A Man’s Guide – Color and Clothing
More detailed information is contained in the following outline:
That these aren’t necessarily “subliminal messages,” but rather cultural associations. Our cultures, preferences, and past experience teach us what colors “mean” to us.
- It would be impossible for you to include every color in every culture, so don’t feel like you have to do that. Just remind people to know what language they’re speaking when they travel – to do some research or ask ahead.
- However, culture doesn’t just mean countries or continents. Back in my hometown in Lexington, KY, you will see “UK Blue” EVERYWHERE. It has strong ties to the “bluegrass” we have in Kentucky. Even at church, people would wear neckties with UK Blue, and around town you’ll see caps, sweatshirts, etc. in that shade of blue. You’ll see “Cardinal red” way less frequently (because it’s associated with UK’s rival, University of Louisville). But in Louisville the trend is definitely reversed. There are strong cultural divides in those colors.
- This is really important for those of your students who are traveling abroad, or meeting foreign business associates or networking.
- Therefore, it’s important that people know what message they’re sending in the culture they’re in.
- For instance, the color red has a lot of cultural power in China, especially paired with gold highlights.
- Many cultures have very culture-specific meanings for colors.
Associations and Preferences:
- Everyone has a different life history and different preferences. This is largely out of our hands, but some general information has been confirmed linking various color preferences with mood.
Laboratory research has confirmed that people associate various colors with moods, and people in certain emotional states are more likely to indicate certain color preferences.
- In England, there has been some really groundbreaking and interesting research on the “Manchester Color Wheel,” an experiment that asked a bunch of people what colors they felt related to their mood (making special note of which participants had anxiety and depression). A link to the study can be found HERE: https://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2288/10/12
- NOTE: This article is on an Open Access copyright, meaning you can reproduce the charts/graphs and information in it freely as long as you cite the original work. So feel free to put these charts in your modules as long as you include the link above!
They found really strong associations between certain colors and negative emotions. In particular, they found that depressed and anxious people were more likely to be drawn to gray and black, while healthy individuals were drawn to yellow.
My own hypothesis is that gray reminds us of overcast days – boring, cold, unchanging weather is a drag, and clinical depression can be a long stretch of unchanging emotional deadness (a doctor in Seattle once told me that about 1 in 4 of her patients were on an antidepressant there – maybe this explains the Seattle Grunge scene).
This means if your wardrobe is dominated by greys and blacks without much color, people might assume you’re depressed!
- This is not to say that gray and black suits should be thrown away because they’re depressing. It provides a really decent backdrop to other colors that you want to really stand out.
- Knowing that gray “recedes” and stronger colors “pop” means that a certain color necktie paired with a gray suit can really look great – it communicates a message but it isn’t overwhelming.
They also presented colors to people and just ask if the people perceived the colors as positive or negative. Here were the results.
Check out the shift between 9 and 15. At 9 you have dark brown, which is overwhelmingly considered negative (.5% rated it as positive but 54% as negative), but as it lightens from gold to yellow the numbers really flip around until 15 is universally considered positive. Now check out the shift between 17 and 19. There’s a pretty big difference, too. Deep purple had negative associations but just one to two shades lighter made a big difference!
- As such, it’s probably not enough to say that a certain color has a meaning. It’s vitally important to know what shade or hue you’re talking about. Dark purple is seen as negative but true purple and lavender seem much more liked.
You can build a personal “brand” through associations by choosing signature colors in your wardrobe. Colors can establish a memorable personal “brand.”
Because our preferences for colors are built on associations, we can actually use this to our advantage.
Some colors are so associated with a brand that simply presenting them can make people hungry or remember the brand.
Likewise, colors can amplify people’s evaluations of brand logos.
- In one study, participants were given novel brand logos printed in colors that were previously associated with positive or negative evaluations. The previously associated emotions affected their evaluations of the new logos. The reference can be found HERE: https://psycnet.apa.org/journals/xap/7/2/104/
- Remember how associations work in psychology. If a certain kind of food gave you food poisoning it will be very hard to eat that food ever again. You built an aversion to the food through association.
- Likewise, we like colors that remind us of familiar things or things that we like.
- People like certain brands that are strongly associated with colors.
Think of the classic McDonald’s red and yellow. Just presenting the colors to a person can remind them of McDonald’s.
Some other examples of strong branding: the Wal-Mart blue, UPS brown, etc.
There’s no intrinsic reason why package delivery HAS to be about the color brown (other companies use different colors). Instead, UPS has intentionally built an association over many years with that color.
Maybe UPS chose brown because it has subtle associations with down to Earth reliability. Then, every time you’ve seen a UPS truck driver, truck, or logo, those colors build a stronger association. Eventually the color becomes inseparable from the message.
What does this have to do with fashion?
In theory, you could build up a personal brand using color (or patterns).
- First, here’s a strong example: (The Artist Formerly Known As) Prince. Do I even need to mention the color he’s most associated with?
Say you’re trying to get a job and you know you’re up against a number of competitors. How do you stand out?
- Sometimes the only thing separating you from the “Other 99%” is just getting a potential employer to remember you.
Consider using color cues to build an association.
Find a color that really says something about you – it really communicates a message you want associated with yourself. Maybe a bright red if you’re trying to communicate strength or power, or a forest green if you want a calming presence. You could even pick a pattern like plaid or polka dots.
- You can pick a unique color if you really want to stand out, but remember not to pick something obnoxious that might make you seem like a “radical” of some type (most businesses like those who play by the rules).
- If you really want to be tricky, you could even choose the color of your potential boss’s alma mater! People have a preference for the colors that represent their hometown, alma mater, or culture, sometimes unconsciously.
Then every time you meet your potential employer (dropping off a resume, talking with a manager, during the interview, during follow-up interviews, etc.), remember to use that color in your wardrobe. It will help your potential employer remember you.
- By this same principle it would also make sense to keep your appearance pretty consistent at each meeting. Don’t get a drastic new hair style or grow a handlebar moustache between your first and second meetings.
- This way you can gradually build up an association with that color, and this will help you stick in a person’s mind without them even consciously knowing it.