The psychology of colors has been used in fields like marketing and advertisement for decades and they are considered one of the most powerful tools to convey certain feelings and ideas in all sorts of commercial and creative outlets.
In a similar fashion (no pun intended), the colors of our outfits have different connotations that affect how we are perceived by others. While we as individuals are not defined by the colors we wear and appearances are mere complements to a multitude of other behavioral factors and psychological traits, science has shown that color plays an important role in instilling and evoking certain moods and emotions that can affect our judgments and decisions.
Knowing about the psychological functioning of colors not only empowers us to be more intentional in how we project an image on certain occasions and get the message across without being overt, but it also helps us manage our moods and feelings as well. Here is the psychology behind some of the most common colors in clothing.
The black color is mostly associated with the adjectives: powerful, mysterious, serious, and intelligent. Black commands respect and represents dignity and elegance which is why it’s a very popular color for anything luxurious from vehicles brands such as Rolls-Royce to luxury suits from fashion brands like Brioni. The black color has also a trimming effect meaning when used properly, it can make you look thinner. It’s a perfect choice for highly formal events and important meetings where you want to convey competence and sophistication.
White is neutral not only in technical terms of color theory but also in the psychological context. Wearing white never puts anybody off and its inviting nature is embraced by all. White almost universally represents purity and is associated with cleanliness, simplicity, and optimism. It is the chosen color of monks, priests, and other spiritual figures since antiquity because it conveys immaculacy, the quality of not being tainted by faults and impurities. Brides also wear white dresses because it underlines their youth, purity, and innocence.
But there are other reasons to consider white for your outfit. Since it’s neutral, it’s a very versatile color both in terms of using it in combinations with other colors and in the context of the variety of occasions it can be used for. White is also not too revealing of the wearer’s personality which makes it a suitable choice for situations where we don’t know how we want to portray ourselves.
There are a lot of opposing emotions connected to red, mainly due to its intensiveness which has historically been interpreted differently by various cultures. Red is the color of both passion and aggression. On one hand, it’s associated with fertility, sexuality, romance, and desire hence its excessive use in advertisements. On the other hand, red is intertwined with dominance, power, danger, and courage—which is the reason why ancient Roman soldiers wore red tunics as it was the symbol of the god of war, Mars.
The red color also has biological effects. It increases heart rate and its long wavelength makes it one of the first and most visible colors in the whole spectrum which is why it is predominantly used in warning or danger signs along with yellow. Red grabs attention and it’s a brilliant choice for the situations where you want to put yourself in the spotlight and draw everybody’s gaze towards yourself.
Blue is kind of unique compared to the other main colors of the color wheel as it’s one the least naturally occurring colors to the degree that most of the world has not had any word for it until modern times. As a result, there haven’t been many sources of blue in nature to inspire the development of a variety of emotional and cultural associations. Blue’s psychological connotations are almost exclusively derived from the sky and ocean: calm, peacefulness, serenity, trustworthiness, friendliness, honesty, truth, wisdom, independence, and kindness.
Wearing blue is a covert declaration of peace and cooperation, and makes everyone around you feel more comfortable which makes it a particularly suitable choice for business meetings and job interviews.
Broadly used in Buddhism, yellow is the color of awareness, optimism, confidence, excitement, creativity, and alertness. Wearing yellow brings an overly casual vibe to the atmosphere and adds enthusiasm to the mix that brightens the mood as observing the color yellow can lead to an increase in the production of serotonin in the brain. Much like red, yellow is a high-energy attention-grabbing color which is why it’s used in highlighters and street signs.
There are certain occasions that wearing yellow may not be an optimal choice as some negative associations of yellow are immaturity and fear making it inappropriate for very formal occasions and events. However, like other warm and vibrant colors, they can spice things up when used in moderation and darker or lighter shades.