Shades of Sexy, Explained

Shades of Sexy, Explained
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Close your eyes and imagine the hottest hue on the color wheel, the tone that inspires you to get naked. Chances are that you and I may have different ideas of not only what colors beckon us to the bedroom, but what part of the palette makes us blush. Color, much like many things in life, is complicated.

While it’s very tempting to give a short answer about color, keep in mind that the human eye can see millions of variations of colors, according to Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute. In her tenth book on the subject, the international color guru notes, “Color invariably conveys moods that attach themselves to human feelings or reactions. Part of psychic development, color is tied to our emotions as well as our intellect. Every color has meaning that we either inherently sense, or have learned about by association and/or conditioning, which enables us to recognize the messages and meanings delivered.”In elementary school we learn about the primary colors: red, yellow and blue. Mix two of them together to get the secondary hues: orange, purple and green. “A very important aspect of the wheel, as a tool, is that it demonstrates that color is perceived as having a temperature: hot or cold, warm or cool, or somewhere in between. These are vital components in delivering a specific message,” she explains before elaborating that red, orange and yellow radiate warmth while blue, green and purple cool things down. So what colors should we choose if we want to serve a sexy dinner plate, paint our rooms with passion, mix a magical libation or don a demure outfit? Let’s spin the color wheel and find out.



It is no surprise that the color of blood and fire is the siren that ignites our passion. “The presence of red does increase our appetites, pulse rate, muscular strength and blood pressure and causes an adrenaline rush,” Eiseman says.

Think of Eve’s tempting apple, a sexy red negligee or a pair of luscious red lips and you can understand why the color red is such a dominant and provocative hue. Add red to your plate and send a sexy signal to your dinner date. “One approach I use is to approach vegetables as if they were a piece of meat. One perfect example is the beet dish on the menu at Tu in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s treated basically like a mixed grill seen in Argentina and salt roasted, basted with butter herbs and garlic in a pan before being played next to grilled provolone and finished with chimichurri. The red juices of the beet fill the plate as the sauce is spooned on creating a beautiful red color that also evokes the blood ( of a steak). Set against the other colors it’s a great three-component dish that’s simple but beautiful and delicious,”says Josh Walker, Tu’s co-owner and executive director.

Another instance can be found in a different part of the country—at City Winery in Boston, Massachusetss. Michael Dorf, City Winery’s founder and CEO, developed a sophisticated and sexy ambiance where one can relax and truly indulge his or her senses. “We have a lot of wood in our places, flooring, walls and ceilings, with a lot of natural barrel staves, which we have deconstructed from real barrels that show the lush red stains of wine dripping from the barrel holes.” 



A fun offspring of red, Eiseman notes that orange is a high arousal color that stimulates conversations as well as appetites. Patrick Thomas, bar director at Red Herring in Los Angeles, uses both reds and oranges to create a sexy drink, called the Paramour. Thomas notes that when he thinks of the bright red and burnt oranges—from the mixture Aperitivo Cappellet, cava and sparkling water—he thinks of laying out at the beach at sunset.



Eiseman points to specific Pantone colors to point to how the marriage of color evokes feelings. “Fuchsia Purple 18-2436 always exudes sensuality and then there is the Hot Pink 17-1937. Ultra Violet would be a great support color to either of the others—the contrast would make the reddish tones of Fuchsia Purple and Hot Pink even stronger. The purple family displays great versatility as—they all work together monochromatically in harmony,” says Eiseman.

Wondering what color adult toy to buy your beloved? “The industry has always had a few dominant colors. For vibrators, we often see variations of pinks and purples,“ says Tino Dietrich, CEO & founder of Ella Paradis. “Women’s products are often more colorful, bright and vibrant. Men’s products are often black, blue and sometimes red. We also sometimes see colors vary by use and category.” He continues, “For example, with the boom of erotica [like 50 Shades of Grey], there was an increase in BDSM gear, which is typically black or red. Variations of pink and purple have the staying power.”

Pantone’s Color of the Year, Ultra Violet, is full of mystery and magic. “I have incorporated this color into interiors before, and I believe it is a true expression of individuality,” Eric Roseoff, celebrity interior designer, enthuses. “It is a very rich, royal and energizing hue, and it shows that someone is open to standing out, and taking a risk.”



Combing through your closet to select a color that evokes dominance? “Black is the most powerful of colors and you feel empowered when you wear it,” notes Eiseman. “As every big city dweller or frequent flyer knows, it is practical, yet glamorous, handsome and Armani-esque,” she says.

Chef and Partner Brian Riggenbach from the Mockingbird in Nashville uses black to punctuate a plate with passion. “For myself, I use color to highlight the natural beauty of an ingredient, to showcase and shift emphasis to a desired component of a dish. In evoking passion, we may use something dramatic, like our kurogoma-dare, a Japanese inspired sauce that is jet black from black sesame tahini, and squid ink, as a punctuation on our octopus dish.” notes Riggenbach.

Whether punctuating your plate, creating a love potion, lighting or painting a room or outifitting yourself for an evening of pleasure, one can look to the color wheel for inspiration, but the real hue is inside you.