Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Did you see Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile - a Netflix movie that premiered earlier this year?
Zac Efron playing the role of Ted Bundy stands in a court room wearing a light blue suit defending himself. The colour of his outfit was a strategic choice (for our purposes, we're going to ignore the old style bow tie and wide lapels). Wearing light blue with white underneath portrays him as approachable and non-threatening as opposed to the sense of power and dominance imposed by a dark suit. It's these seemingly minor details that have an impact on the subconscious.
I'm not telling you to care about what people think all the time. But, I am telling you, if you have a job interview coming up, an important meeting, or a fancy event (perhaps a wedding?), it's not just what you wear that matters, the colours matter, too. The impact can be huge, long-lasting, and even the 'make or break' moment. A first impression is made in less than seven seconds and hard to break without meeting seven more times.
Unless you're working in a creative field, your work suits likely consist of solid black, blue, and/or grey. So, does it matter when you wear which? Of course. But, why? Because every colour and shade carries its own perception. Stark contrast is seen as more formal, reliable, and intimidating whereas light and muted colours portray a sense of calmness, approach-ability, and conservation.
So, what should you be wearing? What should you keep as a staple in your closet? Spoiler Alert: a navy suit. If you want to know why, you'll have to keep reading. Below is a quick breakdown of what your suit colour says to other people.
NAVY Trustworthy, Credible, Reliable, Stable Intelligent, ApproachableSerious, Professional A blue or navy suit is ideal for job interviews and meetings with current and potential clients because blue signifies trust and reliability. Think of the technology sector and how many logos incorporate blue (i.e. Bell, IBM). Typically, light blue is best for a less formal, more casual setting while navy is ideal for important meetings and interviews. The key difference between a light and navy blue suit is perceived credibility. A light blue suit won't affect you negatively, but a navy suit will affect your perceived credibility positively. A navy suit is as versatile as you can get. Keep one in your closet at all times.
CHARCOAL DependableCredible, ReliableIntimidating A charcoal suit is essentially the same as a navy with the key difference being navy can help you appear younger while charcoal may help you appear older. This dark grey can have the same perceived power that comes with a black suit but without the intimidation. It's a great background to any pop of colour. Something to be aware of is the neutrality and indifference that can be reflected with a charcoal suit. A charcoal suit is almost as high on the versatility spectrum as navy but with a touch more formality.
GREY ConservativeProfessional, Security Neutral, IndifferentA grey suit falls on the less formal end of the spectrum and can be perceived as lacking energy, dull, and conservative. Like charcoal, it can be used as a canvas for accent colours to give it life and energy. A grey suit is best reserved for events unrelated to important business. Those "smart but casual" events such as dinner or cocktail party or a wedding.
BLACK Sophisticated, ExclusivityPower, Authority Aggressive, Intimidating A black suit is formal. It can read sophistication, luxury, and exclusivity, but it can also read as aggressive and intimidating. Black often represents evil or death. Think about movies - how many protagonists wear black? How many villains? A black suit commands authority and portrays control. If you're going into an interview, avoid wearing a black suit. It is best reserved for the most formal of events - hence the term "black-tie" event.
You and I both know the spectrum of colours spans far greater than navy to shades of black, but did you really want to read a novel about suit colours? If you're not sure what to wear in the situation, give us a call and we'll let you know our two cents. We haven't been acknowledged as industry experts for over 50 years for nothing!
In its simplest form, contrasting colours portray a sense of power while lower contrast colours appear friendly and approachable. You can use the quick reference guide below to find the right colours for the right situation: Dark Colours = Formal, dominant, authoritative Light colours = Friendly, approachable Bright colours = Confidence, energy Muted colours = Conservative, less threatening