Color your worldPosted: May 29, 2011
Can the colors you wear affect your message? Absolutely – people are affected by color, and color can convey a message of its own.
There are image consultants who can tell you all about the meaning and feelings expressed by different colors. For example, orange is a happy color. Frank Sinatra used to wear an orange pocket square with his tuxedo, but few other men on the planet could pull that off! I’m not a member of the fashion police, but I have a nice collection of neckties and pay attention to ties on others, so that’s where I will focus.
What color ties do Chinese leaders usually wear? Before you answer, let me warn you: this is a trick question. When Chinese leaders head off to the Communist party meeting or make other domestic appearances they usually wear ties in the party color – red. But when they attend a global summit or some other international event they almost always wear blue ties. Why? Because blue represents calm, harmony, and peace. That is the message they want to present to the world. Red is ideal for domestic consumption, but it could also represent excitement or danger – not very reassuring to a world unsure of China’s intentions. I guarantee you the top Chinese leaders do not pick ties at random.
There is a wide spectrum of meaning associated with various colors. You can use certain color choices deliberately to express meaning or create a mood. For example, dentists often choose pink, light blue, or other pastel colors for the walls of their examining rooms to calm nervous patients. Magicians usually wear black for two reasons: black represents mystery, and it makes their audience focus where they want them to focus – on their hands and face. You can follow color guidelines but do not treat them as universal rules.
There are cultural differences in what colors represent. In much of Asia, red is an auspicious color often associated with good fortune and weddings. In the West, white is the color for weddings, while in Asia white is for funerals.
There are also individual factors. Depending on your skin tone, and your eye and hair color, you just may not look good in certain colors no matter how much you like them. There is no point in wearing yellow if it makes you look sallow.
The Bottom Line: Be aware of what colors can mean, choose carefully within safe limits (a dark suit, a blue tie), but don’t take it too seriously!