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Office Fashion – The Psychology of Colours in Work Wear

Fashion & Beauty

The office isn’t a fashion parade but it is the sort of place where your clothes will get you noticed. People are judged on their appearance and, while this may not be fair, it is almost certainly true; and even subtle changes to your office attire can have your co-workers or superiors thinking about you in a different manner.

Office Fashion – The Psychology of Colours in Work Wear image clothes on a rail 600x450

What do the colours of you clothes say about you?

Colour Psychology

Colour psychology is concerned with how certain colours effect emotions, perceptions and reactions. Interior designers have used this to their advantage for years by letting blue relax people, yellow excite them or purple make them feel sensual. You can, of course, have the same effect on people’s perceptions with your clothes; even the colour of something as subtle as your tie or shoes can have a massive impact on how seriously someone will take you. For the office, consider the following connotations certain colours might have:

Black symbolises power and sophistication. It is also known to have a slimming effect. Black also has the potential to be overbearing and scary if used too liberally. Black is a good colour for trousers, jackets or shirts but should be broken up with other colours.

Yellow can be seen as cheery and warm but be aware that it is the colour most likely to cause eye strain and encourage feelings of anger or frustration. Yellow should be limited to accessories such as ties or necklaces.

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White is associated with purity and serenity but it can also be viewed as bland; this means it should be used sparingly. White is the classic colour for an office shirt because it provides a good background for the statement colour of a tie.

Purple is a colour that has historically been associated with wealth or royalty; but due to many people wearing purple to seem like a wealthy or important person it can also be seen as the colour of fakery or insincerity. Purple is difficult colour to pull off because it requires confidence to wear successfully.

Red is a powerful colour associated with speed, aggression and excitement. Red is a colour that provokes strong emotions. This makes red a great colour to wear to negotiations, meetings and sales pitches.

Brown is a colour that symbolises age and maturity and this can make someone wearing brown seem wise. Brown is a popular colour with teachers and academics because it inspires feelings of respect in a subtle manner as opposed to aggressively asserting respect like red or purple. However, be aware that wearing too much brown can make you look stuffy or old fashioned.

Blue is a calming colour that inspires serenity. That said, it is a colour that can also evoke feelings of sadness. Wear blue when you need to give important news in a meeting but break it up with other colours if you are delivering bad news.

Orange is one of the safest colours to wear. It is associated with warmth and enthusiasm and has very few negative associations. This makes it a great colour for accessories because it prevents other colours from becoming overbearing.

Green is like orange in that it has very few negative associations. Green evokes nature, tranquillity and good luck. Green is good colour for women’s dresses. It is also another great colour for accessories.

Pink is associated with femininity, love and romance. Pink is a strange colour because it has a relaxing and calming effect upon initial exposure but studies have shown that it becomes more irritating to people the longer they are exposed to it. This makes pink a good colour for items you will wear briefly but you can remove for the bulk of the day e.g. jackets and bags.

Work on combinations  such as green and black (powerful but approachable) or blue and orange (calm but warm) and wear certain colours in preparation for certain tasks you will face during the day.

Comments on this Article: 2

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  1. Nice synposis of which colours to wear, why and when. I feel perfectly safe in orange, now! Perhaps I’ll try adding brown to my wardrobe…
    What do you think of grey, particularly dark greys?

  2. Kevin Ball says:

    Grey doesn’t have much psychological impact on its own but it does reign in the impact of other colours. This why monochrome looks are popular because while a black tie will stand out against a white shirt, a grey suit will stop the tie from having any of the negative effects that come with dressing in black.

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