Fashion + The Red Carpet

The Red Carpet: a Celebration or a Sheer Illusion?

A man has a need to be appreciated, to be seen. The more fragile his ego is, the more he desires others’ approval. At times, this takes the form of an applause from his family, friends, his immediate surroundings, and at other times, that of the entire world.

The yearning desire for acceptance is not a negative thing unless one’s sense of self-worth is built on it. The needs we have deep down should not be forsaken nor replaced by those written into our cultural DNA, such as money, consumerism, or a desire for possessions.

We can be easily convinced that we need more than we already have. We may be lured into a belief that which is expensive is valuable and important. The same applies for celebrities. Clad in most effective outfits, they saunter down the red carpet, becoming symbols of success and sublimity. Almost a symbol of a modern deity.

The meaning behind it all

The entire form of celebrating figures on the red carpet is beautiful and lofty. Nonetheless, what is the actual meaning behind it all? Does it serve as a reflection of the culture we live in today and the current social divisions? It appears to be so, but that is not exactly true.

The first known mention of this sort of carpet comes from Aeschylus’s Oresteia from the 5th century BC. Having returned from the Trojan War, Agamemnon is presented with a crimson carpet to walk on. Red carpets can be also noticed in numerous Renaissance paintings that present deities, saints, or monarchs.

In the early 19th century, American President James Monroe was greeted in Georgetown, South Carolina, with a red carpet purportedly rolled out for him.  Since then, a carpet of this particular colour has remained a permanent element of official visits paid by dignitaries. From the premiere of the film Robin Hood in 1922, where a red carpet was used, it has become associated with Hollywood. In 1961, it appeared for the first time at the Academy Awards ceremony and its splendour remains to this day.

To be rich and famous

The need for praising the special ones has been present in society since forever. In the past, only those of outstanding merits were allowed to walk down a red carpet. Today, this honour can be enjoyed also by those with distinguished achievements in their field, be it film, fashion, or entrepreneurship. However, the red carpet is also marked by presence of those who became known owing to scandal.  

According to Oprah Winfrey, it all started with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. Who does not remember The Simple Life with Paris and Nicole, who at the time became icons “known for being known” (and rich)? At that time, Paris was the most often photographed woman of the year. She appeared at all possible prestigious galas (to this day, I recall the admiration she used to evoke in me when I was a child). A few years later, her close friend Kim made her way into the media realm, followed by the entire Kardashian family that has come to great power.  

The era of social media allows one to become recognizable basically overnight. What is more, this has become completely attainable for virtually anyone willing to put into work their talent and great amounts of effort, and, at times, to show everything (and in some cases literally everything). In the beginning, when social media came to existence, being an online celebrity used to be somewhat ridiculed. Over time, however, it has become a normal thing and today, it is commonly admired. Interestingly, the profession that is the greatest dream of most modern teenagers is to be present (and, predominantly, famous) in social media. With a great enough popularity, there is an open way to red carpets, fame, and money!   

Actually… Is there any meaning?

With all that in mind, what does a red carpet stand for nowadays?  A celebration of success or, perhaps, an illusion of success?  

Glitter, splendour, glamour, oftentimes beauty, wealth, or perhaps falsehood in its rawest form? This falsehood was repeatedly confronted by Marlon Brando, who refused to accept an Oscar for his role in the famous The Godfather.

Today, such radical moves are rather unlikely to happen. Yet it has become increasingly more common to express what is significant by means of clothing, for instance. Fashion may also be political and serious also on the red carpet. However, only few celebrities such as Harry Styles, Spike Lee, or Cara Delevingne are willing to spread a clear message through their outfit.

False comparisons

It’s on red carpets that the image unattainable to most ‘ordinary mortals’ is sold. The image that determines future trends, also in fashion. The trends for being thin, with ever-perfectly dyed hair, no wrinkles, without a trace of fatigue.  Obviously, one should bear in mind that ‘clothes do not make the man’ – and on a red carpet, they are the most important thing.  

Every great gala is followed by rankings of who was the best or the worst dressed person. Outfits, styles and transformations are compared to one another over years. There would not be anything wrong with it if not for the fact that this often puts an even greater pressure on celebrities to be perfect.   

Oftentimes, lives of the famous and the adored are considered the ideal model. Especially by those who follow news from the show-business world. The public often believes that the red carpet is a reflection of real life. It certainly makes them feel worse-than and less valuable. Who can afford a dress for several or, what is worse, tens of thousands of pounds? An entire team of professionals responsible not only for hair and makeup, but also for physical fitness? How could one’s life match the image that reflects a reality of just one evening? And how to refrain from buying the idea that being on the red carpet is the determinant of being better? 

These are the questions we need to reflect on.

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