Stories / May 2019

WHAT WEARING BLUE SAYS ABOUT YOU

In the first of an ongoing series on the psychology of colour, we look at what wearing blue communicates and the hue’s effect on mood.

There’s a reason the navy blue suit is arguably the sartorial mainstay. Whether you’re light-skinned or dark, or anything in between; whether you be blond, brown, black-haired or ginger; tall or short, stout or slim — a solid navy suit looks great on basically everybody. But studies suggest our affection for blue runs deeper than mere flattering aesthetics. To begin with, blue is overwhelmingly the world’s favourite colour. In a 2015 international YouGov survey conducted across 10 countries, blue proved far and away the most popular choice, winning at least a quarter and in most cases, roughly a third of the vote. In Britain and the United States, 40 percent of men chose blue.

While it can also be associated with sadness (ergo, “got the blues”), traditionally, blue has been considered the colour of intelligence, serenity, reliability, trust and security. Brands adopt blue as their corporate colour to play off these perceptions. Automobile manufacturers including Ford, Volkswagen and Mazda. Financial companies such as Amex, JP Morgan or PayPal. Airlines like Pan Am, United, ANA and KLM. Medical and pharmaceutical operators Pfizer, Roche, the NHS and Blue Cross. All assert safety and trustworthiness with honest-to-goodness blue logos. (Facebook does the same, but we’re beginning to see through the ruse.) By wearing blue, subconsciously, we communicate those same values to the people we encounter. Blue is calming and is believed to reduce appetite (dieters are advised to eat off blue plates), it encourages the observer to slow down and make more considered decisions — fiery colours like yellow and red are thought to do quite the opposite, hence McDonalds’ vibrant livery. Nevertheless, blue attracts attention. Perhaps this is because, aside from the sky and sea, blue is relatively rare in nature. Think about it, there are scant few blue plants or animals, and hardly any blue foods.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.