As I find myself on the couch, once again awake at three in the morning, I peer over at my first published novel lying on the coffee table nearby. As always, the image on the cover brings a smile to my face. It’s a picture of a high tree canopy and the beautiful sky above it; one that makes me want to climb inside the book each and every time. As any writer knows, a book cover can ‘make or break’ a novel, so I can only hope that this memorable picture will draw readers into my book time and again. Now wide awake, I open my laptop to check my email and immediately see a flash of red on the side of the page; the annoying add managed to catch my eye and grab my attention. With sideways glance at my book, I go to Google and query the phrase, “the power of red”. One of the first links that popped up in my search states this: Athletes dressed in red are more likely to win events than athletes wearing any other color.
Hmm… I am a runner, not competitively but I like to think that I can hold my own in my age group so I wanted to know more, and began searching sites for information. We all know that red is a powerful color – I donned my own red “power suit” for a number of high-level sales interviews over the years – yet reading about the effect that color may have on an athlete’s performance was a new take on the hue. Over the years, it seems that red has become a power symbol on the track, on the courts and in the water for many countries. Most notably is Tiger Woods who has worn red on the final day of every golf tournament. Multiple studies have shown that red can have a strong physical effect on people by increasing their rate of respiration and raising blood pressure (though I question if that may be more for those who are watching the sports rather than for the athletes themselves).
The Brits heard this color concern loud and clear during the 2012 Summer Olympics after their redesigned outfits were revealed. According to critics, Stella McCarthy’s design for Adidas bore too much blue and not enough red, though the British athletes compensated well by adding red sneakers, socks, etc. to compliment their outfits. Back in 2005, two UK scientists Russell Hill and Robert Barton from The University of Durham had researched the effects on athletes’ results of wearing particular colors. They concluded that competitors garbed predominantly in red consistently perform better in competitive sports than rivals dressed in other colors. (To note, there was actually more national controversy about the design because it eliminated the St. George and St. Patrick crosses from the nation’s flag, but that’s another story.)
In sports or elsewhere, red is certainly a color that inspires a number of emotions for people and nations. Western culture has long used the expression “seeing red” to indicate extreme anger. Red represents power, prestige and fame; the red carpet is rolled out for celebrities. Red is the symbolic color of love and romance, courage and passion. Flashing red lights denote danger or emergency. In some Asian cultures, red denotes happiness and prosperity. Other countries see red as a color of purity, joy and celebration. Red is the color of marriage in India, and the Feng Shui energy of color is red as the energy of arousal. Around the world, it seems, red is a powerful color that denotes many different emotions and symbols. If we “see red” during an exam, our scores may be quite negatively affected as a result; yet if we wear red during a game or sport, we may be more likely to end up as winners. Red has evolved into a tumultuous color of extremes, including passion, love, seduction, violence, danger, anger and adventure all wrapped up in one.
After reading all of this, I turned back to my debut novel Falling Through Trees to see the two colors on my cover – blue and green – and no red at all. I wonder if the absence of red will negatively impact my book in interest or sales. Will people not pick it up because there is no flashing, emotion-inspiring hue to catch their eye? Will my book be passed over for a “red” book with a decidedly powerful look and feel? At this point, I will never know. What I do know, however, is that Falling Through Trees captures my eye and that the picture of the light blue sky through the canopy of trees is one that will stay in my heart forever. Who knows how the book will be received, despite the absence of the color red. Yet for the record, Britain took 65 medals in total at the 2012 Summer Olympics: 29 gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze… which is not too bad for a group of athletes wearing a whole lot of blue.