue with boys and pink with girls- the associations with color became so entrenched within our minds that they dictate how we see the world around us.
So there you have it, all the reasons why red is considered the color of love. It’s up to you how you perceive and understand any color, this is just my point of view.
Cover Photo Courtesy: Memori.org