power of colors

On our way to Iran from San Francisco, we stopped in Amsterdam to change planes.  Shawhin and I got our coffee and orange juice (I’m the coffee person and he’s the healthy one) and we were on our way to find the gate for the KLM flight to Tehran.  It turned out finding the gate was much easier than expected.  All we had to do was to follow the large number of familiar eyes who spoke Farsi very loudly.  It’s not common to speak loudly among Iranians, but somehow it seemed like we all wanted to make sure others noticed that we are Iranian, kind of like a signal, a way of communicating, a way to make sure other Iranians see us and can come to us if they are lost or need help of any sort.  

I felt the excitement of going home after 8 years; it was amazing being among all those familiar eyes, familiar accents, familiar smiles, or familiar complaints.  I realized in the middle of my excitement, however, that those eyes and accents were not our only guides to the right gate.  It was something much more visual and obvious: the black clothes!  Sadly I must acknowledge the current trend of fashion among my fellow countrymen.  Black, black, black.  All I could see was black, dark blue, dark gray, dark green, basically all sorts of varieties of black with different shades.  I told Shawhin if he noticed that we were the only ones not wearing black at the gate while we were waiting for our flight.  He laughed and nodded.  I saw that his happy eyes transformed to something more like worried happy eyes.  Well, I did not want to ruin this experience for him so I changed the topic.  I was however deeply concerned about the effects of this color on people’s everyday life back home.  Imagine living in a black city where colors are not widely accepted, are thought to be cheap, or are not even allowed in many public places.  I wonder if anyone in Tehran or other big cities in Iran worries about this, but there I was waiting at the gate deeply struggling with these thoughts and emotions.  I was emotional and excited with the thought of landing at the Mehrabad airport, seeing the Azadi tower when the pilot does a turn around it before landing, kissing the ground of my city, the city that really belonged to me.  My fear of black, on the other hand, was constantly on my mind.  I wanted to get the microphone from the flight attendant and ask all the passengers to change their outfits and wear brighter colors and was frustrated with my lack of power to do so. 


A girl in Sanandaj, Iran, wearing traditional colorful costumes. Photo courtesy of Ddokosic

When we arrived, the intensity of emotions in every passenger outweighed any other thought.  We were both shaking with emotions and noticed that we were definitely not alone as many of us in the bus that took us to the main building were openly crying.   

After regaining my strength and becoming aware of my surroundings though, it wasn’t difficult to see that dark colors are, indeed, the preferred theme in Tehran.  The “why” part is not important in my opinion.  My concern is if my generation can continue to promote this trend, or putting it differently, if my generation can afford to continue this trend.  Black is generally popular in western fashion because it makes people look thin.  However, dark colors are widely regarded as colors that promote depression, fear, suspicion, and paranoia.  I know that some psychologists study the effect and power of colors on different personalities, and they generally recommend avoiding black unless you can combine it with an opposing color like white.  In order to better understand my point, try to sketch an ideal city in your mind, a little paradise with all things you consider important for the health and well being of a society.  I bet you can come up with a large list for the requirements in your ideal city.  In your imagination, however, before even starting to think of details, can you sketch a dark city and continue planning the rest?  Another example to show the effect of colors: have you ever seen a mother dressing her baby in black (if she has the option not to)?  

Colors are essential parts of our lives and I think it’s important to pay attention to the messages we send to our surroundings by choosing the color of our dresses, overcoats, cars, interior of our buildings, exterior of apartments, etc.  Every person has the power to help fight depression and sadness (especially among the youth) in his/her environment when wearing a happy color (red, orange, blue, green,…).  It’s amazing how many people notice the difference and comment on colors every day in every society.  Why don’t you give it a try?  


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Filed under colors, culture, empowerment, Iran, sociology, traditions, youth

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