Professional & Business Attire: What Message is the Colour you are Wearing Sending in a Professional Setting?

Colours are all around us, yet many of us don’t seem to put much importance on them or think they have any effect on ourselves and others. You might want to think twice before you fall back on basic black every day. You may believe it looks classic and sophisticated, or maybe you’re wearing it because it’s just plain easy. But black could also be signalling to your co-workers that you’re depressed, unimaginative or lazy. Knowing about the effect other colours may have can help you be more creative with your wardrobe and ensure you are projecting the right image.

The colours you wear in a professional setting are about so much more than mere fashion or style. Colours send subconscious messages, and can affect your mood, as well as the mood of the workers around you. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the colours we choose for our business attire send a strong message. The image you project with a beige suit is very different from the way you look in a navy suit.  That’s why it’s absolutely essential to choose the colours you wear on a job interview with great care.

Meaning of colours

Never blue in blue

 blue professional work-wear men

What is the one colour that absolutely breathes success? Studies show that navy blue is the best colour for a suit to wear to a job interview, because it inspires confidence. You are more likely to get the job when you wear navy blue to an interview than any other colour. Blue is both friendly and powerful. It connotes loyalty. Have you noticed how many companies use blue in their logo and corporate colours?” Think the ultimate friendly and connected company, Facebook. Look at your computer screen right now and notice how many advertisers, programs, websites and platforms use blue as their main colour.

What’s said about red

Now if you really want to blow away your colleagues, superiors or potential employers, throw in a splash of red. Red is powerful and strong. It shows you’re not afraid to stand out, and it gets attention.

red work-wear women

But beware of too much, or too tight red. It could get you in trouble. A tight red dress says, to put it mildly, “flirt alert.” A bright red button down shirt with a dark suit and tie could look too Vegas or Mafia on a man. And while a red suit on a woman is great for politicians and public speakers, in some settings it can be a little bright and intimidating. It can also give the impression that you’re flashy, and not a team player.

Blending in: When beige is best

Is there any time on the job when you don’t want to stand out — when a blah beige or dark, neutral colours could be your friends?

beige work clothesbeige work wear men

Some men may feel that bright-coloured clothing would draw too much attention to them and worry that they  would be singled out for additional, undesirable tasks and be razzed by co-workers if they wore bright colours. Still, according to experts, it’s hard for a male executive to be taken seriously in a beige suit. Whether you’re wearing a suit or not, beige as the predominant colour in your outfit can make you look drab, dull and Milquetoast.

Here’s a quick rundown of what other colours can say about you at work:

White

If you’re wearing all-white it looks like a uniform and employees will be on tenterhooks around you, just waiting for you to explode when you attract the inevitable stain. Unless you’re a painter, chef or nurse, stay away from all white.

Green

Darker greens can connote power, class, strength and conservatism. Brighter greens tell people you’re sporty, more casual and often cheerful.

green work clothes

Pink

Pink is not just for women anymore. Men who wear pale pink or salmon accents tell the world they’re confident, daring and independent enough to sport what has previously been considered a feminine colour. Women can use it to soften a strong, dark-colour suit and look more approachable. Bright, bubblegum pink or fuchsia from head to toe is just plain annoying and hurts people’s eyes.

pink work clothespink work clothes

Purple

Dark purple says elegance, authority, class and a regal demeanor. Men can get away with a deep burgundy jacket to give a refined yet highly stylish impression. Women can appear strong, powerful and confident in a deep purple jacket, suit or blouse. A deep purple dressy T-shirt or button down in a very casual work environment says “I’m confident and efficient, yet not stuffy.”

purple work clothespurple work clothes
Yellow

Yellow tells people you’re casual, playful, cheerful, approachable and not afraid to take risks. Seeing yellow can cheer people up, so you’re perceived as having a sunny personality just for wearing it. Watch out for mustard, however, which can make people of almost all complexions look jaundiced or otherwise unhealthy.

Soie-Yellow-Semi-Formal-Shirt-With-Pintucks-On-Yoke-9576-010442-1-product2

Brown

You have to be careful with brown. Unless your brown clothes are fitted properly, it can make you look like a potato, a potato sack, or any of a number of unattractive brown-coloured substances. When your brown clothing has the right cut, however, and is accented with blue, pink, beige, yellow, salmon, green or a host of other colours, it’s a great substitute for black- not as severe, formal or depressing.

brown officewear

Orange

Go easy on the orange, lest your outfit be mistaken for a caution sign, safety wear, or prison garb. Because of the intensity of most oranges, unless the clothing is extremely well made, it often looks cheap or garish. Peaches are fine and blend well with other colours, but too much bright orange can make your colleagues think you’re tacky and craving attention.

orange work wearformal orange shirt man
So how do those bold prints come across in the workplace? Plaids can say you’re traditional yet sporty; polka dots can mean you’re fun and have a good sense of humour, and animal prints may tell the world you’re flirty and sexy. How many times have you heard someone growl or purr when you pass by in that leopard print blouse?

These are all generalizations, of course. A lot depends on the shade, your own hair colour and complexion, and the contrasting accents you put with these individual colours. But knowing a hue’s psychological effect can put you at an advantage when you’re going on a job interview, conducting a meeting, asking for a raise or trying to fit in. And these days, we need all the help we can get.

We have 3 sessions that might be able to help you pick the right styles and colours for your workplace:

Women : Colour Analysis or Work Styling

Men: Image Consultation for Men

officedresscode officewear2 officewear

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About Numba Pinkerton

Personal Stylist/ Image Consultant / Makeover Specialist/ Personal/Life Coach

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