The Red Carpet: A Short History

Per secoli il tappeto rosso, espressione di glamour e opulenza, è stato srotolato per mostrare il potere delle élite e ricevere l'adulazione delle masse. Dall'antica Grecia a Hollywood, ha una storia millenaria.

Molly Malcolm

Speaker (American accent)

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Nothing says 'opulence' like a long red carpet. Traditionally, the red carpet welcomed royalty, and nowadays it is film royalty who walk on it. But what’s the story behind it? Let’s look back 2,500 years.


The most widespread story of the origins of the red carpet is found in Ancient Greece. In the Aeschylus play Agamemnon, the king’s wife, Clytemnestra, is preparing her palace to welcome back her husband after the Trojan War. The queen mentions “a floor of crimson broideries to spread for the King’s path”. This could be interpreted as an early mention of the red carpet, although some historians disagree. In any case, the “crimson path” rolled out in Aeschylus’s play was a sign of the near-godly status of Agamemnon.


Purple was the colour of royalty in the Middle Ages. The pigment used to make purple dye was very rare and expensive, so not everyone could afford to wear it. Scarlet dyes were also very pricey. In the Elizabethan era in England, a series of laws that regulated which colours, fabrics and clothes each social class was allowed to wear ensured purple was only ever for royalty. Over time, new dyes and fashion trends made red more popular than purple among royals, and by the 19th century red was seen as a symbol of distinction, also in interior decor. 


The association between the film industry and the red carpet comes from 1922, when theatre magnate Sid Grauman first used the red carpet in Hollywood for the premiere of Robin Hood. At a time when cinema didn’t enjoy the artistic status it has today, Grauman’s idea sought to dignify the image of Hollywood by making it look more sophisticated and respectable. At the 1964 Oscars, the red carpet was placed for the first time outside the venue, and movie stars were filmed arriving in their limousines and stepping out onto it. It wasn’t until the 1990s, however, that haute couture fashion became a crucial element of the ceremonial walk. In 1997, Nicole Kidman walked up the red carpet in a stunning Chartreuse Dior dress by John Galliano. Glamour had arrived, and it was here to stay.  

468 march 2024 ITA

Questo articolo appartiene al numero march 2024 della rivista Speak Up.

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