Where have all the colours gone?

Culture Style

Image description: A man in brown trousers wear brightly coloured Nike shoes and stands one-foot hanging over the edge of a concrete block

It is safe to say that England’s favourite colour is blue, or more specifically, navy blue. If you don’t have something navy in your wardrobe, you haven’t looked hard enough. Dark, plain, simple. Three words that most accurately describe the everyday wardrobe of the average person. Perhaps it is the ease of choosing an outfit without much contrast since trying to colour coordinate takes more effort than throwing together various shades of blue (I am very guilty of this). Perhaps it is our want to fit in, to blend into crowds and not be stared at as we walk down the street since not everyone has the confidence to wear bold colours. And yet, were we always so boring with our clothing choices? Venture into some of the more hip areas of cities and you’ll certainly find people with a splash more colour, but quite often these outfits are inspired by the clothes of old, vintage garments from the 1980s, or retro styles.

And yet, were we always so boring with our clothing choices?

If one looks at anything set in the 1980s, we start to see that the average does indeed dress a little brighter. This isn’t your designer label we are talking about, it’s the normal clothes everyday people could buy and wear. Season 3 of Stranger Things has a costume department led by designer Amy Parris, known also for her work in ‘Her’. The arrival of the Starcourt Mall anchors the style of the group in Reagan-era small-town America, where larger clothing chains have hit the market. The clothing speaks of a teen culture centred on the ‘mall life’, with its bold colours and prints. 

In the music video for the song ‘Happier’ by Marshmello ft. Bastille, the use of colour in the characters clothing add warmth to the scene, showing coordinated yellows, reds, and greens, colours rarely seen twice in one modern outfit. Though not explicitly stated in the video, the era speaks of the 80s in its use of distinct colours. Similarly, the video for ‘Lover’ by Taylor Swift dons a retro vibe through the outfits and decor. 

However, these examples are not real life. They are coordinated sets with costume wardrobes designed to fit perfectly to the scene, and of course budget is not an issue. In practice, it is much harder to be more colourful in how you dress when it is so much easier to find an outfit to match black jeans compared to red cords. Similarly, transitioning to a livelier wardrobe from one that is currently blue, black, or grey is a time-consuming and pricy affair. To try and create one, not to mention several, coloured outfits that you could practically wear without looking like a bag of skittles is not an easy task. Yet, it is not a task that should be abandoned quite so easily. Just starting with a little colour can make a big difference. Faded pastel colours often work well to balance a previously bland outfit: swap out a pale blue shirt for a pale red one. Most reading this will be in their late teens/the early twenties, and this is the perfect age to be more experimental with the sorts of colours you wear before the realities of a working job might decide your clothing for you. Gemstone colours suit all seasons, adding a vibrant pop underneath darker coats.

This is the perfect age to be more experimental with the sorts of colours you wear before the realities of a working job might decide your clothing for you.

For those who might feel self-conscious when it comes to standing out so much in a sea of darkness, the smaller accessories still make a difference. Colourful socks, brighter shoes, coloured belts,  hair bands, scarves, gloves are all easy to find in assorted shades. Even standard clothing can often be found with bolder patches, printed motifs, or colourful trimming that breaks up an otherwise navy or black outfit. Moreover, to eventually coordinate an entire look in more saturated shades is incredibly rewarding, and one can take pride in looking especially well put-together. Not to mention, it might make you much more susceptible to recognising an Oxlove. “To the girl in the navy jumper” could be anyone, “to the guy with the yellow trousers” definitely narrows the pool of possibility. To quote the Queen in her biography: “I can never wear beige because nobody will know who I am”. 

To quote the Queen in her biography: “I can never wear beige because nobody will know who I am”. 

Similarly, the art of good colour-blocking should not be underestimated. Instead of trying to find identical colours to pair next to or on top of one another, try and find outfits that you can split up, wearing red trainers with a red sweatshirt, or have a look at a colour wheel and try to find complementary colours. England is a gloomy country, and this week, in particular, has been especially rainy. Perhaps adding a little more colour to your life and the lives of those around you might brighten your day in a world that can often be quite grey. The title of this article is not really a literal question. The colours are still around us, we just have to try a little harder to find the ones we want to wear. 

Image credit: Ling Nguyen via Pexels

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