By John Michail

Colour is not just something we see – we think in colours, and we feel in colours. Truman Capote coined a phrase for his novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s, having Holly Golightly explain why she goes to Tiffany’s jewellery store whenever she has “the mean reds”. Capote has taken the commonly understood phrase of “having the blues” and intensified it to red in order to indicate anxiety.

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?

Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?

Paul Varjak: Sure.

In trying to pin down her emotional state – to make it understandable and explainable, Holly conflates fear with a colour. Red is a stimulating colour with the ability to raise our heart rate, in the same way as fear.

Whilst we are able to tap into the cultural currency of colour — “the blues” for sadness, and thanks to Capote, “the mean reds” for angst — colour is also linked to our own personal preferences and memories, and shaped by the culture in which we grow up.

Colour Analysis:

White Wedding

White is a shade associated with purity, innocence and cleanliness in Western cultures, whilst in many Eastern cultures, it is tied to death and mourning.

This difference of association explains how the colours we choose can communicate unintended meanings — what appears innocent and appropriate in one culture or context appears funereal in another.



White lilies for a funeral wreath

The colours we wear can be a powerful aspect of communication “Blue is associated with trustworthiness, strength and dependability — hence, the blue power suit because it projects that image of dependability and trustworthiness,” says Leslie Harrington, executive director of The Color Association of The United States, which forecasts colour trends. Thus, blue can be a powerful ally when going for a job interview or meeting your partner’s parents for the first time. Context and association are everything, and sadness is not the only message the colour blue can communicate.

Sallow Yellow



Wearing the wrong colours can make you look washed out and unwell

Colour can also change our appearance in the way different colours suit different skin tones — the right colour can make us look healthier, and the wrong one can make us look unwell. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever put on a colour that didn’t suit you, only to spend the rest of the day fielding questions about your health. The opposite happens when we find our perfect colour — the one that lifts our mood and brings compliments from others. The one that makes us shine.



The colours we choose communicate – make sure you choose them well

So remember:

  1. Colour plays powerfully on our emotions. Think carefully about the colours you surround yourself with and the messages they communicate.
  2. The messages colours send depend largely on a cultural context. Colours can have positive or negative associations at an individual level, but even more powerful are the meanings imbued by the culture in which we are born and bred.
  3. When dealing with colour remember that you are an individual. Black may speak sophistication, but it might not be your colour. Learn what colours work for you and use this to your advantage.

Colour Analysis is the second aspect of what we at Image Group International like to call ‘The 7 Aspects of Authentic Image Management’TM – a part of the IGI Personal Branding System.TM This is more than just a slogan – the word authentic is there for a reason. Research shows we live in the most distrustful time in history. Our team want to work with you, to create the absolute best outcomes for your business and life.

I’ll be releasing a series of videos covering these 7 aspects, and I’d like to invite you to view them. I hope that they will give you further insight into the power of authentic image management, and how to grow your power and influence. How’s that sound to you?



Jon Michail is a veteran coach with a Who’s Who clientele, the CEO and Founder of Image Group International, an Australian-based corporate and personal brand image advisory and coaching organisation that conducts transformational seminars, workshops and one-on-one coaching in over four continents. He is recognised as Australasia’s No. 1 Image Coach.