812 Logo

Indiana's shades of red


It's what makes us stop and look. We associate it with life and nature. It reminds us of home in southern Indiana. It is


As fresh grass pops up beneath white snow and winter's clouds open up to the robin's egg blue sky, Indiana changes her colors as winter melts into spring. But the color red remains through every season, a bold beacon that welcomes travelers and a symbol of home to those who live here.

Along highways and country roads, red barns watch over farmers' crops, and scarlet cardinals streak through the sky.

While red may not be the official color of Indiana, it is a constant among the people, towns across the state and even present within the local nature.

Let us give you a peek at the rich reds of Southern Indiana.

The reds we wear

"It's the Hoosier color," says Linda Taylor, a passerby bundled in her bright red pea coat.

David Wade, an Indiana University fan, couldn't agree more, sporting the university's symbols on both his coat and sweater.

Andrew Koultourides donned a red, knitted sweater and checkered red-and-white bow-tie for two Biology lab interviews.

"It says 'I'm out there,' 'I'm here,' 'look at me.' It gives the person interviewing me the idea that 'I'm here. I'm ready to go,'" Koultourides says.

Nashville shop owner Brenda Green, without a doubt, loves red. "There's no reason. I just love it," Green says through her bold red lipstick that matches the color of the walls in her store, Madeline's.

Red draws an observer's eye straight to the person wearing the color, silently saying, "Look at me. You know you want to."

The reds that hit close to home

The Chinese believe a red door is the mouth of the home and brings good luck to the owner. The Irish see a red door as a way to ward off evil spirits. Albert Einstein painted his door red so he'd recognize his home.

Across nations and cultures, a red door represents home and the safety within.

"A red door can make someone think that there is a fire within, suggesting safety and comfort," said Ben Pines, a Bloomington artist.

"Red is strong and shows strength and passion. It is bold and it is very regal," says Nick Williams, store manager and designer for Lea Matthews Furniture and Interiors.

From a designer's eye, a door is painted red to draw attention. A red door draws a focal point to the home, according to Williams. "It catches your eye and makes you stop like a stop sign," he says.At Lea Matthews Furniture and Interiors, red is one of the more popular selling color pallets.

"It's passionate. It's hot. It's an anchor. It's red," Williams says.

In a little red barn (on a farm down in Indiana)

Along paved highways and dirt roads, Indiana's most well-known red can be found overlooking plowed fields and family homes. While paint chips and wears after years of exposure, the red still clings tight to the wooden planks of the barn walls. A Brown County barn at a vista just west of Nashville on Highway 46, is famous among residents and travelers.

"A barn holds the life of the farm," Pines says. It keeps the animals and grains that the farmer raises safe within. "A red barn, symbolizes warmth and life."

Historically, barns were painted with any liquid that would help seal the wood, protecting it from damage caused by the weather. Hundreds of years ago, paint was hard to come by, so one of the first liquids used was linseed oil. The farmers would then mix this oil with other substances, including rust, which was abundant on farms. The rust and linseed oil not only killed fungi that grew on the barns, but also turned red when mixed together. Hence, in tradition of the old ways, barns today are still painted red.

"I think Indiana's color is red because it is a farm state and red is the basis of the barn," said Williams.

"But I believe it is also because of the outdoor reds, too."

Natural reds

Nature in Indiana is rich with red. From sugar maples to cardinals to Emily Kelly's red hair, life across Indiana is doused in red.

"In the fall sky, there is a constellation of stars called Ursa Major or the Great Bear. After hunters killed the Great Bear in the sky, its blood splashed down and turned some leaves red," said Sam Carman, Indiana Department of Natural Resources Education Director of the forestry division.

Or at least that's what Native American lore claims.

While most leaves turn orange or yellow, red colored leaves aren't as common. Not all trees can produce the necessary anthocyanin pigment that determines the intensity of the red in the leaves, according to Carman.

Red maples are an Indiana fall feature. In the fall, the maples color coordinate with other life in the Hoosier state, such as the feathers of Indiana's state bird, the cardinal.

Cardinals are abundant across Indiana, adapting to woodland and suburban areas. In particular, they like shrubbery.

While red looks like a difficult color to conceal, shrubs provide dense coverage that helps compensate for the bright color, according to John Castrale, IDNR's Nongame Bird Biologist.

For the most part, male cardinals are bright red in order to attract a female mate, which are a dull reddish brown.

"The simplistic answer is that girls like boys who are manly, good-looking, dress nicely, and appear to make a good husband and father," Castrale says.