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Colour perception: why should you wear black?

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

31 Aug 2015

Fashion |IN DEPTH

Just how much consideration should be given to the colour of the garments that you wear? According to a new survey, people perceive other people based on the colour of the clothes they choose.

Questioning one thousand people in a survey conducted by online fashion retailer Buytshirtsonline.co.uk, respondents were asked to gauge the colours they found most attractive in their potential mates. A key finding was that people generally liked to see other people wearing the same colours as they themselves chose to look confident. These colours were black, red, blue and white, with brown and orange the most unpopular.

Questions such as which colour inspires the most confidence; which colour do you associate with intelligence; which colour would you associate most with arrogance also saw black as the most popular, with the latter - arrogance - mostly associated with red and brights hues.

Black is widely associated with intelligence, attractiveness and success

Black came out predominantly as the best colour to wear, being associated with intelligence, attractiveness and success.

Western culture has long used colour to gender stereotype, which retailers use to market products accordingly. From the pink or blue room for babies, to a colour divide associating one with femininity and the other masculinity. While pink is associated mostly with femininity, interestingly only 5 percent of those surveyed thought intelligent people would wear pink.

In 2007, research conducted at Newcastle University in the UK asked adults for their favourite colour. Did most of the women choose pink, or even red? No. The colour which came out top, for both men and women, was blue. But women, on average, rated the reddish shades more highly than the men did. The authors speculated that this was because hunter-gatherer women traditionally had the job of collecting fruit, so they might be more attuned to reddish shades of berries.

Babies are treated differently according to the colour they wear

You could argue that it doesn’t really matter what colour babies are exposed to the most, but it can even affect the way we, as adults, treat them. There’s one famous study showing that women treated the exact same babies differently depending on whether they were dressed in pink or blue. If the clothes were blue they assumed it was a boy, played more physical games with them and encouraged them to play with a squeaky hammer, whereas they would gently soothe the baby dressed in pink and choose a doll for them to play with.

While pink remains one of the most unpopular colours associated with success, back in 2002 researchers in Switzerland were keen to increase the response rate to surveys, found that printing questionnaires on coloured paper made no difference, unless the paper was pink, in which case 12 percent more people filled it in.

Colours seem to influence our behaviour much more than we realise.

Image:Colour chart