The Color of Emotion

How to select the right color clothing for any business situation

The world we live in is highly produced and packaged.
As consumers, the first thing we evaluate in a product is its packaging. More often than not, we select a product based on the impact and perceived credibility of its packaging.
While subsequent purchases will be tied more to actual performance, the initial decision is largely based on appearance.


Business relationships are no different. In business, we are the product and our clothing is our packaging.
Every day, otherwise highly-qualified people are passed over for promotions and business opportunities simply because they don’t “look the part” in the eyes of the decision-maker.

Studies have consistently shown that of all the factors evaluated in the packaging of a product – size, shape, graphics, text, color and finish – color is perceived first and carries the greatest emotional impact.
While the fit of your suit and the quality of its cloth are important, the color of your suit is what most affects the people you encounter.

In terms of emotional impact, suit colors can be grouped into a few basic categories. Each category conveys its own meanings and elicits a certain set of responses, but a single theme runs through all color categories:
the darker the color, the higher the perception of authority.

Navy conveys importance and confidence. Wearers are perceived as trustworthy, loyal, business-like, intelligent, stable, conventional. Black is formal and epitomizes authority.
Charcoal is sophisticated and imparts maturity and practicality to its wearer. Stripes add power to any color.
Earthtones give the impression that the wearer is down-to-earth and sympathetic. They are great for rapport-building. Plaids are more relaxed and casual.

So how can the emotional impact of colors be put to practical use in clothing? Here’s an overview of how to apply the 3 most popular suit color categories to some common business situations.

Navy is appropriate for important meetings and presentations. Attorneys should wear navy for opening statements or when meeting with a new client for the first time; Bankers should wear navy for an important client call; Builders/Developers should wear navy for dinner with a client after the closing of a deal. Navy means authority. It is the best color for negotiating and is the universal color for power. Charcoal conveys a sense of security. Charcoal is great for a Salesperson meeting with their boss or meeting with a client to pick up a check for an order. Charcoal is a good choice for an Attorney delivering a closing statement, visiting a potential client for the second time or meeting with another Attorney to settle out of court. Charcoal works for Bankers trying to retain business when competing with another bank. Executives should wear gray when acquiring new businesses, attending stockholder’s meetings or making important financial decisions. Earthtones portray a person who is down-to-earth and understanding. They are your best rapport-building colors. Earthtones are a good choice for anyone meeting with an unhappy client or investor, reviewing an employee, meeting with a small business owner or attending a staff meeting. Attorneys can wear earth-tones when visiting a client who just lost a case, for depositions or for meetings with associates. Earthtones are a good choice for Builders/ Developers when meeting an architect for lunch.

A properly selected suit color will help you create a desired impression in your audience, whether that impression be one of authority, stability, security, empathy or approachability.
And by creating that impression, you will have already subtly influenced the outcome of any situation – without saying a word.

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