Boring or classic?
Flattering or draining?
Drab or demure?
Having told a few clients (with closets full of the colour) that black doesn’t suit them, here’s my stance on the colour.
Black suits in the workplace denote a formality and strong presence. Black fitted sweaters and slick-looking black cargo pants in the movies signal a heist is taking place. A group of men in black suits, white shirts and black ties will forever create a sense of dread for those who are familiar with that indelible scene in Reservoir Dogs. The little black dress is considered a staple ‘go to ‘of a woman’s wardrobe. Black has long been lauded for its ability to flatter women’s figures, match everything and suit every occasion. Black is the #1 selling apparel colour. “Does it come in black?” can be heard daily in most retail shops. Most people own at least one black suit. The most formal of suits, the tuxedo, is traditionally black, except for a few frightful years in the 60s when someone dreamed up pastel tuxes. Black socks are the top choice for women, and fall second-highest to white for men. Black handbags, shoes, wallets, and anything leather far outsell their counterparts.
So why do I suggest many of my clients should NOT wear black?
#1. Black doesn’t look great on everyone. Especially close to your face, black clothing can highlight dark lines under the chin, shadows around the eyes and wrinkles on the skin. Surface imperfections and sunken areas of your face may appear more pronounced. Looking closer at the eyes, you may detect dark spokes or fissures in the iris. People with warm undertones to their skin and naturally golden hues in their hair will witness a mild to dramatic loss of colour in their face, as if they were sick or tired. Standing in front of a mirror (sans make-up), comparing a warm brown piece of clothing to a black garment, will give you a basic idea if you look for all the ‘tells’ listed above. Love black, but find you can’t wear it well? Just keep it away from direct contact with your face.
#2. Black lacks any kind of friendly personality. In the movies, the character in black is very often the menacing villain, like Darth Vader or the Wicked Witch of the East, or the sociopathic hard case antihero, like Mad Max or ‘V’, the titular character in V for Vendetta. My pregnant clients will attest to the difficulty in finding maternity clothes that are not black. What part of growing a little baby in your belly finds harmony with dressing in black? For those of you in the business of sales (and we’re all in this business to some degree, whether we’re selling our ideas, ourselves, our products, our services), black is not the colour of choice if you wish to endear yourself to people. If you wish to play the power card to subordinates, sure, black works. But if you want to incorporate approachability into your image, add some colour.
#3. Black is boring. Perfect for a funeral where the focus should be on the deceased, who is often surrounded by bouquets of white or bright flowers. Black is drab in large doses. But it can be elegant and classically ‘in style’ in moderation, or when presented in interesting textures. Black can be depressing. Ever notice your mood when you get dressed in the morning? Guaranteed, given you have the choice in your wardrobe, you’ll pick the brighter colours when your mood is up, and the muted colours when your mood is somber. And if you’re still not convinced, look to those children you know. Does the average happy child under twelve ever ask to wear something black? No, they save the black obsession until they’re teenagers.
My overall stance on black?
Black can be elegant, sophisticated and professional on a person whose facial tone and hair colouring are suited to it, and whose personality matches black’s standoffish, powerful and exacting presence. For everyone else? Let us show you how to find colours that match your unique colouring, personality and lifestyle.