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Your Company Uniform: What Message Does The Color Send?

How much does the color of your uniforms affect the way people perceive your business? It’s an interesting question the answer to which would at first blush seem to be purely subjective; it’s all in the eye of the beholder, no?

But of course, color matters a great deal. All you need to do to prove this to yourself is to engage a sports fan on the subject of changing the color of the uniforms of his or her favorite team. The recent change, for example, of the shade of orange used by the Cleveland Browns has produced a controversy, which continues each time the team takes the field!

Still skeptical? Imagine how history might have changed had British regulars worn a color other than their customary red when fighting rebellious American colonists. Would Marines guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier send the same message wearing green jackets, even while performing identical service?

Let’s take a moment to examine the meanings of various colors.

Red Is Never Just Hot.

We’ll begin with an easy one. Red is one the top two favorite colors cited by people as well as the international symbol for stop. It is highly visible in nature and human society, as well as the color of blood, which gives a clue to its capacity to produce emotional extremes.

While springing from a core emotion of anger, red can produce a spectrum of emotional responses that include skepticism, jealousy and even distancing. The pure emotionalism of red is usually reduced through the addition of black to bring the color into the maroon range, which often introduces in subtlety and class.

The Multiple Meanings of Orange.

The only color named after an actual object, orange springs from the fear part of the emotional spectrum, which may explain its selection for prison uniforms. It also signifies submission and occasionally even anxiety.

However, this color, sometimes garish yet often denoting a nostalgic mood as in recollections of autumn, sends differing messages. It is often used to communicate vitality and spirit, which is why it’s often selected for outdoor gear. The darker the shade of orange, the more it is apt to denote comfort; on the other hand, its brighter, crisper hues are used to signify zest and energy.

Yellow Puts A Face On Things.

Like orange, yellow is not without its ambiguities. Once thought of in rather derogatory terms, yellow has often been synonymous with cowardice, caution and even illness.

Cross-culturally, however, yellow is generally agreed to have an emotional origin in joy and is typically used to express happiness. Its feelings also extend to excitement, energy, playfulness, cheer and even optimism. Yellow can have brighter and darker tones including ochre, but cannot mix with black.

Green. It’s Earthy And More.

Green has been appropriated by the ecology movement since the first Earth Day in 1970 and is almost universally associated with nature. In ancient times it was occasionally used to communicate infidelity and even envy.

However, green’s association with nature is long established, and may help account for its extensive array of mostly positive meanings. The core emotion of green is actually power or empowerment. It has been used to communicate faithfulness, importance, respect and confidence. Not surprisingly, it is also associated with value and success.

Peace and Blue Sky.

Blue is Number One. It’s the most popular color of the entire spectrum. As such, it also has more meanings than any other color. Some of these can easily be accounted for, as its association with heaven, water and sky.

For this reason, blue is generally accepted to have peacefulness as its core emotion. From this pivot point, it moves through the emotions of contentedness, intimacy and love toward trust, responsiveness and security. In addition, blue is associated with relaxation and feelings of contentment.

Purple. From Sad To Sage.

Purple has been associated with both the supernatural and royalty. In ancient Rome, purple was the color used to denote the emperor’s status. As we move toward the present day, purple has more often been used to communicate romance and intellect and the quality of being sage or wise.

Emotionally, purple springs from a core emotion of sadness. Its emotional shadings include sleepiness and even isolation as well as guilt and remorse. Conversely, it has communicated luxury and even excess.

Color Is Rarely Black And White.

Even black and while are not without their various interpretations. While white has historically been used to connote purity and innocence, and also means cleanliness and even brightness, as it moves toward ivory it is more apt to communicate class and exclusivity.

Black is a color of unambiguous power. Once used to connote evil, black in the modern era is more apt to be used by upscale brands to communicate their exclusivity. The same psychological factors underlie the popularity of grey and silver.

In the final analysis, each color can communicate varying emotions. It is important as a brand owner to know what your color scheme may say about you; however, the ultimate test of a color scheme is how it is received by your customers.

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