How often do we think about cultural differences when it comes to choosing your wardrobe? What may be ‘fashion-forward’ in one culture can be nonsensical and even out-right offensive in another. This week, we’ve seen how a political fashion choice got pop-sensation Katy Perry denied entry into China and subsequently booted from performing at the 2017 Victoria Secret fashion show. Whilst freedom of speech and correspondingly freedom of dress is a cornerstone of American politics, in other countries, certain choices can be career-damaging. No matter which side of the political fence you choose to sit, Perry’s outlandish and often times thought provoking dress sense is certainly ‘on-brand’. However, many would argue that adopting a ‘culturally aware’ sense of style is essential in our ever-growing multicultural society.

Colour is a key component in our styling choices and is also one that is drenched in cultural significance. In the 2005 paper ‘Are you selling the right colour? A Cross-Cultural Review of Colour as A Marketing Cue’, Mubeen M. Aslam notes that colour “influences consumer perceptions and preferences, purchase and consumption behaviour, and helps companies (re) position or differentiate from the competition. However, the notion of colour universality is fraught with risk. Sometimes companies fail simply because of inappropriate choice of product or package colours”.

colour psychology orange the psychology of fashion shakaila
Suit: Missguided Top: Levis
Suit: Missguided Top: Levis, Shoes: New Look

In the field of psychology, the modern doctrine of ‘Individual Differences’ discusses the importance of acknowledging both sociological and environmental factors that cause people to respond differently to certain stimuli. This Colour Psychology style edit is all about this seasons IT colour - orange and in conducting my research I was enthralled by the sheer magnitude of differences that exist between cultures and how one hue could be interpreted so broadly.  

For example, in Japanese and Chinese cultures, orange is associated with courage, happiness, love, and good health (Huffington Post). In the Netherlands, orange is the colour of the Dutch Royal family and therefore signifies wealth and prestige (Shutterstock). In Indian cultures, orange is considered to be a lucky, auspicious and sacred colour (Empowered By Colour)

colour psychology orange puffa psychology of fashion shakaila
Jacket: Puffa, Dress & Boots: Missguided
colour psychology orange puffa psychology of fashion shakaila
Jacket: Puffa, Dress & Boots: Missguided

Luckily, orange can be considered as a positive colour in many cultures for varying different reasons. But what if I was to wear this orange suit from Misguided or this orange jacket from Puffa in a country that deemed the colour to be distasteful? Given that our clothes often speak for us before we get a chance to utter a single word, are culturally specific colour interpretations something we should start to take more seriously? Does Individual Differences have a place in styling?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Author

Shakaila Forbes-Bell is a Fashion Psychologist and writer who has been featured in Marie Claire UK, i-D, Who What Wear, All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, Fashion Bomb Daily, The Voice Newspaper, Gal-Dem, Black Matters US and more.

Write A Comment