Colour me happy!

Posted on June 3, 2016 by Eleanor McKenzie
Colour psychology research - comparing shades

I love colours, although it has taken me some years of living in sunnier climes to turn the contents of my wardrobe from 50 Shades of Black –my London ‘uniform’ – to something that acknowledges there is such a thing as a rainbow. In fact, one day my brother remarked that every time he passed a shop that only sold clothes in one colour –black – that he always thought of me. I didn’t think I wore it that much, but then I recalled that on a trip to South Africa with a friend from London, when we opened our suitcases the contents were identically the colour of coal.

It seems that the British are rather fond of dark and neutral tones, according to a recent survey on attitudes to colour conducted by dairy giant Arla when searching for a colour for their milk bottle tops that would put customers in the kind of good mood that makes them spend money. In addition to finding the colour for the tops –they chose yellow –the company also uncovered just how different hues create a range of moods and perceptions of your character. So, let’s see how your wardrobe measures up emotionally according to the survey’s findings!

Black and white

Well, let’s start with the colours that aren’t a colour as such. From the negative perspective, black signals an emotional state ranging from anger and stress to shyness and feeling overweight. But, it’s also considered sophisticated and a sign of intelligence and wealth if you wear it to an interview or cocktail party. Wearing white says you’re feeling slim, tanned and confident, whilst grey says you feel tired apparently. I’ve always been quite a fan of grey, but certainly more for work than play.


Colourful shirts on a rail

Warm colours

The 2000 people surveyed by Arla indicated that red suggested that the wearer’s mood was “loud, confident and manic.” And if you wear it to an interview, you’re ruthless as well as self assured. It has always been associated with passion and danger, so overall there’s definitely an association of ‘fearlessness’ with red. Yellow is seen as a colour of joy and happiness almost universally, according to the study and wearing it sends out the message that you’re a sunny person and lot less threatening than the person in red. Orange doesn’t get a mention, but pink is seen as a sign of immaturity, but only if you wear it to an interview. Frankly, I don’t care because it looks great with black! Ah yes, it is also believed that being pretty in pink also displays self-confidence, so it’s not all negative for the colour that is so closely aligned with femininity.

Cool colours

Blue and green both send out the message that you’re approachable, trustworthy and intelligent. Colour consultant Honey Lancaster James suggests that you wear these colours when you want to “win the game of life” and that they are the two best colours to wear at a job interview and in any situation where you want to make a good first impression. As I’m writing, I’ve just noticed that the clothes I chose to wear today for a meeting with a new client were indeed, blue and green. That was a choice based on grabbing items at random, but it seems my subconscious mind took me past the warmer colours to the quieter tones that don’t shriek “it’s all about me!”

Suited to the occasion

To summarise the survey findings, don’t ask your boss for a pay rise if they’re wearing black, but do wear it to a job interview. Don’t wear lots of grey if you want to appear upbeat and positive and only wear red in circumstances where you want to convey a sense of power and confidence. Keep your whites for holidays in the sun, but do step out in greens or blues when you want to make everyone around you feel they are in good company. And, above all, wear more yellow. Yes, it’s not the easiest colour to wear, but add splashes of it to your outfits and you’ll not only give yourself an instant mood boost, you’ll bring sunshine into the lives of those around you. That’s why Arla chose yellow for the bottle tops – it’s the colour of happiness!

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.