The effect of red clothing in the workplace

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You sometimes hear people talk about the color red and the effect it has on people. Some say it is the color of strength, some associate it with romance, and others link it with aggression and dominance. But what exactly can this color mean for you, and how can you use it for business? Is it ok to wear red to a job interview? In short: what is the effect of red clothing in the workplace?

The effect of red clothing in the workplace
Photo by Tamara Bellis on Unsplash

Negotiating in the red

In 2011, Daphne Hachmang’s graduation research at Tilburg University made national news. She investigated the effect the color red has during negotiations. The result? People exhibit evasive behavior at the sight of this color, and for this reason, it is easier to negotiate when you wear red clothes. Good to know, right? It might be beneficial to wear something red next time you are in salary negotiations.


Woman in red

The interesting thing about the color red is that it can have a completely different effect on men and women. American research has shown that women view ladies in red clothes as a threat. Men, on the other hand, find women in red clothing more attractive. I know these studies are about romantic relationships between people. However, this effect also extends to the workplace. For example, women are (unfortunately) quick to view other successful women as being a threat. Let alone when a powerful woman shows up at work in a red outfit…


More tips in red

Yes, men appear to find women in red clothing more attractive. You may have heard that before. But did you know that this also influences, for example, the tips that waitresses receive? In 2014, a French survey involving 11 waitresses was published. To prevent the waitresses’ behavior from affecting the tip, the ladies were unaware that they were part of a study. They were told every morning for six weeks what color T-shirt they should wear and at the end of the day had to show how much they made in tips. They conducted this experiment in 5 different restaurants. In the end, it turned out that waitresses with red t-shirts received between 14.6 and 26.1 percent more tips than when they wore white.


Man in red

Nice,  all the stories about ladies in red clothes. But what about men? As I said, this is a different story.  British research has shown that men in red clothing are more likely to be viewed as threatening by women. And the effect on other men is no better. Men find other men in red clothing aggressive, angry and dominant.



Red is a complex color. That is obvious. Having dark red hair, I am always aware that it stands out. But I didn’t know it could have such an effect.

Can I give you concrete advice based on these research results? No, not really. But it is wise to be aware of the qualities that people may associate this color with. So are you applying for a job? Or would you like to make a safe choice regarding clothing for another reason? Then don’t choose red.




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