Research is showing that it pays to put a little thought into what you wear to the office--clothing choices can influence not only how people perceive you, but how you perform and perceive yourself. This said, black might not be the friend you think it is. These are the most powerful reasons to swap it for other colors.
Why black needs reconsideration
Professionals have had a long love affair with black clothes and accessories for a range of reasons. They typically pull it out of their closets because they
- like the slimming visual effect the color can have on the body
- want the security that comes with being able to be more inconspicuous
- aren't sure what to use outside of black as the accepted default
But as Martin Antony, professor of psychology at Ryerson University of Toronto explains, individuals people often fear black because they associate it with the unknown. In the dark, he explains, it's hard to see if there's a threat lurking. Subsequently, wearing black could intimidate some people and make them feel like they have to distance themselves from you.
Wanting to be more inconspicuous can create problems, too. While it's good if what you're wearing makes you feel comfortable, you need to be on the radar first if you want others to look at your capabilities or successes. By leaving black on the rack and choosing what doesn't blend in, you become more memorable, and it thus can be easier for people to take you seriously.
Lastly, when you deviate from black in favor of color and patterns, you send the message that you're not bound by convention. People like that! They associate this type of modest rule breaking with creativity and the ability to look at the world with a broader perspective. Always opting for darkness, by contrast, could communicate that you don't really think for yourself.
Let black accentuate
So does this mean black needs to go for good? Not entirely. The color can be a powerful way to make a protest statement in some situations, for instance. A recent example is the 2018 Golden Globe Awards. Attendees such as Oprah Winfrey and Chris Hemsworth wore black to send a solemn message of solidarity for victims of sexual harassment and abuse.
The general rule of thumb, though, assuming you're not wearing black for a serious message, is simply that black shouldn't be the dominant color. Rather, it should help link your other colors together and help them pop. So, for example, you might try a gold skirt, black tights and a light blue blouse and shoes. In the same way, a classic black blazer can pull together a nice pair of tan trousers and blue button down.
And of course, if you're used to wearing black all the time, you don't have to purge your closet in one go. Experiment a little to find what you like before you invest in new styles. Just be open-minded, work with your body type and don't be afraid to get some honest feedback from some buddies or colleagues you trust.