Here’s What the Colours You Wear to Work Say About You
We are always sending out subtle coded messages through the outfits we weave together for the workplace. While expressing your true self is crucial to feel comfortable and genuine, there is also a touch of the persona in most career women’s wardrobes which channels our role — or indeed — the role we aspire to fulfil.
While quality, cut and silhouette are all components which can't be overlooked, the colour of your office attire or accessories packs a powerful visual punch which is loaded with subconscious messages to boot.
Scientific studies even back the evidence that what you wear can truly change the way you feel, and therefore behave. For example, in a 2017 report from the European Journal of Social Psychology, subjects who were asked to wear red said they felt more physically attractive and sexy than those who wore blue. A finding which is supported by colour psychology.
So, let’s investigate how the colours you wear could be influencing your mood and those around you and see whether your favourite work shirt matches your the message you wish to convey.
There is no denying that black is an authoritative, dominant colour. Carrying connotations of power and control, an all black outfit is well-known as the armour for those who get a kick out of looking intimidating and aloof.
While all black is a great way to become an unapproachable enigma — something I’m sure we aspire to after the days 4th Zoom meeting — a wardrobe based around black makes total sense for work. Not only is it flattering and forgiving with almost any other colour, but black implies self-control, discipline and independence. All words which wouldn’t look out of place on the “qualities” section of any winning CV.
Traditionally, black is also a colour which absorbs and shields negative energy (there’s a reason witches wear black!), so it’s a great shade to wear for a facedown with snide Simon from HR. Every office has one.
Representing a perfectly balanced mixture of all other colours on the light spectrum, it should come as no surprise that white is a colour of wholeness and completion.
White has connotations of purity, honesty and transparency — Likely due to the very practical fact that no stain or blemish can be hidden on white.
For a deep dive into the psychology of what wearing white to work can say about you, check out my full article on the subject HERE.
As anyone who has sashayed across a room in a red dress will know, red is a colour imbibed courage and daring with a dash of sex appeal. According to corporate stylist Toi Sweeney:
“Red is a powerful colour that implies confidence and leadership qualities”
While sweeping into the boardroom in all red would be more Jessica Rabbit than Jessica Alba (she’s the head of a billion dollar business empire, don’t you know!), flashes of this daring colour can make you stand out for all the right reasons.
The eye-catching nature of red will allow you to shine at a job interview and Kenny Frimpong, head of the Italian menswear brand Eredi Pisano explains why:
"Red is the color of passion and power. You should give your preference to this color if you are going to persuade or impress somebody"
If we look to the stars, red is associated with fire signs (Aries, Leo and Saggitarius) who are associated with passion, action and spontaneity.
This upbeat and sunny colour might seem far removed from the somewhat sobre tones of the boardroom, but yellow could help you come across as an optimistic, uplifting presence.
As the lack of yellow outfits in the office might tell you, yellow is a creative colour which is associated with people who are not afraid to be unique. Sarah Stephenson, colour activations manager with the paint company Valspar explains:
"Yellow is another great colour for the working day. It resonates with the left or logic side of the brain, stimulating mental agility and perception. It's a great colour for creative thinking and it's really uplifting and happy."
If you’re an astrology fan, yellow is associated with the air signs (Gemini, Libra and Aquarius) which are well-known for being deep analytical thinkings with chatty, approachable exteriors.
Purple has long been associated with royalty and has a whisper of opulence with aspirational connotations.
The colour purple is also a deeply spiritual and mysterious colour which implies deep thoughts, active imagination and introspection.
Purple might not be the most conventional colour to wear to work, it has a plethora of interesting qualities well worth cloaking yourself with. In the words of Gary Card, a man who wore nothing but purple every single day for decades:
“It’s an interesting colour. It’s hot and it’s cold at the same time; it’s red and it’s blue. It is mystical and yet carries a feeling of grandeur.”
When we think green, our minds are automatically transported to visions of trees, meadows and the natural world. There is a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression and wearing green channels similar positives.
Green is the colour of balance and harmony, so naturally it conveys a sense of stability and wisdom. This wholesome shade also symbolises the connection between the head and the heart, so has connotations with leading from a place of connectedness and compassion.
Although none of our money in the UK is green, the cultural clout of the American dollar means green is also closely linked to prosperity and success.
Perhaps then, it’s no surprise that green is associated with the earth signs (Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn) in the zodiac. These signs are seen as wise, grounded and trustworthy.
Bue is a colour which immediately catapults us into the clear blue sky or the endless, shimmering ocean.
It’s no accident that NHS nurses wear blue as it is a colour which conveys a serene reliability and honesty. In the words of Corporate Stylist Toi Sweeney:
"It's the colour of trust and being a peacemaker."
Research from Juliet Zhu and Ravi Mehta of University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business suggests that blue encourages us to think outside the box and can help us in cognitive tasks. Zhe explains:
“Through associations with the sky, the ocean and water, most people associate blue with openness, peace and tranquility. The benign cues make people feel safe about being creative and exploratory. Not surprisingly it is people’s favourite colour.”
Blue is associated with the water signs of the zodiac (Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio) who are known for being sensitive, sentimental, emotional and nurturing.