Move over, Barbiecore: Red is the new pink.

Photography by Samantha Levi

Red might be the most recognizable color in the world. Its hue paints stop signs, fast food restaurant logos, emergency vehicles and opulent event carpets. It was even the color of choice for Rihanna (and the Chiefs, naturally) at this year’s Super Bowl, which might be why we are seeing it in fall fashion previews and lookbooks everywhere.

Some say, red is the new pink and pushing Barbiecore off to the side.

Behind the color red lies a psychology rooted in our own perception. Our eyes’ rods and cones capture and transmit red to our brain faster than any other color. The color red is also associated with excitement: Studies from the Color Research and Application journal show that wearing red and being exposed to the color can elevate blood pressure, enhance metabolism and increase heart and respiration rates.

When it comes to color coordination and styling, Kansas City-based designer and personal stylist Andrea Long uses a nuanced framework to match color and tones for clients and designs. “It’s basically kind of a set of rules that align with your inner energetic expression,” Long says. This framework encompasses four hues of red: a true, bold red; a pink-tinged hot red; a soft, subdued red; and a rusty brown- or orange-infused red.

Once you decide which tone of red is best suited for you, it’s time to style it. “You can use it as either a primary element or a secondary element,” Long says. For instance, if you’re choosing red as the primary element of your outfit, you’re fully embracing the color—such as in a pantsuit or through multiple pieces of the same red shade. As a secondary element, red becomes part of the look as an accessory, a pair of shoes or an undershirt. When wearing red as a secondary element, it’s important to commit to either complementing the color with other true colors (colors that are the purest, most intense representation of themselves and devoid of any tints) or contrasting it with colors from opposing segments of the color wheel. 

Fall is a great time to experiment with layers of red-toned cold-weather gear. “You can build a complex outfit in the cooler months,” Long says. “Fall and winter can be really great for layering and creating more complexity with color and making more connections throughout an outfit.”

Long emphasizes that, ultimately, the choice of wearing the color red depends on your comfort levels and desired impact. While embracing a bold-colored wardrobe can be empowering to some, it often affirms a preference for neutral shades in others. “Use [the trend] as a challenge point and exploration point—an experiment, if you will.”  

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