Why do we fear colour?

Posted by: Fiona Ingham, July 05, 2023

Unlike the many countries where colourful dress is celebrated, we British are frequently seen as preferring neutrals, especially black, grey and white.

The UK is not alone in this, but can you guess which colours people here are most unwilling to wear? A study showed yellow to be the scariest, then pink, orange, red and green.

This makes total sense to me from observations with my clients over many years, plus my knowledge of Colour Analysis theory.


Let’s consider why these colours might terrify:

Yellows  are wonderful on the warm skin tones of Springs and Autumns. But Winters and Summers have minimal yellow in their palettes and the wrong ones are truly unflattering.

Pinks  there are pinks for everyone. However, warm skin tones dressed in cool fuchsias and cyclamens, or cool-based people in coral and salmon look totally drained.

Orange  is good only on warm skin tones.

Red  myths and fear abound around this fabulous colour. But the great news is that everyone can wear a true or middle red. Think poppies and London buses. The cool seasons also suit carmine/cherry red and the warm seasons rock a flame/tomato red. Red exudes and creates confidence and energy. The right red is fabulous in every wardrobe! 

Green  all greens are not good for you. Beware earthy olives, mosses and grass green if you suspect your skin tones to be cool. Winters and Summers often have rightly taken fright at these iterations, but then neglected the potential of their jewel-like emeralds, sea greens or pines. Finding their flattering greens is often an exciting and surprising discovery for clients in a Colour class.


In contrast, it’s interesting to consider two colours which generally feel safe to most clients that I see.

Blue  this is the colour most loved around the world. I rarely meet a client who comes with negative views. It’s felt to be safe, soothing and trustworthy. But in a colour class, we are specific and discover which blues are great and which ones to avoid.

Teal  most people feel positive about this hue, worn well by Penny Mordaunt at King Charles' Coronation back in May. This is totally logical as it isn’t unkind to any skin tones.

Back in the day, colour was celebrated by both women and men. Although black was reserved for mourning. But enter Coco Chanel in the 1920s. She stated that bright colours were unsuited to couture, fit only for the stage.

In October 1926, her first LBD graced the cover of American Vogue. It was revolutionary and fitted with the Art Deco vibe. Its simplicity, flexibility and affordability suited the Depression of the 1930s. Over the following decades, other influences resulted in black becoming the colour of authority, elegance and sophistication. And the slimming colour for everyone. The truth is that only Winters look stunning in black! 

It’s found that many rely on black and other neutrals from a fear of being seen to show off, trying to draw attention to themselves, or inviting criticism by wearing a bright colour which does not suit them.

But I’m wondering, are attitudes changing? Colour Analysis is highly fashionable, and influencers, Instagrammers and selfie enthusiasts know they won’t attract interest if dressed only in neutrals.

Today the sun is out and, like Mick Jagger, "I see the girls go by dressed in their summer clothes" - colourful floaty floral frocks, bold blocks of orange, red and shocking pink. In my tube carriage guys in tees of cobalt blue, fuchsia, turquoise and ice green. Wonderful!

The study showed that one-third of people believed they would feel happier if they dared to wear colour. So true. However, it would, of course, have to be from their appropriate colour palette!


Words: Fiona Ingham