Why Do We Wear So Much Black? an Expert in Fashion Psychology Explains

Chic and timeless. Elegant. Everything goes with it. These have been the de facto explanations for our sartorial obsession with black. The dark hue is widely acknowledged as the perennial height of style, having been favored by a number of prolific designers ranging from Yohji Yamamoto and Ann Demeulemeester to the late Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld.

It isn't just the fashion set. It is also popular among "design" professionals. Many artists, intellectuals, and city dwellers regard black as their uniform. London, Paris, and New York streets are teeming with people dressed in leathery dark ensembles. Alain de Botton, the founder of The School of Life, collaborated with designer Bella Freud in 2014 to create a plain black sweater, which he marketed as "the ideal suit of armour to contain you while allowing you to free your thoughts."

A fashion psychologist concluded that we dress for the psychological pay-off of an item. In that regard, there was much more to black's fiercely enduring appeal than the function of easy matching. When it was realized what this 'more' was, it led to one of the central theories about fashion psychology: the color black is, in fact, a form of armour.

That realization came after forming genuine bonds in the fashion industry who all loved wearing black with a subtly avant-garde aesthetic — lots of Rick Owens. Unanswered Whatsapp messages can easily trigger bouts of anxiety, stress, and worry. There was a lot of neuroticism.

This personality trait is related to the intensity of one's negative emotions. Despite being highly creative, people with high neuroticism frequently experience emotional instability, are prone to anger, melancholy, and negative emotions in general, such as anxiety, and find it challenging to maintain a positive mood. In addition, they are self-conscious and frequently concern themselves with what others think of them. Being a bit neurotic, with a penchant for dark shades and fierce boots, you became increasingly aware of the link between wearing black and being prone to negative emotions.

It ought to come as no surprise, then, that color psychology — the study of hues as a determinant of human behavior — indicates that black is emotionally protective. Wearing black communicates an authoritative image because it represents authority, power, and discipline. The dark color forms a barrier between itself and the world outside, keeping people at bay while providing comfort, protecting emotions, and concealing vulnerabilities, insecurities, and a lack of self-confidence. It serves as a shield for those who require it.

In order to test this theory in a fashion psychology pilot study, it was surveyed 300 women and included several questions about color preferences. Those who identified as black wearers were nearly three times more likely to report frequent anxiety. Respondents who identified as "worriers" or "melancholics" were also twice as likely to say they usually dress in black as their uniform. Those who preferred bright colors and prints and simple non-directional designs did not score well for neuroticism, answering yes to questions like 'We find it easy to stay in a good mood' and no to 'We are prone to anxiety.'

Fashion does not appear to be armour to non-neurotics. Instead of the neurotic's gritty outfits, these chill people favor prints, bright colors, and simple, uncomplicated designs. Clothes are either functional or a means of joyful expression for them.

Many people disagree about whether black is serious and gloomy or chic and sophisticated. Dark ensembles always get mixed reactions, with some saying they bring down the house, while others say they're depressing and should be replaced with bright colors or prints. On the other hand, individuals with a neurotic bone in their bodies would feel better dressed in black, especially to get through the bad days.

People would not wear black as much if it weren't effective in these ways. But it begs the question: is wearing black as armour the best way to dress for mental health? Ought to you dress how you want to feel or how you feel?

It all depends. Dealing with negative emotions, like everything else, necessitates a 360-degree approach. Wearing black may help, but so may music, a self-help book, some introspection, a talk with a therapist, or even anti-depressant medication. Relying too heavily on a single factor will not result in long-term improvements. As they symbiotically feed off each other, one must work on both the internal and external worlds of oneself.

Working on problem areas in one's life, rather than just creating the perfect dark suit of armour, can help to reduce one's reliance on black.

So, for those in the throes of it, consider leaning toward levity while working on other ways to counteract the neurotic aspect of your personality. Black should not be used as a crutch.