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The Red Hot Color Red

Feng Shui practitioners know that the color red enhances love and romance and represents power, and now scientists have conducted studies to prove this. Researchers at the University of Rochester, Syracuse University, and other institutions found that women think men who are wearing red are more appealing and have a higher social status than men wearing other colors.

In a multicultural study involving almost 300 women in the United States, Germany, England, and China, researchers asked the participants to look at photos of men wearing different color clothing. In one test, images were digitally altered so a man wore a red or green T-shirt, and in another test, black-and-white photos were placed on red or white backgrounds. In each case, the women reported that they found the men in red more desirable and powerful.

According to lead study author Andrew Elliot, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, the charm of the color red is its ability to make men appear more powerful. "We found that women view men in red as higher in status, more likely to make money, and more likely to climb the social ladder. And it's this high-status judgment that leads to the attraction," Elliot says.

Feng Shui practitioners already know this from working with clients who add some red accents to their life – including wearing red clothing – and find new “fire” added to their love lives, and now it’s good to have some scientific verification for this effect.

The researchers also say the reactions to the color red may be rooted in biology and culture. Red is a sign of alpha-male dominance in some nonhuman primates, the color represents prosperity in Japan, China, and some African countries, and ancient Rome's most powerful citizens were called "the ones who wear red." Even today, businessmen wear a red tie to indicate confidence and power, and we treat celebrities and dignitaries royally by "rolling out the red carpet."

In Feng Shui, the "Five Elements" is the name we give to colors and their attributes, and the color red is the Fire Element that represents passion, emotion, and high energy. The Fire Element is the reason why you never have a long, leisurely meal in a restaurant decorated in shades of red, because the color red is too hot to slow you down. And the Fire Element is the reason why wearing red clothes can bring out passion.

According to study co-author Richard Gramzow, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Syracuse University, “It's the color used to signify wealth and power, so it may convey a subconscious signal to women that a man will be a better provider.” The researchers found that the red effect made the man seem more powerful, attractive, and desirable, but did not make the man seem more likable, kind, or sociable. That’s why in Feng Shui we recommend that you wear something red to a job interview, audition, or important meeting — like a red tie, scarf, jewelry — to activate the Fire Element and ignite your personal power.

"It's only recently that psychologists and researchers in other disciplines have been looking closely and systematically at the relationship between color and behavior,” said Elliott. “Much is known about color physics and color physiology, but very little about color psychology. It's fascinating to find that something as ubiquitous as color can be having an effect on our behavior without our awareness."

In Feng Shui the color red is considered hot, passionate, rich, and full of celebration. In Chinese culture, wearing red is the color of luck and happiness, in India it’s the color to wear for marriage, and in Western cultures it’s the color to wear as a symbol of love and romance. Red is also the color of protection in Feng Shui, so wear red whenever you feel the need to ward off negative energy, when you need to make a tough decision, or when you have to face down an adversary. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a red dress, red underwear, or a pair of ruby red shoes, the color red will empower and attract.

“When in doubt,” said fashion designer Bill Blass, “wear red.”

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