Scarlet, crimson, cherry, rust, ruby. Whatever you call it, wearing red is something most men go pale over. Unless your name is Jared Leto or your favourite team plays in the stuff, chances are you won’t have much claret hanging in your closet. Not because it’s unattractive (quite the opposite), but because it’s a big colour.
It’s a primary colour, but it’s also the most primal. The chest-beating alpha male of the colour wheel, associated with power, status and desire. Studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported that women were more likely to find a man attractive when he was associated with red. And sportsmen who play in red have been found to win more often and have higher levels of testosterone.
No other colour is so rich in symbolism. It’s fire and passion, anger and sin. Going into the red means you’re in debt, but in China, red is associated with good luck and prosperity. It’s communist and Republican at the same time. It’s the colour of blood, of danger, of lust. Throw in Coca-Cola and Santa Claus, and you have a hue that means a lot of things to a lot of people.
So what does all of that mean for how you wear red? Well, here’s something else that the colour is closely associated with: caution. Red clothes are statement clothes, whether it’s the flash of a sock or James Dean’s scarlet Harrington jacket. You can always opt for toned-down versions like burgundy or even a dusky pink, but at its boldest, red is the exact opposite of a neutral; making it very easy to get wrong and find yourself red-faced.
How To Wear Red
Minimalist menswear may have ceded ground to colour-pop streetwear and retina-scorching designer collections, but wearing red is always something to be carefully considered. It grabs attention and doesn’t always play nice with other shades, so think about how and when you roll out the red closet.
“Brighter colours like red are thought of as less formal than neutral or dark colours, and so work well with more casual items like T-shirts, sweatshirts and sportswear,” says Sarah Gilfillan, founder of personal styling consultancy Sartoria Lab. “If you’re confident about wearing red, then go for a red bomber or denim jacket, but if you’re not so sure, use it in smaller quantities – red trainers or a T-shirt layered under a navy jacket.”
Once you pick something red from the wardrobe, everything that follows it needs to be happy playing second-fiddle, even if you’re going with something more muted like a burgundy. “To layer red, choose one garment as part of the outfit to be the ‘statement’,” says men’s style consultant Daniel Johnson. “Take a blazer. This means you have a real stand-out piece, so neutralise the rest of the outfit and let the blazer be the star of the show. The most obvious choice after this is a white shirt and dark blue jeans – staples in every wardrobe.”
Consider also your skin tone, Gilfillan says. “If you have olive skin it’s likely a rust red will suit you; but if you have ice white skin and dark hair, opt for a clear, bright red. The darker shades of burgundy-red suit most complexions and are easy to incorporate into your wardrobe, too.”
Colours That Match With Red
“Red can be quite severe when paired with black, so think about wearing it with charcoal or navy instead,” says Gilfillan, who also suggests swerving red and white to avoid ‘hospital emergency’ vibes.
Johnson agrees, adding that the intensity of red should be matched with depth, pointing to navy and darker shades as working best. “I always try to avoid light, pastel colours when wearing red. There are too many competing things to look at with pastels.”
When it comes to neutrals, warmer shades like cream and brown can work, especially in preppy outfits. If feeling exceptionally bold, you can layer different shades of red with each other – a burgundy shirt with a trusty, rusty pair of trousers, say. Or if you want to soften its impact, remember you can add a touch of red with buffalo plaid and other patterns.
Now, see red with the 13 items that look best in the boldest colour in your wardrobe.
Weird but true: wearing red is easier outdoors than indoors. It’s like a wild animal; you don’t want to be locked in a room with it. That makes a red coat one of the most natural ways to wear the colour.
Set against a cityscape or the great outdoors, a burgundy or bright red winter coat is bold without being domineering.
A technical raincoat or large padded jacket works just as well with selvedge denim and hiking boots as it does over a grey suit. Or try for a soft wool overcoat in burgundy to add a regal touch to the neutrals in your commuter gear.
Not all red shirts are created equal. An overshirt, for example, is an astute way to let colour into your life as it lets you utilise an additional layer underneath, breaking up the crimson mass in the process.
There’s no such hiding place when wearing a button-down, however. Unless you want to channel German electronic band Kraftwerk, take a darker, richer hue of red and pair with an equally muted pair of trousers.
A flannel shirt is also a good play to have up your red sleeve, a look favoured by lumbersexual and grunge fashion in equal measure. Stay true to its workwear origins and team it with a pair of hard-wearing chinos or denim jeans with clompy boots, because chopping trees and shredding guitars is serious work.
A T-shirt offers the most versatile way to wear red because you either unleash it proudly or use it as an accent under other laters. For its part, the colour injects new life into the casual staple, which can be smartened up with tailored trousers or played down with shorts.
Tees with a white logo or graphics against the red are particularly effective in an outfit, with the contrast making for a particularly eye-catching design. (There’s a reason why everyone from Coke to Supreme has harnessed the power of that particular colour combo).
If opting for a red polo shirt over a sporty crew neck, a darker shade will tie in nicely to the style’s sense of formality, tucked in and worn with a neutral coloured blazer over the top.
One of the easiest (and most effective) ways of wearing red as the focal point of an outfit, crimson knitwear should be on your radar for autumn and beyond.
Unlike other pieces when it pays to refrain from going too bold, there’s no reason why you can’t dial up the saturation here, since whatever you wear is likely to be muted by a jacket over the top or a pair of neutral trousers down below.
Brighter tones work well with blues and especially denim, so try combining a crew neck with a trucker jacket and tailored trousers. Alternatively, for a more dressed up look, go for a deep red roll neck and wear with a check two-piece suit. It’s bold, but for all the right reasons.
In all walks of celebrity, the red jacket is straight up iconic, from James Dean’s rebellious Harrington to hip-hop royalty like Drake and Stormzy sporting the blazing colour in the music videos that took them to zeitgeist levels of fame.
Just popping on a red jacket is not enough to turn you into an overnight sensation though, you have to style it accordingly. For example, the ballooning puffer jacket needs to balanced with a slim bottom half – black skinny jeans or slim-fitting athleisure wear will fit the bill.
The cut of a Harrington jacket, however, is trimmer, the cinch at the waist requiring a wider leg trouser to bring equilibrium to your look. If you want to add layers underneath the jacket, while keeping the design simplicity of the Harrington, then opt for a coach jacket which offers a bit more give in the shoulders and around the waist while also working better with sportier streetwear looks.
One of menswear’s most trusted items, few well-edited wardrobes are complete without a blazer. However, it’s possible that this hero piece would not have existed at all were it not for scarlet shades.
Members of the Lady Margaret Boat Club at Cambridge University first began wearing red sports jackets as a uniform in the 19th century, with their bright crimson hue giving birth to the term ‘blazer’.
Later adopted by Ivy League types and eventually the masses, today the word has evolved to refer to any tailored jacket designed to be worn as a standalone piece but still looks just as good rendered in toned-down shades of maroon and burgundy.
Red Sneakers And Oxblood Shoes
What worked for Dorothy in the land of Oz is not going to cut it on your feet, even if you are going to Florence for Pitti Uomo.
Despite being one of the smallest components on an outfit, red shoes are a risky footwear option. Fortunately there are a few safe ways to do it, if you know how.
For sneakers, stick with iconic models that can carry the colour: high-tops like Chuck Taylors or Air Jordans or low-tops like Vans Authentics. For smart shoes, oxblood is a rakish point of difference that works with most shades of formal trousers. Try a penny loafer, chunky Derby or monk strap shoe, and remember not to click your heels together.
While perhaps not one for city dwellers, a pair of red shorts can be ideal as part of an off-duty, holiday-inspired look – and it doesn’t have to call Herr Hasselhoff to mind.
Try tailored shorts in bright red and wear as you would a pair in navy or stone – that is, with a simple tee or polo shirt. While undeniably bolder, they’ll give you a point of difference with your look that’ll ensure you stand out amongst the warm weather crowds.
Or, if you’re actually living your best life by the pool, splash the colour across your swimming shorts and pair with a good tan and a glass of something cold.
No, we’re not talking about the Chelsea farmer look. A 2013 YouGov poll found that people actively disliked men in red trousers. But the style isn’t just for those who want to provide a visual clue for how rich they are. Wear them with a tweed jacket, silk scarf and a cocksure smile at your peril.
Instead, think of red trousers in a more streetwear context – picture Michael Jordan in his red Chicago Bulls warm-ups in the ‘90s – and wear side stripe joggers with a sweatshirt and five-panel cap.
If you are going to wear red trousers with tailoring, dodge the fox-hunting look by opting for a deeper burgundy – plain or check – and pair with an oversized overcoat.
When it comes to tailoring in the age of maximalism, any man worth his sartorial salt knows it’s all about big risks and bigger rewards. Sure, a red blazer looks great worn as a separate, but as the saying goes two reds are better than one.
Saturate your whole suit, and you’ll flex a look favoured by not only by designers across the board but by also by style icons like Michael B Jordan, Harry Styles, Nick Jonas and Rami Malek.
It’s not just about fire engine shades, either. For a slightly more entry-level option, look to darker hues that can be easily anchored with neutral colours.
Believe us when we say taking style cues from Donald Trump isn’t something we’d typically advocate. However, the POTUS has got one thing right: the colour of his tie.
We’d hedge a bet that Trump bases most of his actions around psychological tricks and hacks he’s picked up from business paperbacks. Which is why he knows that red is the colour of power, dominance and victory – a surefire way to let people know who’s in charge, which could just help you out in your next important meeting.
The first thing to bear in mind is the fabric. Shiny materials like silk are best avoided when opting for bold colours as they can look cheap and tacky. Instead, opt for something with texture like wool. Then simply pair with a white or blue shirt, a charcoal or navy suit and you’re good to hit the boardroom in style.
Luigi Bianchi Mantova
Socks get a bad rap. Whether you blame stylish Italians for kickstarting The Great Bare Ankle Revolution, or chalk it up to the novelty hosiery market (shudder), it’s little wonder they’re often considered an afterthought.
However, fond as we are of going sockless with a pair of driving shoes for summer, it’s important not to underestimate the impact these inconspicuous calf-coverers can have on an outfit – and not just in classic shades of black, navy or grey.
Pulled up with box-fresh sneakers or loafers, and peeking out from beneath a pair of ankle-length trousers, you’re guaranteed to stand out in a sea of monochrome in a pair of red socks.
Red Pocket Square
Some men relish each and every opportunity to wear a suit. Others spend days leading up to a special occasion quietly dreading having to squeeze themselves into tailoring. For the latter group, this can often be down to the fact that suits feel restricting to them. Stifling any opportunity for self-expression.
However, there are ways to inject a touch of personality into a smart jacket and trousers combo. The first and foremost being through a colourful and well-considered pocket square.
Choose a pocket square with either a textured fabric or tasteful pattern, but make sure not to match it to your tie. Opting for a navy blue suit with a blue necktie and red pocket square is always going to be a foolproof sartorial option. For a clean, finished look, fold the fabric into a triangle shape and place it loosely into your breast pocket. Or, for more of a rough and ready vibe, merely stuff it in unfolded.
House Of Fraser Howick