Your Colours – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Feb 24, 2014 1 Min Read

In my capacity as a brand image consultant conducting image trainings for hundreds of individuals every month, I have come to realise that not everyone sees colours the same way.

The perception of colours is a very personal experience, physically and psychologically. Our cultural and educational background affects our interpretation and preference of colours. Our social beliefs also determine how or where we use certain colours in our everyday lives. This explains why the Seasonal Colour Systems, made popular by image consultants in the west, should also not be replicated blindly on us as there are too many variables between Westerners and Asians.

Scientifically, we see colours differently due to the difference in the functional ability of our optic nerves transmitting certain information to our brain. Individuals with normal colour vision may identify a colour as red, but may disagree over the point at which a red turns into burgundy or chilly red. And let’s face it, many a time, to a guy, a blue, is a blue, is a blue!

With so many factors to consider, how then do we cleverly select colours so that we know they work for us and not against us?

Today, I’d like to share with you one simple technique to make shopping a breeze! If you have been depending on your friends or the sales person to give you feedback on what looks good on you, or if you are a guy, and your clothes are the choice of your wife or girlfriend, then it’s time to take charge and know what is good, what is bad and what is ugly for you!

Firstly, understand that there are three types of colours:

1 The Good: Colours That Look Fantastic On You

These are the ones that make people say, “Hey, you look great in that colour!” – even if you do not have a lot of make up on. Or if you are guy, colours that make people say you look fresh that day. Fabulous colours reduce imperfections such as dark eye circles, making your wrinkles less visible and giving your complexion a healthy glow.

2 The Bad:  Colours That Look Wrong On You

These are the ones that have people asking if you are not feeling well– colours that make you look drained – making your under-eye circles more prominent and your skin looking sallow.

3 The Ugly:  Colours You’d Want To Avoid As They No Longer Suit Your Age

Colours, as in everything else, change as we age. What you think is fashionable at the age of 20, may no longer be applicable when you hit 50.


Next, let’s look at how to choose your best colours.

One of the easiest ways to determine what colours would be good for you is to look at your contrast; not between your clothes, but between your skin and your hair colour first. Dark hair and fair skin will have the highest contrast level, while dark hair with dark skin will be of lowest contrast.

In a broad spectrum, if we were to take our three main races as examples: The Chinese will have the highest contrast, Indians the lowest, whereas the Malays will be in the medium contrast category. Generally speaking, you will look terrific when your clothes contrast mimic those that you naturally have.

Guys – if you are of high contrast:

Guys, a dark suit paired with a white dress shirt or a gray suit with a blue dress shirt will both provide this desired contrast.  A strong coloured tie that stands out from your shirt is also a good combination for men that have high contrast.

Ladies – if you are of high contrast:

An Anne Hathaway-look-like with dark hair and fair skin. Congratulations! Most colours would look great on you! Bright colours will not overwhelm you and you would be able to carry colours that are clear, bright and of high intensity. For example: Emerald Green, Ruby Red, Cobalt Blue

Guys – if you are of low contrast:

Which means you have either dark hair with dark skin or white or grey hair or you do not have hair. Remember the purpose of a frame (your clothing) is to enhance the picture (your face). Low contrast men should look for colours with medium intensity. If a colour is too strong, it overpowers you. If the colour is too similar to your skin tone, it drowns you and make you look sickly.

Ladies – if you are of low contrast:

This is a strong indicator that it is time to take out that long kept eye shadow or blusher to create an attractive appearance. A good example is if we look at K-Pop girls. The fashion fad is to lighten the hair colour. But to counter balance the low contrast effect, eyeliner and mascara become their next best friend.

And if you are medium contrast:

You are able to wear a wider spectrum of colours. Just remember that your shirt should not take the attention away from your face, nor should it make you look “blah!” as well.

Age Factor

Lastly, let’s look at some colours that are not suitable due to age factor:

The assumption that what worked well 10 years ago still looks great today is untrue. As we get older, our hair and skin tone changes subtly. Clothing is a reflection of who we are, and as you become older and wiser, your overall appearance needs to reflect who you are right now.

If you would like to add some contrast by changing the colour of your hair, remember this golden rule: Choose a shade that closely matches your natural hair color. A slight variation is acceptable, but a dramatic change, such as from gray to black, will make people think you are trying too hard to be young again.

Complementary colours (Red + Green, Yellow + Violet, etc.) are sexy and stylish when you are in your 20s or 30s. But if you colour block too much when you are in your 40s or 50s only makes you look sad and sorry.

And so, there you have it!

One simple technique that you can use immediately to decide whether to buy or not to buy. Of course, there are other aspects of colours that we have yet to explore, like your personal colours, the message different colours convey, culture and colours, your fengshui colours… we will leave all these to the next issue.

Till then, get out of your comfort zone, try new things and add more colours into your life!

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