E.J. Topper’s “Colorful Thoughts” – Red
In Topper’s world, red is for danger: the danger of overdoing a powerful color that can achieve so much for the wearer, as long as he understands just how to apply it. As Topper himself puts it: “We can’t just take red as read. Clearly, this is one very bright color. Get it wrong and you risk looking like you’re in the chorus of Guys and Dolls. That’s a great show. Whether it’s the appearance you truly want may require a little more thought however.”
For a red-hot look that’s not to be confused with burning cheeked embarrassment, it’s important to understand some of the basics of this bold hue. First base is that red will always make more of your visible assets by adding bulk. So, if you are already a fine figure of a man, weigh up the risks of looking just a little like a fire truck in too much bright red. As Topper puts it: “We are not in the business of appearing ridiculous, ever. Or in this case red-iculous, if you can pardon a pun.”
Just this once you’re forgiven, Topper. But, in all seriousness, we would like to know how we can reclaim red without getting flamed. Topper has one rule here that he won’t back down on: “Please, please and, again please, NO red with yellow, EVER. Look like the sauces rack in a truck stop diner if you must. But I can’t be held responsible!”
One of the keys to the successful wearing of red is to realize early on that your choices are not restricted to crimson blocks of color. Surprisingly perhaps, red can be subtle or even muted at the more autumnal end of the color palette. And then of course there’s pink, a color that has been known to strike fear into grown men’s hearts but always rewards the careful chooser. (So much so that pink warrants a whole section to itself in our How To Wear guide.)
Topper offers these top tips to rookies in red on what to avoid:
Code Red #1 – “The Broiled Alive”
Beetroot and lobster may be acceptable as a left field culinary combination. But if that’s how you’re going to look and feel in red, then think very long and hard before you buy. “Above all” confirms Topper “Red is the color of confidence. If you’re going to wear red then do it with commitment and be comfortable. Wear it like you chose to, off your own bat, and not as if it just happened to you somehow and against your will. If the very thought of a red sport coat or pants makes you hot under the collar, don’t go there.”
Code Red #2 – “The Traffic Signal Accessory”
Accessories in red are a great way to begin your exploration of this color. But the choice needs to have a little logic and to work in the context of the rest of your outfit. In isolation, red hats, socks and suspenders can risk making you resemble an out-of-season Santa Claus who hasn’t quite got the hang of casual dress beyond the North Pole. Topper puts it with style: “An accessory in red should provide an accent but not a whole dialect. Make sure it stands out for the right reasons. Rudolph is a reindeer not a fashion icon.”
Code Red #3 “The Light Opera”
Carefully chosen in the context of a well-balanced contemporary outfit, red can communicate confidence, charisma and even passion. But don’t wear red lightly says Topper, unless you can live happily with the light opera look. “Men in red pants and crimson jackets can risk looking like they’ve stepped right out of a nineteenth century operetta set in Ruritania. Unless you want folks asking you where you’ve left your sword, make sure your touches of red are firmly twenty first century.”
Get Ready for Red!Now that we’ve got the absolute no-no’s out of the way, it’s time to get ready for red with Topper’s top tips.
Red Hot Tip 1. Flavor to Taste
Topper says: “As you would not expect to find more than one pimento in a filled olive, so your use of red should be restrained to create flavor, not a forest fire. A chili-eating contest may be the height of frat house fun but, just as it’s bound to lead to heartburn, so its color choice equivalent can only result in heartache. Start cautiously, with a red necktie. Learn to live with red from the inside out. Choose a sport or top coat with a red lining and enjoy the inner glow, before you graduate to the full outer blush.”
Red Hot Tip 2. Lazee in Red
Topper says: “Red is the perfect color for upbeat downtime. Red pants signal a warm, off-duty vibe that’s perfect for the boardwalk, cocktails under the stars, a cookout in the yard with friends, or just about any occasion when you feel like projecting as a fellow who is mellow but still has a little bite. If the temperature is dropping, maintain the heat with a red sweater or vest. And don’t forget that an artisan belt with just a thread of red can be enough to keep the fires burning.
Red Hot Tip 3. The Red Shoes
Even if you are a long way from Kansas and the road isn’t of the yellow brick variety, don’t dismiss one of the ultimate applications of the color red. Topper says: “In good hands, red is an excellent choice for your feet. Red shoes or sneakers can work stylishly with neutral pants or chinos. Pair them with red socks and really light somebody’s fire. But please, never, never, do we want to see red shoes and white socks in the same zip code, never mind on the same two feet!”
Stay Red – Without Putting Your Style Points Collection in the Red
Just like a powerful red sports car, any red garment needs skillful handling to remain safe and fun. So what are the rules of the red road? Topper advises that red looks good in a number of color combinations: “Combine red with gold, silver and warm brown for a color palette that is stylish and mellow. Balance with black, white and gray. Avoid unbroken blocks of red too. So if you are wearing a red sport coat, tone your look through with pale pants and a shirt in light blue. Or reverse the sequence and pair a pastel or cream jacket with red pants.”
Of course, you can have a stand up fight between bright colors – pair red, yellow and orange if you must. But remember, in this battle the winner is unlikely to be you!
Get more of Topper's advice on any of the color palettes here: