Are we losing colors?

3 tips to better use color in your everyday wardrobe


I don’t even know where to begin with this topic. Let’s say I’m obsessed. I mean it is everything; color is everything, it just gives, and gives, and gives some more, eternally. 

This free-write is a plea to understanding that our consumerist culture has pushed us not only to abandon color in design but also to be complacent and boring (stick with me, there’s more to it), showing less and less expression with what we wear, see, and experience daily. Neutral colors are favorable over spontaneous splashes of color for ease of sale, trade, fitting in, etc. The “classics” are boring, because they lack color; yes this is my opinion, and yes, I hope I can change your mind if you do not already share it.  

It is in French, so if you’re annoyed by that, the video does reference a highly referenced article written by Cath Sleeman, writer for Science Museum Group Digital Lab, Interim Head of Data Science at Nesta. The article Colour & Shape: Using Computer Vision to Explore the Science Museum Group Collection analyzed over 7,000 photos of everyday objects from 21 categories to study their form through shape, color, and texture. Insights enhance the museum's catalog and demonstrate the value of photographic datasets. It was a fascinating investigation, but needless to say, what interested me here was the color. 

The fact that color has been declining over time in design trends sparked a radical yellow fire in me ravishing into a sparkling orange and red-toned flame. A flame for flamboyance, an oversharing flame, a colorfully gay one, and especially a pouring-out-my-heart-about-my-love-for-color-in-clothes-and-everything-else flame. 

As dispersed, and indecisive as I am, when art making, designing, or picking out an outfit (which sometimes can take much longer than I care to admit, but care enough to make a parenthesis about it), color always gets me to land on a decision. Consciously or not, color matching, harmonizing, complimenting, and sometimes clashing happens like clockwork, and with purpose. Always. 

Ok, but that’s beside the point this is not about my love for color, but a fun way to address color and dress in color if you are afraid to explore a bit of color here and there. 

Below, I will share some basic color theories and schemes that can help mitigate some decision-making crises or help get you out of a rut when wanting to wear different colors but always getting back to the same navy blues, khakis, greys, blacks, and whites. This screams BORING, yes I am judging you. Yes, I too fall into this dwindling cycle of cruel whispers saying “This is too much,” “Just blend in today,” “Wear this to a party instead,” “It’s not a parade, it’s just work,” I mean, the list goes on. Or maybe, you’ve long shut this voice out and have fallen into darkness. 

Well, that’s ok.

The color theory we will briefly explore is more on the different color schemes one can explore. They are simply harmonious and aesthetically pleasing when done right and flat-out easy (practice makes it easier I promise). 

Some terms used include Monochromatic, triadic, analogous and complimentary color schemes, hue, shade, tint, and tone. Read more about those in the article The fundamentals of understanding color theory which is about color theory’s importance in branding. 

YES, it is all about selling stuff remember?  

(One of my favorite working artists Struthless talks about how we are eternally Branding ourselves in this video:

I honestly don’t think it’s so bad, even not branding yourself is considered a branding scheme, so GET INTO IT. I’m into it. Yes, it’s terrible, I know. But think about it, the people are branding.)

Now back to the color of it all. 

TIP #1 From Black to Black and splashes of color. 

If you think you already do that and still wear all black. You’re just a creative. If you think you already do that and still wear black and hate it, it’s time to take a step further. 

It’s super easy to wear a “splash” of color in an accessory or even an entire item of clothing if you’re feeling adventurous. But how do you choose? A middle layer, an item at an extremity, a tiny pop of color in your scrunchie, an earring, some bangles, or a mix of any of these can do the trick.

You can start slow and do one or two items before exploring a full-color outfit with NO BLACK.

I am only thinking of my friend Luz by Luz and her transition from an all-black (yet fabulous) wardrobe and everyday clothes to FLASHY electric blue combat boots with an all-black outfit; or a bright red patterned sweater over her usual black layers. Over time, she started adding accessories she’d made in full color. Using only one color at a time, on multiple items of clothing, surrounded by the usual black clothes. It just worked. 

While maintaining her primary color choices, she has now designed a fully blue set of clothes that follow a complementary color scheme with orange straps. Blue overdose is the explosion of color Luz was longing for and I love that for her. 

TIP #2 Too many colors is just a reminder to edit, edit, edit. 

More is always more, but less, is smarter. Well-thought-out color explosions are just plain sexy. If you want to wear the rainbow, go for it; but do it in a way that screams “Forget about Skittles, taste me instead!” ok that might be going a bit too far. What I mean is, that you can wear all colors if they follow some basic rules of thumb: 

  1. Edit it down to 3 analogous or triadic colors. You can also choose two pairs of complementary colors with splashes of all the others you want to use (if you have to). 
  2. The splashes of colors should fall under the same tones or tints/shades as the principal color. Or at least fall within a range that doesn’t clash. Think of color harmony as being as pleasant for the eyes as walking through a meadow of flowers pleases your nose, or how an awe-inspiring song causes you to experience piloerection. Yes, I could have used the word goosebumps instead, but that's no fun. In short, the colors should match.
  3. Go monochromatic instead. This never fails. Especially if you have a lot of clothes and never know what to wear, choose all things blue for example. Or all things green, all things red work well too. This allows you to use different tints or shades of the same color. Sometimes mixing different tones gets messy. Sticking to the same color tone and varying the darkness or lightness is your best bet. 

Last but not least is a tip for those who like to keep things until they are torn and shredded. 

Tip #3 Use your wardrobe’s color state to your advantage. 

Colors fade, PERIOD. Let’s face it, we’ve already killed enough of this planet to keep buying shiny new clothes and keep fresh colors in our everyday lives. This is as unrealistic as thinking we live in a fair society. 

I, for example, have adopted a muted-toned color scheme. I use all the colors in the rainbow and then some. The colors differ but are not far from pastel colors, which I live for. However, the slightly darker, less bright versions of many colors are not only found in nature, they also seem to work well together. 

If you’re making a “yuk” face right now, I want to say it's because you were programmed to appreciate brighter tones that feel shiny, fresh, and “new.” Yes, I am judging you, again. Plastics do this, polyester keeps its color, way better than cotton or linen, sure. Low-tech, artificial fabrics also keep moisture and bacteria IN, creating nasty smells that don't easily wash out. I smell you. 

Why not avoid all this by adopting a more natural color scheme? This doesn’t need to be just brown, green, or beige. Nature is not limited to those colors. Nature is unapologetically colorful, think of the things that make you smile when you walk in the park, it is the red, blue, or green flashes in the plumage of finches, the iridescent cool-colored wings of magpies, the periwinkle flowers that grow in tiny wild bunches, the soft greens of moss, the fluffy soft orange fur on a squirrels belly, I can go on. The sky wears all the colors, have you looked up recently? 

Clothing is abundant, we need to work on building our capsule wardrobes, keeping clothes longer, and learning to repair, modify, and customize rather than throw them away after a few uses. Thinking of the power of color to determine what we wear daily can be a great start to understanding what makes us feel good when we wear it. After all, colors tie to emotions, said some scientist somewhere in the world. Clothing inherently holds emotional value that we decide to hang on to. Why not merge the two and celebrate the small things through our clothing? Fuck the patriarchy


Back to the video that prompted this blurb, I request my readers, friends, and family that we fight this era of sadness with color. Let’s bring joy into each other’s lives through what we wear, the rest will follow. It’s already happening. We need to be more adamant about our color choices, share color stories, and not be ashamed about being loud. 

There are many ways we can do this, this has been but a snippet of my brain. Those around us are more than able to provide fun insights into how they use color. How do you use color in your everyday? Is it hiding in the lining of your jacket? GREAT! Are you rocking two different colored socks because you can’t get enough color in life like me? yep, I get it. Let’s get into it.

Tell me about your color. 

Emmanuel Cortes July 3, 2024
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Extra Medium Origin Story
A (not) complete recount of certain events blurred between lazers and halloween costumes.