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Who's afraid of Red and Blue?

By Edited Jun 5, 2016 3 7

Watching the elections last year in the States I noticed that Red and Blue have a symbolic value in politics. As they have over here in the Netherlands, but with an opposite meaning. Since I am interested in every aspect of color I decided to look more closely into the symbolic value.

Red and Blue
Credit: HM


In general blue is linked with peace, harmony, loyalty, friendship and faith. Have a look at expressions and meanings in different countries:

  • In the USA ‘True Blue' signifies someone who is loyal.
  • A bride in England wears ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue', where the blue stands for loyal and faithful.
  • In the Catholic tradition blue is associated with purity or fairness. The blue dress of a female indicates that the person is Mary, the divine mother.

In the Anglo-Saxon countries blue also means melancholy or sadness – feeling the blues.

Blue, and especially ultramarine and lapis lazuli were the colors of the rich (who have blue blood by the way). Those were expensive materials with a rich appearance. If you ever saw the mosaics of Ravenna, Italy, in real you know what I mean.

Yves Klein has dedicated his life to the search for a specific shade of blue and eventually took a patent on a tone of blue he has made himself.

Blue is for boys (pink is for girls). Uniforms are often blue.

In Holland ‘those blues’ was an abusing term for people from Indonesia, a former colony of the Netherlands. Two musicians took it as a name of honor and called themselves “The Blue Diamonds”, reversing the meaning for the better!

Spanish landscape
Credit: Photography: H.Mommers

Blue is called ‘cold’ in the color theory and is for instance used as a symbol of the cold water tap.
It’s a very spatial color as you have no doubt experienced yourself by looking at paintings or pictures of landscapes. The further away, the bluer the shades and tones are.

Blue is the political color of the VVD, the Liberal party in the Netherlands. But in the USA the blue states are the states that vote for the Democratic Party.


Red is the political color of the PvdA, the Labor Party in the Netherlands while in the USA the red states are the states that vote for the Republican Party.

Red is the color of warning and alarm. The red fire trucks, the red traffic light. Negative numbers are usually marked in red. When our bank account is negative, we are In the Red.

When soccer players make a really bad mistake they receive a red card.

Red is a fiery color, the color of love, red roses. The red heart, but also the red light district. The color of luxury. The red carpet at official events and celebrations of the nobility. The seats in the opera houses and theaters are usually red.

Red as the color of humanity, opposed to the divine blue. In the Middle Ages, Christ was usually portrayed with a red robe. And the cardinals wore red or scarlet.

Sinterklaas, a Dutch traditional figure, and Santa Claus, an American traditional figure, have red clothes. In China, red is the color of happiness and celebration.

And red is the color of sacrifice, the martyrs who gave their blood. The red of the crusaders. The red rosette, that soldiers wear on their uniforms - the blood of a wound - to make it clear that they had been brave.

Monument Valley, Utah, USA
Credit: Photography: H.Mommers

In most religions red is a sacred color. Most likely because our blood is red. It is a shade that is abundant in nature and has a deep impact on how we feel.

  • The red sun when it rises in the morning or sets in the evening.
  • The red ochre in the soil.
  • The red color of rusting iron.

Red is called ‘warm’ in the color theory and is for instance used as a symbol of the hot water tap.

It’s a very spatial color as you have no doubt experienced yourself by looking at paintings or pictures of landscapes. The closer by, the more red the shades and tones have.

Local stuff

If we order sparkling water in the Netherlands we say “Can I have a Spa Red, please?” Belgium is only 7 miles from my house, but a waiter over there would have no clue what I was talking about. And Spa is a Belgium village! The reason is that the sparkling water comes in bottles with a red brand. The bottled still water of the Spa company has a blue brand. And you guessed we order a Spa Blue at times.

I was triggered by the red and blue states in the US, because of the opposing meaning. Leading me to the Spa Red or Spa Blue story. So I am wondering, do you have local stories that have Red and Blue with a specific local meaning?



Jan 19, 2013 1:46am
Politially the american media has red and blue backward. The designations have evolved ove the last few elections with CNN (I believe) setting the new standard of color. The parties did not pick red and blue. In Canada Blue is almost always associated with Conservitives/Right of center parties while the Liberals (center-left) always focus on red. Orange is the color of the left, while there is a Green Party (affiliated with similar Green Parties around the world).
Jan 19, 2013 10:33pm
Great JadeDragon, thanks for the replenishment. It's funny that colors mean different things in different cultures, isn't it?
I didn't know the red and blue states derived from CNN. I thought it had something to do with the red and the blue coats of the soldiers in the Civil War.
Jan 20, 2013 5:09am
Actually blue Republican was associated with the North in the Civil War. The current Red/Blue divide is a reversal of historic practice that only happened during the unclear Presidential results of 2000.
Jan 21, 2013 2:45am
I love learning new things. Thank you JadeDragon. :-)
Feb 21, 2013 5:00pm
Great article--interesting, informative and thought-provokig. 2 BIG thumbs from me and a rating.
Incidentally, here in the U.S., the red states stand for "fooled and fooled again" and the bluestates stand for "duped and duped again."Its an election-time tradition!
Feb 21, 2013 11:48pm
Thanks so much, Marlando.
Isn't it awful that people always feel duped or fooled by politics? No matter what color they have. I wish someday we have politicians we can believe in.
Anyway, have a real nice today today! :-)
Feb 26, 2013 11:41am
You forgot to mention that if you wear red or blue in the wrong neighbor hood you will be shot at.
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