- Education and Science
Black color, some history and trends!
Is it possible that something can symbolize both luxury and poverty and also humility and penance as well as sex, evil and power? It shouldn't be possible, but it is! All that and more can be said about the black colour.
The colour black is a colour that sends out very mixed messages to us. Even though the meaning of a colour varies from culture to culture and also from people to people, the colour black is more interesting than that since black symbolizes totally opposite messages and interpretations amongst most people. This can be very useful to think about when you use the colour black in different situations
To tempt your interest here is some of the mixed messages!
- Some says that black isn’t a real colour after all and some say it is a mix of many colours.
- Black is sometimes regarded as dark or even invisible but is also used as a sign for power.
- Black stands for minimalism and in some way poverty but also sends out a message of luxury.
At a first glance nothing of this seems to add up in one colour. Read on for more contradictions and explanations!
Is black a colour or not?
This has been a subject for debate during a long time. And there is more than one way to look at this and the answer depends on weather you define colour as something generated by light or if you simply look at it as a colour.
Black is a colour that absorbs everything including light. A black object absorbs all colours and no colours are reflected back to the eye. So with that background I guess one can say that black isn’t a colour.
Some says that black is the absence of colour but if you combine the three colours red, yellow and blue you wont get an absolutely black colour but the result will be very close to black, so a mix of three colours should be regarded as a colour, don’t you think?
So I conclude the following about black: a black object absorbs all colours and no colours are reflected back to the eye. If colour is seen as something generated by light black can be defined as no light.
Black is the mix of several colours and can therefor be regarded as a colour.
So, now lets move on with more about this exiting colour!
Is black a symbol for poverty or luxury? Humility or evil?
To answer the question we need some examples of how black has been used in history.
Religion is and has been a very important authority that has created rules, ethics, moral and guidelines for a long time in human’s history and the colour black has been used in religion for centuries. And because of that both our history and the religion have great influence on how we regard black today. Here are some symbols that black has had during history.
In Genesis darkness was present before light and therefor one can say that black was the first of all colours. Black has from the beginning been attached with a negative vision since life, as we know it, can’t exist in darkness. Therefor black has been regarded as evil and a symbol for darkness and the light stand for life and is regarded as something pleasant and good.
The view that black was evil included also the animals during the1000s. Black animals like ravens and blackcats where regarded as evil and was seen as animals with many vices.
During the Middle Ages the priests wore black clothes as a sign against luxury in the world. To be a priest meant to reject all pleasure during this life and live according to the laws of religion. Black was then similar with humility and penance.
In old novels about knights the colour black is used to symbolize something mysterious and secret. Take for example the black knight in the famous knight novel “Ivan hoe” where the mysterious black knight helps the hero to victory. So there comes more mystery attached to the colour black.
Black is also used In Christian churches today. The liturgical styles are used on ecclesiastical textiles and one of them is the colour black. Black symbolises sorrow or grief and are only used during Easter, as a reminder of Jesus on the cross.
Other than that, black is used on funerals as a symbol for grief. The reason for that is probably because black is the colour of the night and the darkness. Death is often associated with the eternal night and eternal sleep so black has been used on funerals for a long time. For centuries people had put on their best and most valuable clothes when going to church. Before Word War I it was common to use black wedding dresses especially on the countryside and amongst common people since they used the best dress they had and that happened to be the black dress that was used on special occasions such as church visits and funerals. That can be one explanation to why the colour black has become also a colour that is totally right on parties and festivities.
But black hasn’t always been a colour for grief, the French Kings once used red as a symbol for grief. Later the colour for grief where transformed to purple, for the Kings and the Queens used white as a grief colour. First during the later part of the 1400´s the colour black began to be used as a suitable colour on funerals introduced by Anna of Bretagne.
Is black a colour that symbolizes power or invisibility?
The colour black is regarded as a colour that doesn’t say so much about the people who wears black clothes. Therefore it is a contradiction between being dressed in black as a symbol for power and be dressed in black as a way to melt in since black is a colour with little information.
Blue symbolises control and calm, red symbolises passion and power and so on but black is one of the colours that are pore on that type of information. Another reason for invisibility is that if you look at a group of men in black suits, each individual becomes more or less invisible. Next time you visit a domestic airport early in the morning you will see nothing but men and women dressed in black. They are everywhere and they do all look the same. And the only persons you will notice in that black mass are if someone has a tie in a bright colour or other colourful accessories that stands out from the crowd. A person like that will catch your attention but the others will look like a black masse and becomes invisible as individuals.
But as a contradiction men and women with power often wears black which gives a signal to us all that black is equal to power. One reason except the ones mentioned earlier is that from the beginning it was difficult to dye silk in shining and evenly black colours. When it succeeded it was a colour for people with power and money and it took a long time before it was possible for common people to afford clothes in black.
During the 1700s century black became a civil fashion colour and has since then been regarded as a colour warn at festivities or festivals. There aren’t many women who haven’t been dressed in “the little black dress”. And the same goes for men who usually wear black on special occasions.
Black clothes have been used during long time amongst men for special occasions during history. One of the earliest festivity clothes was the smoking that was introduced by Edward VII of Great Britain that included a white shirt black jacket and trousers.
Other messages from the black colour!
Black is also a symbol for sex and forbidden things and is a common colour on sexy lingerie. Maybe the reason for this is because of everything mentioned above that gives black a mysterious feeling. The colour black seems to involve all things important for humans. But black is also a symbol for the devil as well as darkness and sex has from time to time and in different religions been regarded as a sin. Since black also can stand for luxury and power it is not so surprising that black can be associated with sex. My conclusion is that the colour black seems to be associated with many of those things that are important for humans or is exciting; sex, power, luxury, fear and mystery. This must mean that we like the colour black!
How good are you at using black color in your favor when you get dressed??
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Since the colour black is a contradiction and sends out all those very different messages how do we know if the colour is right or which message we send out when we use black in different ways?
The only way to get a grip about it all is to put the history of the colour black in different times and rooms. It is humans that create all those mixed messages. Remember also that black is closely attached to religion and the absence of light; darkness is one of the great fears amongst humans so the colour black has a great symbolic value to us. So when we use the colour black we better think how we use black, what message we want to send out and who is the receiver of our message. And also consider where and when we use black. Both the environment and the room where we use the colour do matter. And to add to the confusion you must also consider that black can have different meanings in other countries and other cultures.
If you want to reduce a little of the symbols for black you can try to add a contrast color to your black outfit. Black is a great contrast color that reinforces all other colors in a fantastic way. Use colors and accessories depending on the situation and if you want to reduce or reinforce the message you are sending by using appropriate colors. For example; if you want to look powerful and in control, use traditional black and white. But if you want to be noticed in a crowd you should use a bright color as contrast color. Red and black generally gives a more warm feeling than only black, while yellow and black can be interpreted as more nice than black alone.
But there is one thing you can be sure of when you use black and that’s in spite of where or how you use it: you will send out a message! So use it!
Some quotes about the colour black:
“Black is real sensation, even if it is produced by entire absence of light. The sensation of black is distinctly different from the lack of all sensations" -- Hermann von Helmholtz
"There's something about black. You feel hidden away in it" -- Georgia O'Keeffe