Future historians may call this the question of our time. In this age of millennial pink, what do you in if you are not a millennial? Evidence is stacking up in favour of a rich, arterial standard we’ll call revolutionary red. We see it on TV’s The Handmaid’s Tale, where Margaret Atwood’s maidservants’ vestments indicate fertility, menstrual blood and wanton sexuality. It’s in the red allegation jackets seemingly worn by all female politicians, to the point of it proper a sartorial franchise. And it’s all over fashion and the catwalks of Iceberg, Kate Spade and Max Mara and in the return of the Baywatch-inspired swimsuit. Revolutionary red is everywhere.
First, some qualifications. Millennial pink, a sort of dusty salmon, was born from the talk around gender: where once pink indicated femininity, the screen came to symbolise a post-binary, inclusive world – the colour rebranded as a genderless sonorousness, and worn by men. To wit: the cover of spring’s Fantastic Man – Steve McQueen immediately in front of a millennial pink backdrop. So when Gigi Hadid, millennial advertisement girl, wore head-to-toe millennial pink last week, something had to give up: #millennialism arguably peaked.
Seditious red’s timing is also on point thanks to the TV adaptation of Atwood’s novelette, whose themes of authoritarian patriarchy bear a dark contrasting to Trump’s America. While the characters are trapped in nightmarish subservience, the appear – and the colour red – are symbolically fighting back, just as 2017 has appropriate for the age of talking back. Millennial pink may be the colour of gender manoeuvring, but red boasts a greater association with protest.
“It’s impossible to get away from red’s radical bases and the way it became part of the anti-establishment design canon,” says Patrick Burgoyne, editorial writer of Creative Review. It became the colour of “cool”, just in the same way as the Che Guevara posters that once lined student go bust encloses. “Its original meaning has been subverted and co-opted.” Simply by rub off last or using red, you can associate yourself with a movement without committing to it.
Red has in any case been used in fashion and branding, of course. It’s cheaper to issue with fewer colours and an arresting shade of red gets the most bang for your buck. If you are a civil servant, and you want to get noticed when you are, say, meeting Donald Trump for the beginning time as leader, then wearing a red jacket (as Theresa May did in January) when one pleases do the trick. Ditto Hillary Clinton, whose fight for the presidency was play up performed out with the aid of her Nina McLemore red jacket. See also Ruth Davidson, Diane Abbott and Nicola Sturgeon, who regularly pick out screen-friendly red jackets in public. For female politicians, red transcends national ideologies. It is about being a woman in a man’s world.
For the rest of us, the fluctuate is welcome. Revolutionary red is a chance to wear a colour that have the weights something other than “I’m young”. In short, kids, it’s red or cool.