personal branding – what statement are you making wearing red & black?
Following on from the business branding article I wrote about Louboutin seeing red over YSL, I thought I would look at his black shoes with the signature red soles and the feeling that combination of colours evokes in men and women.
Christian Louboutin comments “The shiny red colour has no function other than to identify to the public that they are mine.” But look a little bit deeper and there’s a whole lot more going on…
The colour red always evokes a physical reaction. It’s the male energy colour, representing stamina, lust, power. It’s also an attention grabbing colour (think stop signs and traffic lights). The positive qualities of black are sophistication, glamour, an air of mystery, the unknown. Black adds gravitas, authority.
Combine those two colours together and you get seduction, look at me, the woman feels in control and powerful. Interestingly, in nature red and black is a warning signal to stay away, ‘don’t mess with me’ (think red back spider, red belly black snake).
So who best to test this out on than a woman who owns not one but two pairs of black Louboutin’s. Tanya Rennick, founder of The Oyster Club, sums this up beautifully as to why she loves wearing her black Louboutin’s “On a date, I always feel sexy in my Louboutin heels and just a little bit naughty.”
Yet when in a business meeting “I feel quite powerful, in reassuringly well made shoes. The soles are a status symbol … Sometimes it’s good to be defined in that way when meeting people for the first time.”
This shows how the psychological qualities of those colours play out in different situations.
When asked what reaction she receives from men, Tanya replied “Men think they [the shoes] are sexy. Most sophisticated men know those signature soles.”
When it comes to women, Tanya feels the reaction she gets is different “It depends on the women. Often it makes women tell you about their own favourite shoes. Some purr with admiration, some shoot out sideways looks of envy and some pretend not to notice. But of course, they do.” Each colour has positive and negative psychological qualities. Envy, coveting, jealously which are being displayed here, are all negative qualities of red.
No surprise that Tanya feels “sensible in my black shoes (albeit vertiginous heeled) but I’m a woman. And a sexy one, at that.” That will be the black, adding the feelings of gravitas, seriousness.
What is happening here is the language of colour, communicating directly with our feelings and emotions. This article is about colour on a pair of shoes but it’s no different to wearing clothes in these colours.
Our colour choices are only 20% conscious. Nevertheless, every time you select a colour to wear, you are making a statement of how you are feeling and how you want others to interact with you.
For Winter linked personalities black represents sophistication, glamour, emotional safety. For the other personality types when wearing black, what they are effectively doing is putting up a protective barrier for others to keep their distance, to stay away. It can also be seen as powerful but in a menacing way.
Thinking about what red and black means to you, why are you drawn to wearing this colour combination? What are you feeling or wanting to feel?
If you liked this article you may also like the importance of colour in branding – why louboutin is seeing red
Thank you so much for interviewing me! It’s fun to talk about shoes and fascinating to discover the psychology of colour. Brilliant blog, thank you for making me part of it.
My pleasure. And thank you for sharing the effects red and black has on you. Great insights!
The effect of the black and red colour combination is fascinating. My own logo is based on the Louboutin shoe and originally I was going to use the traditional colours but when the first proof came back it just wasn’t suitable. The colours looked really vampy – not at all the image I wanted to project for Phenomenal Women. In the end we went for another Mondigliani colour combination which worked much better. It just goes to show how powerful the black and red combination can be and how careful we need to be when using it. Thanks for starting such an interesting discussion.
Vampy is definitely one quality red & black can project!
Every colour combination will represents feelings, mood, but none more intense or provoking as red & black appears to emit…
I agree with the powerful mindset women can have when strutting in a pair of red and black Louboutins, but I also think it’s a way of buying yourself up the societies social ladder.
Great feature and enjoyed the read!
Thank you for your thoughts. It certainly shows the power of a brand and the many reasons (psychology) as to why consumers choose particular brands and colours.
Red and black have always worked for me in a selling or marketing situation, especially when selling or marketing to males. Unfortunately, I have short, fat feet, for which Louboutins don’t cater.
When selling to women,I’ve found pink and grey or lemon and grey works with younger women and purple with older! Younger women feel less threatened and older women applaud.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with colour in selling and marketing. Interested to know what products (or services) your selling and marketing?
I’d never thought about what my shoe colour might be saying. Normally when I buy a pair of shoes its because my gut reaction is “Wow – they look funky.”
Now, can anyone tell me what impression tan coloured high heels give?
I stumbled on this article researching the colors red and black, the two primary colors I wear (I’m Goth, incidentally). I like the “don’t mess with me aspect,” but other than that, my logic behind my choices is that red is the color of Aries, my Sun sign, and black has always been a favorite color of mine. In certain cultures, such as in Egypt, black is associated with fertility, in contrast to the barren whiteness of desert. Black and red can be associated with Satanism, though I myself don’t practice that, but it still gives a very dangerous vibe. Do I want to feel dangerous? Not particularly. I’m looking for a look that’s darkly exotic, reminiscent of the Victorian mourning culture, but with some life and passion, which is where red comes in. This color combination is a bit masculine, and seeing someone as tiny and feminine as me wearing it is a way of changing people’s perceptions, which is something I enjoy. (Do women always have to wear feminine colors? Absolutely not!)
Incidentally, Kellie Hill makes a valid point.
Great points you make here on your own personal colour association and colour in culture. You’re right in that red is the colour that represents masculinity. And if you want to use colour to change people’s perceptions why not… I’m all for self expression.