Colour psychology in business wear

Colour psychology in business wear

Choosing what you wear to work is usually down to personal preference, but should we be paying more attention to the psychological effects of colour?

What we wear can have quite the impact on ourselves and how we work, and how others perceive us. A recent study found that by donning white coats participants thought belonged to doctors they performed better on tests than those in casual clothes.

And we already know that a bank manager dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and jeans isn’t going to come across quite as professional as a more traditionally suited and booted gentleman.

But what happens when we look at colour in business attire?

We’re not quite sure why colour influences mood and perception, but we have been aware of it for centuries. Red in nature is widely known as ‘dangerous’, for example.

A study into the importance of colour for marketing purposes found that purchasing intent is greatly affected by colours due to how they impact on the perception of a brand. The colours influence how the ‘personality’ of the brand is seen.

And it’s our own business personality that we hope to enhance through the subtle use of colour within our clothes.

The colour of our clothing can greatly enhance how we’re perceived and treated during a business negotiation or sales meeting.

Let’s look at the colours and how they’re perceived.


The classic blue suit is a business staple for a reason.

Associated with being calm and competent, blue is often used by those wanting to enhance how professional and trustworthy they are.

That’s the reason why a nurse’s uniform is blue – so you feel like you are in safe and capable hands.

Have you noticed how that uniform darkens with seniority? That’s because darker tones give the perception of authority.


Black invokes feelings of power and sophistication, but it can also come across as overbearing. Being the colour of mourning in the western world, it’s best avoided in situations where calm and tact are the order of the day.

For best results break it up with other colours and accessories for a less intimidating effect.


It might seem stuffy and old-fashioned but brown is a colour of maturity and experience, inspiring feelings of respect.

It’s associated with feelings of stability, honesty, practicality and commitment so you’ll be seen as a hard worker and a team player.


Surprisingly, orange is one of the safest colours to wear for work.

Representing creativity, confidence and ambition it’s a vibrant colour that creates a feeling of positivity in those who wear it.

It’s also associated with warmth and enthusiasm which makes it a great contrast and accessory colour as a bright orange suit might be tricky to pull off for most people!


Red makes the heart beat faster and exudes power, energy and excitement.

It can also come across as aggressive rather than assertive and make others feel nervous being around you.

It’s generally safer to avoid wearing red for that reason although a tie or other accessory could generate the sense of urgency you’re looking for when closing a deal.

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