The Language of Color

What colors are you wearing right now? Did you have to look? Most people spend little time deliberating about the colors they put on. Yet color is usually the first thing other people notice about us.

Color is so pervasive in our lives that it’s inescapable. It’s a language unto itself that is buried deep in the genes of human development. While culture has some influence, humans consistently interpret hues in specific ways that have been reinforced by nature, danger, and survival.  Read ahead to learn what each color means to empower yourself in any circumstance.

A Hue for You

Red is one of the most primal colors and is closely associated with both power and sex. Think about a man wearing a red power tie or the lady in crimson dress. Wear it to intimidate opponents, inspire passion, or attract mates. There is an inherent competitiveness to red, so you may end up in interaction that are more spirited. When you plan to wear red, consider who you expect to be around and what type of effect you want to have.

Pink is a version of red tinted with white. Combining the qualities of both colors, it represents love, caring, and softness. This hue can produce a calming influence. Be wary, though, as pink can also suggest immaturity and overt sensitivity. Consider combining it with stronger colors for a more sophisticated presentation.

Orange is a combination of red and yellow and is the newest hue on the color wheel. (That’s why we use the term “redhead” rather than “orangehead.”) Like red and yellow, orange suggests energy. The wearer is youthful, outgoing, and likes activity. However, it is a less popular color for older generations. Before wearing orange, consider who you’ll be with and whether a bright and animated persona is the best approach.

Yellow is bright and highly visible. It conveys joy, sunshine, and happiness. Stimulating the nervous system (that’s why some jurisdictions paint their fire trucks yellow), yellow could make others slightly intimidated by you. More importantly, though, studies have discovered that when yellow signals low confidence, and those wearing it are rated as less attractive.

Green is synonymous with nature and balance. It is also the color of money (at least in the United States). Those looking at green are inspired by creativity. Studies conducted, though, often interpret those wearing green as sickly because of how it affects their complexion. It is important to ensure that you are wearing the right green for your personal coloring.

Blue shares similarities with green because it’s a calming color inspiring creativity. Those who wear it are seen as open, friendly, and loyal. Blue is ranked as the most popular clothing color. (Blue jeans, anyone?) A dark shade like navy is an excellent choice to show that you are “in control” yet calm and approachable. Makes you think about police uniforms a little differently!

Purple clothing, up until the 19th century, was only worn by royalty and the very wealthy. Today it is often used to symbolize spirituality, imagination, and power. However, it’s also perceived as feminine or juvenile. Purple is a combination of blue (a cool tone) and red (a warm tone) and is highly variable from lavender to lilac to deep purple. A little goes a long way, so use it in smaller quantities. Carefully consider the shade of purple and other colors paired with it to make an impactful statement.

Staying Neutral

Brown is a neutral easily paired with most colors. There are lots of variations of brown from a light beige to a dark espresso. It is It can have different undertones as well – looking more green or red, etc. Brown is suggestive of earth, and those who wear it are perceived as down to earth, practical, and friendly. It sends message of comradery rather than control. This is another popular color for law enforcement uniforms, especially sheriff’s departments.

Black, some would argue, isn’t a color. Actually, it is all colors! It’s one of the most classic options in a wardrobe. Think little black dress, black leather jacket, or the iconic black turtleneck. As the darkest color, it represents power and control so may have the effect of distancing others. Conversely, it can be sexy and mysterious. How much black you wear combined with the style and cut of your clothing will help you to refine your message.

Gray is a mixture of black and white, with a wide range of values from light to dark. Usually there is a hint of another color as an undertone. Regardless, gray is considered a conservative color. Controlled, reliable, and dependable is how others will see you when wearing gray. Consider pairing it with brighter colors to counteract the staidness gray can connote.

White is purity, simplicity, precision, and virtuosity — white gloves, wedding gowns. It is a blank canvas providing a feeling of openness and stimulates creativity. It’s also an indication of cleanliness and efficiency such as with medical lab coats. Yet, like with yellow, many people feel less self-assured when wearing white. Wear white when your goal is to be perceived as organized and capable but consider pairing it with deeper hues to provide some contrast.

Putting It All Together

Every color has considerable ranges in value (light or dark). The value can have more impact than the color itself. The lighter the color, the more white qualities will be perceived. Conversely darker colors will take on the characteristics of black.

We rarely wear single color outfits, so consider the choices you make when combining colors together. While a green and red could say that you’re balanced and energetic, it also screams Christmas!

Have you had any positive or negative experiences based on the color of your clothes? Please share in the comments below.

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