Mirror, Mirror: Three cheers for the red

The Phils are blessed with the best hue in the world. Target knows it; Campbell's knows it. And the Phillies, after those maroon years and other missteps, will compete in power red tonight, Ryan Howard's bulging muscles trimmed in the winningest of tints.
The Phils are blessed with the best hue in the world. Target knows it; Campbell's knows it. And the Phillies, after those maroon years and other missteps, will compete in power red tonight, Ryan Howard's bulging muscles trimmed in the winningest of tints.

red, and red!

Posted: October 28, 2009

Red nail polish is my absolute favorite. My iPod is the perfect splashy shade of a fire truck. On my wish list: a General Electric vermilion washer-dryer set and a pair of scarlet-bottomed Christian Louboutins.

I'm so in love with crimson I wanted to pledge Delta Sigma Theta until I realized it required more discipline than I had at 19 - not to mention that the Deltas are more about community service than fashion.

Red is why I prefer cabernet over chardonnay, why I'm partial to Campbell's over Progresso.

And it's why I will root for the Phillies tonight in Game 1 of the World Series.

To me, the Phillies' iconic shade of red is the clearest, prettiest, and most vibrant color out there. I look best in red. I feel best in red. In fact, I'd argue that I love red as much as any sports fan devotes himself (or herself) to the team.

My choice to bleed Phillies red this World Series is no minor admission. I'm a New Yorker from Jamaica, Queens, making me a Mets fan by birth. The only team half my family hates more than the Yankees is the Philadelphia Phillies.

Is it my fault that navy blue doesn't warm my heart in the same way as Phillies red (or National League Championship Series MVP Ryan Howard's bulging muscles)?

In the fashion and interior design world, Phillies red is known as Pantone 200 C. Its boldness speaks to the fashionista in me the same way Elizabeth Arden's Red Door Spa, Chanel No. 5 lipstick, and Target's bull's-eye does.

"That red is definitely a very visceral color you could never be indefinite about," said Leatrice Eiseman, director of the New Jersey-based Pantone Color Institute. "It's one of fashion's strongest shades. Bill Blass once said he considered red a neutral color. And how can we forget Diana Vreeland's living room?" The former Vogue editor was known for unabashedly mixing shades of red.

Turns out, this year the Phillies are winners and trendsetters.

A close cousin of Phillies red, Eiseman pointed out, is one of the top colors on the fall 2009 Pantone Color Report. "American Beauty," a notch or two bluer than Phillies red, was heavily featured in a bevy of designers' runway collections this year, including Temperley London and Yigal Azrouel.

There's also a lot of buzz this fall around the red nail polish collection of nail product company OPI. Oprah shows up in her magazine's November issue in red. So do the women on Lucky and Vogue covers. The color goes hand in hand with the fashion industry's current love affair with Hollywood glamour. And for spring 2010, Phillip Lim opened his collection with an electric-red pants ensemble.

However, before my shiny red tricycle, my first car - a cherry Chevy Cavalier - or the Pantone color charts that were developed in 1963 by Lawrence Herbert, there were the Phillies. And they weren't always red.

Philadelphia's first National League baseball franchise came to town in 1883 - the remnants of the Worcester Brown Stockings (also known as the Ruby Legs and the No-Names). According to Tina Urban, Phillies director of print and creative services, the team's colors likely were cream with dark blue details (although it's hard to tell when looking at black-and-white pictures).

In the early 1900s, the logo, then a block P, alternated between a muted shade of red and solid blue. In the mid- to late 1940s, the logo became more stylized, the red more vibrant. In the 1950s, red pinstripes were added to the uniform and most traces of blue were eliminated.

The team wore this true red until the 1970s. Then the ball club moved to Veterans Stadium and the shade changed to a deeper maroon, Pantone 209. Sky blue was added to the body of the road uniform, so '70s fashion.It wasn't until the early 1990s that today's winning red became the team's dominant color, part of another rebranding effort.

For centuries, red has played a key role in identifying tribes, gangs, and sports teams because it is one of the boldest colors found in nature - from flushed cheeks to berries.

It signifies many things to many people: danger, warmth, fire, life. It even has sexual connotations. Hello, Valentine's Day.

In fact, last year at the University of Rochester, two scientists demonstrated through five psychological experiments that red makes men feel more amorous toward women. (Maybe we should follow the stylish cues of first ladies Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush when it comes to nabbing powerful men.)

Today's bolder, clearer red is a more winning shade than the hues of other Philadelphia teams (forest green, perhaps?). After all, last Wednesday's win helped the Phillies become the first team to go to the World Series two consecutive years in a row since the New York Yankees in 2000 and 2001. How's that for a little fashionista sports knowledge?

And fine, the 1980 Phillies may have won the World Series in their muddier-colored uniforms, but was the team as aesthetically dazzling then as it was at Citizens Bank Park last year?

I don't think so.

Go Phillies (Red)!


Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com.

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