AVOID: Colors With Strong Negative Cultural Connotations
Colors convey meaning, and that meaning is often culturally based. “The psychological association of a color is often more meaningful than the visual experience,” explain Pantone’s color experts. Meaning, colors may evoke responses far beyond simple appreciation for a particular shade or hue. One big challenge though is that some color associations are much stronger than others.
In the United States we may think of white as conveying a woman’s purity and innocence (think weddings, christenings) and even capitulation (think surrender), there is no associated prohibition against wearing white to an interview. At least not for women. A man in a white suit would be considered out of place in most situations, although a white button down shirt is a staple. Conversely, a gray suit for men is classic, while gray on women may be perceived as dowdy (although we’ve seen some ultra chic exceptions). Red on the other hand conveys passion, strength, and rebellion, in the US, but all in measured doses.
David McCandless has compiled information on cultural connections around the world via his beautiful colours in culture wheel (he’s a Brit, hence the funky color/colour spelling). Our recommendation? Check out the wheel to see if there are possible associations and then do a bit of deeper research to understand the depth and subtlety of the meaning.
A Final Insider Tip
There is no substitute for some basic background research. At a minimum, check out the firm’s website and news coverage. Look for the colors people are wearing in their promotional materials. If you can swing it, consider doing a bit of reconnaissance work and check out the business during a shift change or at opening or closing time. Look for the color story portrayed by its existing employees and consider twice before straying too far from what you see.