The other day someone asked if I had a favourite colour.
“Blue,” I said.
“What shade of blue?”
“I don’t know. The whole spectrum.”
“Hmm, most people like something specific – like dark blue.”
“Well I like everything from navy to duck-egg. Why limit yourself ?” My answer was apparently rather amusing.
It’s interesting that we use colour as one of the ways to categorise people. It features in a long list of questions on favourites - animals, music, books, cities, food and whatever else takes the interrogator’s fancy. These quick-fire queries are exercised to establish certain tastes and interests. But how much do they actually give away? What if I'd answered red or green or lilac? Would it have conveyed a radically different message? Had I been asked at another point, my answer might have been different. Today my mustard-coloured jumper means that I’m feeling the warm favour of yellow. Tomorrow it might be something else.
I find the psychology of colour fascinating: the ways in which it is used to associate, mark out, denote, symbolize; the manner in which our perception of colour is as much a product of culture as it is personal taste; how we use and manipulate colour to be anything from ornamental to political. Colour belongs to any number of realms from room décor to national flags to company logos. It can mean serious business. Brands and advertisers carefully target their audiences with specific shades or combinations. You can even take a course at LCF on ‘Colour Psychology for Branding and Communication’.
Recently debate has focused on the gendered implication of colour, particularly for children. Look down any toy aisle or along any rail of clothes and note the differences. Sweet pink and lilac contrasts with rough-and-tumble blue or orange. One is pretty where the other is practical. Toolkits can only be presented to girls if cast in purple-toned plastic. Luckily campaigns such as Let Toys be Toys are busy challenging the stereotypes, yet it remains a disquieting instance of the ways in which colour can reinforce societal norms.
Colour brings with it all sorts of other predictable connotations. Red links to anger and lust, green to jealousy or the environment. Black has an extraordinary number of different overtones - gothic, sexy, smart, business-like, funereal, beatnik.
When pondering colour my thoughts immediately swung to clothing. Although there are still strong links between shade and mood or character, be it the slight hint of vamp in a red dress or earth-loving hippy chic of a long, green skirt, often it can instead be dependent on aesthetic. The choice to combine an electric blue pencil skirt with a beanie hat and heels in matching tones is a decision to stand out. In the realms of the wardrobe, the psychology of colour applies more to the careful creation of a visual appearance. It is part of the myriad number of choices available to construct our daily image.
These photos were taken several months ago when the weather was still warm enough for bare legs. Everything I'm wearing is second hand charity-shopped, with the shoes bought on eBay and dyed bright blue by my ingenious mum. The matching Chanel nail polish added the perfect accent.
I wanted to say a huge, huge thank you to all those who took the time to vote for me in the Hospital Club 100 award. I'm completely delighted to say that I made the final ten for the writing and publishing category! (And 10 x 10 categories makes up the '100' of the Hospital Club 100). Massive appreciation to all you amazing people who made it happen, and to the Hospital Club and Guardian Culture Pros for putting it together. You can see me and my lovely friend Alex here and my award here. I also featured in The Guardian when it was announced last week. I was particularly thrilled that All Walks Beyond the Catwalk made the final 10 in the Fashion category too.