Should Women Wear Red to Work?

Colors have subtle and often subconscious effects on our perceptions and behaviors. Red is sometimes associated with anger, and is a bold, bright color to which men and women often respond differently. Should you see red in your work clothing?

(Photo Credit: LiteWriting aka Loreen72/Flickr)

Color Psychology

Color psychology has garnered much interest in the recent past. Some professionals have put much thought and consideration into the color of their office walls — for example, choosing blue to inspire intense thinking, yellow for energy, and high saturation for productivity.

Red is known for action. It may not be the best choice for office decor, because it may cause people to not consider actions carefully. Red walls may decrease impulse control.

The Color Red

Paypromedia’sThe Fastest Color Guide You’ve Ever Read” is a handy, quick chart to check uses and effects of different colors. Red is the most attention-grabbing. Picture a female manager or CEO in her red blazer giving a presentation. Instead of blending in with all the grey suits, she stands out and commands attention.

Should You Wear Red to Work?

There are pros and cons for women wearing red to work. Research has shown that waitresses make bigger tips when wearing red. There is an important caveat in these studies, however. Female diners tip either the same or less when the waitress is wearing red. Men tip more. (In fact, men tip a substantially higher amount, which makes up for the lost tips from female diners who tipped less.)

Time discusses a variety of experiments that conclude women often see other women wearing red as a sexual threat. A common response is to speak about the woman wearing red in a derogatory fashion.

How to utilize red in your wardrobe may depend upon whom you are working with on any given day. If you are leading a team of mostly female workers, you may want to choose colors that signal authority (such as camel) and avoid red. If you are working with mostly male colleagues or employees, red may help you maintain your authority, and earn their attention and respect.

Consider using red as an accent, similar to men’s red power tie. Try red earrings or a red necklace. A blouse with red in the pattern may work well, or even red shoes. A touch of red may help you command the attention you require without overwhelming others or alienating some female co-workers.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you wear red to work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.