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Red and Green: Should Never Be Seen?

Updated on November 9, 2019
Frances Metcalfe profile image

Frances Metcalfe lives in rural France. In between house renovation she writes about all types of observations.

Does the Saying Make Sense?

Red and green should never be seen, so the saying goes, meaning never seen together. Why not? They are such wonderfully dominant colours enhancing our blue planet’s rich and varied tapestry. Perhaps the person who first said it, or those who believe it should have their eyes tested.

Red and Green Sight Problems

As red and green are the most problematic hues for those with colour blindness, the Ishihara test was developed to identify those who might not be aware they did not have normal vision.Perception of colour differs from person to person depending on the way the cones in the eye function, anything from a world of fifty and more shades of grey, a twilight view of sorts, or perhaps colours received by the retina as variations of brown, to simply not seeing the full spectrum.

It's possible many who are affected may never know about as it doesn’t really affect day to day living. But for those unable to differentiate between red and green, growing up to be a train driver is out, not useful if you come across a set of lights. On the other hand, they aren't going to be bothered about red and green shown together.

An Ishihara Test For Colour Blindness

People with normal colour vision can see the number 29 inside the circle.
People with normal colour vision can see the number 29 inside the circle.

Leading a Shady Life

The retina consists of two different types of cells, rods and cones. The rods detect colour so any damage or defectiveness to those cells may affect the ability to see different shades. Males are more likely to have some problem perceiving colour - around 8 per cent of men are affected as opposed to just half a percent of females.

Nature's Colours in Red and Green

Should you need further proof that reds and greens are perfectly happy to rub shoulders together, all you need to do is look outside. What do you see? I’ll tell you what I see from where I’m writing this. My garden. And the majority of my garden is green. With rather a lot of red.

In summer the strawberry patch bears tempting fruit, not only for us, but birds and pests. Camilea shrubs tease us with tightly closed buds throughout the month of January until they finally wow us with blousy red blooms the following month. Edible runner beans clamber up bamboo wigwams drooping with dangling flowers in August.

Then there are the pendulous fuchsias, the deep red balls of dahlia flowers, the wonderful combination of the dogwood’s warm mahogany stems and vibrant lime green leaves living happily next to the majestic deep maroon of the phormium. Elsewhere are the rowan trees sprouting red berries which fall off in clusters when the wind gets up. In the evenings when I look out of my sitting room window at the bottle green of the sequoias across the road they are magnificently backlit by the glowing red of the setting sun.

My fruit salads look mouthwatering to me filled with grapes, strawberries, kiwi fruit and redcurrants, refreshing after a plateful of green salad which is literally peppered with sweet red capsicums, and cherry tomatoes, radicchio and chorizo. What’s not to like?

Red Camelia


Flagging up Red and Green

Are the Moroccans and Bangladeshis going to take the hump of you trot out this controversial phrase in front of them? Their flags are these two colours together. How would you feel if they said, red, blue and white should never be seen? Overly patriotic I may not be, but I might smart a bit at such a dismissive statement. I may not like the design, easy to be flown upside down but it is the flag of our combined countries nonetheless.

Bangladeshi Flag

The red and green of the bangladeshi flag
The red and green of the bangladeshi flag | Source

Plaids and Tartan. Many Use Red and Green

For those of us who can identify all the stripes of the rainbow in glorious technicolour we have a whole picturescape available to us. As far as I can tell - and I’m as sure as I can be that my vision, at least in terms of colour is intact - a great deal of it is red and green.

If, as the saying goes, red and green should not be bedfellows, where would the weavers of plaids be? The Bruce, Carrick and Crieff, the Glasgow and Cunningham, Fraser, Grant, MacGregor and MacNab, Robertson and Sinclair, Stewart, and Wilson to mention only a few. I have a bright, hardwearing and very useful tartan rug for laying out on the ground which we use for picnics. Would you suggest trampling on tradition and doing away with these old designs? I think not.

Clan Stewart Tartan

An example of a Scottish tartan, originally woven from wool. Tartans were worn either as kilts or as a shawl slung over the shoulder.
An example of a Scottish tartan, originally woven from wool. Tartans were worn either as kilts or as a shawl slung over the shoulder. | Source

Make a Tartan!

The Banning of the Tartan

After the Jacobite rebellion, the wearing of tartan was banned in Scotland as a way of subjugating the Scottish people. The Dress Act of 1746 was passed to firmly keep Scots under English thumbs and tartans had to be kept under wraps until 1782 when the law was repealed.

The word tartan is derived fro the French word 'tirretaine', from 'tirer', the verb, to pull. The Spanish have a word for a sort of silk - tiritana, whose origins lie in the same etymological roots.

Opposites Attract: Green Across from Red

May I suggest that next time someone comes out with seeing red but prefers not to see green alongside, refer them to a colour wheel. You may also like to add that red and green are on opposite sides and any artist will graciously inform you, opposites attract, just like magnets. They should be together, hold hands so to speak. They should be on the same page, on the same cloth, the same photograph.

A Familiar Colour Wheel


Christmas Cheer: You Could Not get More Red and Green

I’m going to backtrack now to my garden and the holly tree which self-seeded conveniently by the fence, a representation of Christmas you simply cannot get away from, with its spiky, waxy green leaves and bright red berries.How, then, do you manage for six weeks and more of the year with red and green everywhere you look. You can’t bypass it unless you shut your eyes until it’s all over, which is a slight inconvenience.

I agree this festive time can be sickly, but no need to disparage it altogether, after all it’s because it’s midwinter that these colours are favoured. An evergreen tree in amongst deciduous neighbours during a largely leafless season, brightened with berries - it’s hope for the future.

The Red and Green of Holly Berries

Deck the halls with holly -  a favourite decoration for Christmas.
Deck the halls with holly - a favourite decoration for Christmas. | Source

A Reason For No Red and Green

For myself the only reason I can concur with this notion is when it comes to war. I do not ever wish to witness blood spilt on any green battlefield. I am in perfect agreement; in that context red and green should never be seen.

A Colourful Life

What is your favourite colour?

See results

© 2017 Frances Metcalfe

Please Comment on my Hub

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    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great insightful hub about red and green colours!

      Both colours are my favourites. You made some valuable points here and I feel enlightened reading your hub.

      Thanks for sharing and now I look at these colours from a new perspective!

    • Frances Metcalfe profile imageAUTHOR

      Frances Metcalfe 

      2 years ago from The Limousin, France

      I think rd and green look lovely together, as nature intended as they say. Thank you for reading the article.

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 

      2 years ago from France

      I had a friend studying painting at art school who had red / green colour blindness. He painted in lovely, subtle shades of grey. You've convinced me that red and green look fine together so here's to a more colourful future.

    • Aditya speaking profile image

      Aditya Chakrabarty 

      2 years ago from India

      A great article based on colour blindness and daily life experience.

      I have a friend who faced a lot of troubles during screening procedure while joining for MBBS course because he couldn't see the numbers written inside the Ishihara cards. Next time I meet him I'll definitely ask him about the Bangladeshi flag trick.

    • Frances Metcalfe profile imageAUTHOR

      Frances Metcalfe 

      2 years ago from The Limousin, France

      I'm so glad red is now ok. It must be awful not to see colour. All colours have their place in the world and if they want them to be all together that's up to them everyone sees differently. I like classical music rather than Jazz but I would never ask for Jazz not to be played. It's a question of taste and personal preference. Sweeping statements are at best misguided.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      2 years ago from USA

      Years ago I had a very bad bout of optic neuritis, a painful but often temporary neurological eye condition associated with MS, and it left me at first not being able to see color in the affected eye. It was bizarre seeing in black and white. Then I went blind in that eye for awhile before vision gradually returned. I found the color red to be intensely painful and of course it was Christmas. It's been almost 15 years and finally I'm at a place where I don't hate red anymore.


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