What colour are you? A focus on Brown

In the power-dressing game, you are unlikely to impress clients if you wear brown, but you will be seen as an equal by colleagues. Fawn is associated with professionalism, but without being intimidating and is therefore a good colour to wear if you want others to communicate freely with you – perhaps the colour to wear for an interview?

The first recorded use of brown as a colour name in English was in 1000.The term comes from the Old English brún, meaning any dusky or dark shade. The colour itself has been used in art since prehistoric times, found in cave paintings dating back over 17,000 years.

In the Middle Ages brown robes were worn by Franciscan monks as a sign of humility and poverty. Brown has been a popular colour for military uniforms since the late 18th century, largely because of its wide availability and low visibility.

Wholewheat breadA preference for brown suggests that you require a secure home life, appreciate your creature comforts and enjoy good food. As a neutral colour, brown is considered a balm for depression.

Brown is a serious, down-to-earth colour signifying stability. It is solid with strength and maturity, the colour of material security and the accumulation of material possessions. It encourages a sense of belonging. It relates to quality – a comfortable home and loyal friends.

It is also friendly and welcoming, trustworthy and reliable. In colour psychology brown is seen as honest, genuine and sincere. It refers to the hard-working, diligent and reliable, and gives a sense of calmness and comfort. It is a practical and sensible colour, indicating common sense and it doesn’t show the dirt. Brown is a frugal color – it is not associated with abundance or waste. While it is materialistic, it values quality and everything in moderation.

Vintage Nature BackgroundAs brown is seen widely in nature (along with green) it is associated with healthy, natural and organic products. Brown is comforting and stabilising, while green is balancing and rejuvenating.

When combined with green it can be used to convey concepts of recycling, environmentally-friendly and natural. Dark brown can be used in place of black and brings warmth to colour palettes.

Brown gives reassurance. It is quietly confident but never the life of the party. It does not seek attention – it prefers to stay in the background.

Isolated rabbitWhich all sounds pretty positive, but sadly, brown is also the least-loved of all colours. In several surveys it comes top as the least favourite colour.

Brown can be considered dull, boring and unexciting. Whereas dark brown is seen as a strong colour, it is also sad and depressing. It is not carefree and spontaneous and doesn’t like surprises. It can also give the impression of cheapness.

In fashion brown doesn’t have the best reputation, perhaps because it was a favourite colour in clothing and home decoration in the 1970s. However, with an emphasis today on organic, earth-toned colours taken from nature, it does have a place in many wardrobes. If you think about exciting and innovative fashion, brown doesn’t spring to mind, but it’s often there through accessories such as leather bags, belts and shoes. The camel coat is both timeless and versatile (and is possibly the subject of a future blog in its own right!)

Brands which use brown – although there aren’t many of them – are associating themselves with warmth and dependability. Most brands want to stand out, so brown is not the obvious choice.

A noteable exception is the United Parcel Service (UPS), although their association with brown has its roots in history. Would they choose it if they were launching the company today? Pullman Brown is the specific colour of UPS with their trademark brown trucks and uniforms. In earlier years it was the colour of Pullman rail cars and was adopted by UPS both because brown is easy to keep clean, and due to the favourable associations of luxury that Pullman brown evoked. UPS has filed two trademarks on the specific shade of brown to prevent anyone else from using it. For UPS, the association is so strong they even use the tagline ‘what can brown do for you?’

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