Study finds people wearing red view themselves as more attractive

People wearing red find themselves to be more attractive — at least compared to people wearing blue.

That’s the finding of a new study published in the peer-reviewed European Journal of Social Psychology. The study included 180 German university students.

“I personally like to draw in my spare time, that is why I am interested in effects of color in the first place,” said Anne Berthold of the University of Zurich, the study’s corresponding author. “Then, as I read the article of Elliot et al. on the red-effect regarding strangers, I decided to do a practical seminar on color effects. We discussed many ideas within the seminar and some of them were directed towards self-perception.”

Research led by Andrew Elliot has found that simply wearing the color red makes men and women more attractive to the opposite sex.

“Another reason for the interest in the topic was a special concert of a German band Söhne Mannheims I went to, where everybody in the crowd was supposed to wear red. It felt somehow strange — but in a good way,” Berthold added.

In two experiments, the researchers had participants put on either a red or blue t-shirt before seating them in cubicles that were equipped with a mirror. In the cubicle, the participants completed a survey that included questions about their self-perceived attractiveness. However, the participants were led to believe the study was actually about the ability to predict personality traits based on facial features.

A third experiment followed similar procedures, except the participants were asked to take a picture of themselves instead of being provided with a mirror.

Berthold and her colleagues found that the participants wearing red rated their own attractiveness as higher compared to participants wearing blue. Participants wearing red also rated themselves as more sexually receptive.

“We found that people can feel more attractive when putting on red clothes,” Berthold told PsyPost. “However, as we also point out in the discussion section of the paper, there might be boundary conditions – not everybody might profit from wearing red. I would suggest, to try some red clothes and look how you feel about it.”

“It might be that the red effect does not work for everybody. Maybe, some (probably insecure) individuals could feel even worse when dressing red, because they might feel that now everybody notices and judges them. In other words, we need to investigate if and how different personality characteristics interact with the effect. Also, it might be possible that the effect disappears when someone wears red every day.”

But it could be that red increases “attractiveness” in a very literal sense of the word.

“It is worth noting that an underlying reason for the red-effect in general is the possibility that red color simply attracts attention to the red colored object — thus, the increase in attractiveness could just evolve from the fact that people start to notice the object/person and judge it/he/she. The judgement per se might just become a bit clearer or maybe more accentuated through the red color,” Berthold explained.

The study, “The effect of red color on perceived self-attractiveness“, was also co-authored by Gerhard Reese and Judith Martin. It was published May 19, 2017.