What Colors Mean and How Your Clothes Say It

Each and every time you suit up for the day, you are choosing colors to drape on that will portray a message about yourself, often unintentionally. Do you know what each color means, and more importantly how to use them to affect emotions and convey messages?

This article will help you learn the differences between warm and cool colors, and understand what each hue represents so that you can dress accordingly.

Not only do the colors of your clothes enhance your personality, but they can actually influence behavior and give others subconscious messages about you too.

Don’t believe me? Try wearing a suit of sunny yellow or bright orange to your next client meeting, rather than a subdued navy or gray, and see how it goes.

Wearing bright colors can lighten your mood and enhance your personality.

Colors Influence Behavior

One reason it’s so important for every well-dressed man to understand at least the basics of color psychology is that your appearance will speak volumes about you before you ever open your mouth.

Choose the wrong shades, and what your look says about you may not be what you had in mind. Colors not only enhance our appearance — but they also can influence both our own and other people’s behavior.

Therefore, it’s to your advantage to consider the responses to color, both physiological and psychological.

Examples of How Color Affects Behavior

Want some practical day to day examples of what color means and how the psychology of color can affect the behavior of people? Companies use these insider tips and tricks all the time when designing their shops and restaurants.

Here are some fascinating examples.

Blackfriars Bridge

The Blackfriars Bridge in London is made of black ironwork. It was repainted in a green shade, and afterward suicides declined more than 30%.

Color Psychology at Restaurants

Have you ever noticed how many fast-food restaurants use red, orange, and yellow? This is to attract the customer to the establishment and to make the food look better. Red also has a positive effect on your appetite—no wonder you’ll find yourself eating a cheeseburger and fries so easily!

The colors of some restaurants are also bright inside, pleasing enough for a time, but designed to encourage you not to linger and move on, which helps make room for other customers and thus higher profits.

However, at some higher-end restaurants where the goal is to keep the customers lingering, the interior of the restaurant will instead be bathed in soothing shades of blue or green.

Color Choices in Businesses

Color can affect the sense of temperature, size of a room, and how food appears. But restaurants (and all places of employment!) need to should choose their shades carefully as some colors have surprising results.

For example, the color yellow can do quite the opposite of what you might think. This seemingly cheerful shade produces grumpy, tense employees.

Want to create a calm atmosphere? Try pink! The color pink is calming which is why you’ll see it in jails (I’ve heard…no personal experience!), Department of Motor Vehicle offices and hopefully soon in Post Offices.

Some teams have even painted the locker rooms of the visiting team pink for a tranquilizing effect to slow them down!

All of these fascinating examples bring us back to this point crucial question: ever think about what the color of your tie or car or walls of your bedroom is really saying?

Color is important since it gets an emotional response from people and can absolutely affect not just your look but your entire persona.

Matching outfits -- including bow ties! Colors can help your entire persona.

Clothing Color Personality – Emotional Responses from Colors

Let’s look at each color and the emotions they can elicit.

Because we are men and for the most part don’t care about color and all that, this list can be incredibly useful. First, it tells you what your clothes are saying, at least in some subtle way.

Second, if you have women in your life who think you’re not in touch with your feelings, this list will help you prove them wrong!

Use this helpful guide to provide emotions you can literally wear on your sleeve…or in your car, the walls of your home, the cover of your next presentation, etc.

Gentlemen, reach deep down inside and pick a feeling, and watch as I tell you how to express yourself in living color. Here is what each shade represents.

Red:

  • Dominance
  • Power
  • Attention
  • Sexual energy
  • Health
  • Determination
  • Passion
  • Persistence
  • Excitement
  • Strength

“I love red so much; I almost want to paint
everything red.”

— Alexander Calder

Pink:

  • Upbeat
  • Good health
  • Calming
  • Friendly
  • Compassionate
  • Faithful
  • Femininity
  • Calm

Orange:

  • Happy
  • Courageous
  • Successful
  • Enthusiasm
  • Bold
  • Adventuresome
  • Friendliness
  • Warmth
  • Informality
  • Welcoming
  • Movement
  • Energy

“Orange is the happiest color”

— Frank Sinatra

Brown:

  • Informal
  • Reliable
  • Approachable
  • Relaxed
  • Stability
  • Earthy

Yellow:

  • Anxiety
  • Alert
  • Optimistic
  • Confident
  • Stimulating
  • Enthusiastic
  • Playful
  • Cheerful
  • Communicative
  • Expressive
  • Intelligent

“Yellow is capable of charming God.”

–Vincent Van Gogh

Green:

  • Relaxing
  • Compassion
  • Prosperity
  • Prestige
  • Growth
  • Abundance
  • Money
  • Vitality
  • Harmony
  • Efficiency

Aqua:

  • Motivated
  • Active
  • Dynamic

Turquoise:

  • Refreshing
  • Cool
  • Imaginative
  • Innovative
  • Youthful

Blue:

  • Loved,
  • High regard
  • Knowledge
  • Authority
  • Trust
  • Serious
  • Responsibility
  • Peace
  • Social status
  • Caring
  • Good health
  • Tranquil
  • Intuitive
  • Happiness
  • Calm
  • Honest
  • Loyalty
  • Integrity

Light Blue:

  • Peaceful
  • Sincere
  • Affectionate

Indigo:

  • Knowledge
  • Power
  • Integrity

Purple:

  • Spiritual
  • Passionate
  • Visionary
  • Regal
  • Powerful
  • Respected
  • Dignified
  • Luxurious

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

— Alice Walker, The Color Purple (Simon & Schuster 1982)

Lavender:

  • Romantic
  • Imaginative
  • Fantasy
  • Calming

Magenta:

  • Outrageous
  • Imaginative
  • Innovative

Gold:

  • Illumination
  • Wisdom
  • Prestige
  • Expensive

Silver:

  • Prestige
  • Cold
  • Scientific

Black:

  • Elegance
  • Authority
  • Dignity
  • Sophistication
  • Seductive
  • Mystery

“I’ve been 40 years discovering that the queen of all colors is black.”

— Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Gray:

  • Brainy
  • Class
  • Efficiency
  • Sophisticated
  • Confidence

White:

  • Virtue
  • Fertility
  • Clean
  • Status
  • Prosperity

The History of the Color Blue

As blue is one of the most frequently used hues in dress, I thought it would be worth exploring the history of this enigmatic shade.

Blue was a color that has signified power and beauty since ancient Egyptian times.

Pastel blue was popular with Germanic tribes who derive a dye from the herb woad during the First Century BC through 5th Century AD. On the other hand, the Romans consider the color blue barbaric.

New processes made blue dye colorfast, which gave it a prominent place in painting, heraldry, and clothing during the 11th and 12th Centuries. Marco Polo reported seeing the color blue in Baghdad in the 1300s.

During the 15th and 16th Centuries, Protestant reformers thought that bright colors (especially red) were carnal! But growing trade with the rest of the world exposed Europe to the indigo plant, which produced a deeper blue.

Indigo is one of the oldest dyes and made from fermented leaves of Indigofera plants, which are native to China and India. By the early 19th century, Britain was the main supplier of the blue dye from its plantations in India.

In 1860 Indigo dye was first used for denim. The dye is why they’re called “blue jeans”! German chemist Adolph von Baeyer was the first to create a synthetic indigo dye that Sir William Perkin improved in 1856.

Now, blue can be worn in the most casual settings to the most formal. It may be one of the most versatile shades on the planet!

Man wearing head to toe blue colored denim.

Cool and Warm Colors – How They Are Different

Have you ever wondered what the terms cool colors or warm colors mean? It isn’t that one feels hotter than the other. It’s all about the undertones and the emotions they bring up. Let’s look at them closer so you can understand the difference between cool and warm hues.

Cool Colors

Cool colors include shades of green, blue, and violet.

They are associated with water, sky, and foliage. They are calming, unassuming and they appear to recede. This is handy knowledge if you want to appear less heavy—or if you’re in the witness protection program.

Warm Colors

Warm colors include shades of red, orange, and yellow.

They are associated with fire and the sun. They psychologically suggest emotion, energy, and warmth while optically appearing larger. Now you can skip the gym and still bulk up!

Color Tips and Tricks

Use a color combo that doesn’t compliment your eye, hair and skin tone, and people ask if you’re feeling okay — which, if it’s a good-looking nurse, is also a way of making color work for you.

If you look washed out in yellow, wear a yellow shirt the day before you call in sick to go to the beach. Everyone will talk about how bad you looked the day before!

We’re not advocating a red suit for a job interview, but you can use this color code knowledge for casual clothes, and for bold tie colors to accent your face and project power and authority.

To learn more about how to build a complementary outfit, be sure to check out our Color Coordination For Men article.

How to Look Your Best – More Articles to Read

This article is part of our “How to Look Your Best” series. This series is dedicated to helping people learn how to project their best image.