Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Presidential Race and Color

You may think that this article will be about the race and skin color of those running for U.S. President but that is not the main subject, only a minor one. The real focus here is that political people choose to wear certain colors in order to influence voters. Here we expose some of their strategies.

If you want to “dress for success,” you must consider the psychological perception of colors. Who are the people you need to impress? Certain businesses are more conservative in their dress codes and that includes color. Conservative occupations include government, banking, aerospace and industrial products. Dress codes are more relaxed in advertising, apparel, design, media and consumer products. In fashion and filmmaking, being trendy or even “off the chart” can be a plus. Not so in government.

The colors that elicit the most respect and are therefore most “powerful” are navy or dark blue and dark or medium grey. Barack Obama and John McCain usually wear these colors. Black is another possibility but it has a major drawback: The details disappear (black-hole effect) on TV. Since politicians are frequently on TV, black is not the best choice. Dark brown is also a conservative color in southern and rural areas but does not get as much respect in northern or urban areas. Many of Mike Huckabee’s supporters probably thought brown suits, as well as sport coats, were just fine. It is interesting that Hillary Clinton has frequently worn brown in this race. She may be trying to appeal to rural voters and send a subliminal message that she is “down to earth.” I don’t recall her wearing much brown as First Lady. Have you noticed that First Ladies often wear pastels or bright colors? With pastels, they may be trying to send a signal that they are soft and feminine and not the “power behind the throne” but Nancy Reagan wore a lot of red. She just loved that color. Truthfully, neither red nor brown are terribly flattering to Hillary’s skin and hair color. Some other bright colors are better choices for her and she can wear them with black or navy slacks, which are practical for travel. If she becomes President, she may want to wear more muted colors because bright colors draw attention to themselves and away from your face. For important meetings, you want people to focus on you, not on your clothing.

Even in government and other conservative occupations, women can wear colors such as dark teal and plum but men have far fewer choices. You can expect Barack and John to pretty much stick with the grey and dark blue. It is tempting to think that a brown suit would always be compatible with brown skin but it is more complicated than that. Barack’s skin has cool undertones and most brown shades won’t be as flattering to him as dark blue and dark grey are. I have met women with very dark skin whose best colors are the same ones I wear, and I always have to buy the lightest shade of make-up. John McCain has a different problem. Although he looks nice in medium or light grey, those tend to emphasize his hair color, and therefore his age. He should probably wear dark blue and only the darkest greys.

Even if you do not plan to run for public office, you can learn about choosing your most flattering colors, consistent with your occupation and the places you travel, by visiting and reading about the Custom Wardrobe book.

I welcome your comments about candidates for any office and their clothing (but not their politics.)