“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.” ~ John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice
I used to make clothing choices based on the way I felt.
A rainy day meant wearing grey and darker colors helped me hide in the shadows when I was feeling shy.
I was a color chameleon, wearing whatever I could to blend in. Neutral shades suited me, or so I thought. On rare occasions I would opt for bolder, brighter colors or rich jewel tones. When I was celebrating, I didn’t mind standing out. I’d wear yellow on dates and vivid pinks to parties and I’d always feel more confident.
Obviously, this confidence was because I was already in a good mood—or was it?
There is psychology behind color. What we wear can affect the way we perceive ourselves and how others respond to us.
Yellow is a cheerful color and an attention-getter. It makes sense, then, that a sunny shade would boost my mood and help captivate my date. However, too much can overpower the eye and cause anxiety. It may be best to wear yellow as an accessory or mixed with other, subtler shades.
Knowing the effects of various colors on our psyche gives us the power to plan outfits that will fit our needs.
Chromotherapy has been practiced for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptian and Chinese societies believed that color had the potential to heal—and they weren’t so far off. Science has proven that color has a decisive effect on our moods. Black can be seen as untrustworthy, while white is perceived as pure. One study found that warm-colored placebo pills were reported as more effective than cool-colored placebo pills.
However, color psychology is not cut and dry. The temperature of the environment might play a role in color preference. People who are warm tend to list cool colors as their favorites, while people who are cold prefer warmer colors.
Even still, it is generally believed that certain colors do have specific effects regardless of whether the response is natural or conditioned. In my experience, color has a definitive impact on my mood.
Red is my go-to color for business meetings and romantic evenings. It is known to evoke strong emotions and is associated with love, warmth and comfort. Red is fire, it is intensity, it creates feelings of passion. This is just what I’m looking for when I’m proposing a big project. Red is commonly considered to be the top color choice for boosting confidence, though wearing a favorite color may have a similar effect.
When I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I’ll opt for blues and greens. Green symbolizes nature and represents tranquility. It may also help boost comprehension, especially helpful when I’m stressed out and scatter-brained. Researchers have even found that green can improve reading ability. Some may find that laying a transparent sheet of green paper over reading material increases reading speed and comprehension. Green is thought to relieve stress and help heal. Those who have a green work environment even experience fewer stomachaches.
Blue also calls to mind feelings of calmness or serenity; it represents peace and security. Blue is often used to decorate offices because research has shown that people are more productive in blue rooms. The color has been shown to lower the pulse rate and body temperature. I don’t doubt this at all; I only need to look up at the sky to start feeling relaxed. Wearing the color seems not only to benefit me, but those around me, creating a calmer environment.
Though significant research backs up color psychology, it is not a hard science. I find it fun to play around with color and see what affects me most. I encourage everyone to do the same so that they may recognize the benefits of various colors and use this to their advantage. Companies do this all the time and entire careers are created around the subject.
With a little experimentation, we all can harness the power of color.
“Color Psychology and Color Therapy” Faber Birren, 1978
“Pantone Guide to Communicating With Color” Leatrice Eisemann, 2000
Author: Kristen Koennemann
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: James Dean/Flickr