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The Color of Attraction

Men, it’s time to update your wardrobe with red shirts and red ties. Why? Women are more attracted to men in red. That’s the word from researchers at the University of Rochester and the University of Munich, who found that red has a universal sexual appeal for women.

AFI FEST 2010 Presented By Audi - "The Company Men" Screening - Red Carpet
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for AFI

After all, it’s a symbol of courage and sacrifice, sin and sexuality, power and passion, so why wouldn’t it also make men more alluring to women? In the U.S., England, Germany and China, women found men to be more appealing when they were either pictured wearing red or framed in red, compared with other colors. The team conducted three studies:

  1. Men who wear red are more attractive — 25 men and 32 women briefly viewed a black-and-white photo of a Caucasian man in a polo shirt, surrounded by a red or white matte. Using a nine-point scale, they answered three questions: “How attractive do you think this person is?” “How pleasant is this person to look at?” and “If I were to meet the person in this picture face to face, I would think he is attractive.” Only women warmed up to red. Women who looked at a man surrounded by red or white rated the man surrounded by red a little over one point higher on a nine-point scale of attractiveness, a statistically significant bump.
  2. Men who wear red are more desirable — Another experiment featured a man in a color photo, dressed in either a red or a green shirt. A pool of 55 women rated the man in red as significantly more attractive–on average, nearly one point higher on the same nine-point scale. They also thought he was more desirable, according to a second, five-item measure that asked viewers to rate, for example, the likelihood that they’d want to have sex with him.
  3. And it’s true what they say about red power ties — Women in a follow-up study perceived men wearing red t-shirts to be significantly more likely to be high in status than men wearing blue t-shirts. In addition, the men in red seemed more generally good-looking and sexually attractive. Five smaller studies with 20 to 38 participants compared women’s responses to men in red or gray, including their sense of the men’s status. The results established a chain of evidence that red may enhance sexual attractiveness because red is a status symbol, according to the authors.

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