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This Friday the 24th is International Psychology Day. The nexus between fashion and the human mind are inextricable. From the psychological process behind creativity and fashion design, to the neuronal pathways involved in decision-making and the expression of our personality through clothes; everything regarding fashion happens in our own heads. Fashion expresses what we have inside, even when we don’t wish to express it. 

Interior designers and fashion designers have now for decades used these theories to encompass the taste of their target clientele. Essentially, colour is one of the most ancient forms of expression on Earth. In the animal kingdom, colours symbolise court, danger, mimesis, and many other essential elements of survival. In this blog, in celebration of this Friday, we wanted to tell you a bit about what different colours mean to human psychology according to science:

The meanings of colour

We largely divide colours into warm tones (the spectrum of reds, oranges and yellows); cool or cold tones (blues, purples and greens) and neutral tones (whites, blacks, greys and some tonalities of beige). A study about the associations of colour by the Association of Psychological Science in 2020 highlighted the colour associations of 4.598 participants:

-warmer tones were largely associated with joyful and passionate emotions. Mostly, these represented positive and visceral emotions;

-cool hues were more internal, relaxed feelings such as relaxation, tranquillity and feelings of comfort;

-neutrals, on the other hand, were not so uniformed and much more varied. From the solemnity (or even sadness) of black tones to the purity of white colour palettes. 

Colours have been used in traditional Oriental medicine to treat different maladies, and despite the scepticism of most scientists towards these, it’s been made known how colours and exposure to them can impact a students capability to face tests. The APA (American Psychological Association) discovered in 2007 how exposure to the colour red (by giving students a participant number in this tone) reduced in nearly 20% the grades of students of over 71 universities. This was in contrast to exposure to other colours, such as green or even black. 

In regards to clothes, oftentimes it is not so much an expression of ourselves but more of how we wish to be perceived. In many studies, we associate colours like white with the youth and the modern, black means mystery and elegance, red expresses confidence and energy, blues emit trust, yellows are a daring colour and symbolise riskier decision-making, and grey expresses the wish to not stand out. Age also influences our choices in colours. Generally speaking, we are less prone to colourful decisions the older we get. Tones are also influenced by climate and geographical location. Those buildings and people in tropical locations usually opt for lighter, more vibrant hues not just for cultural meanings, but also to deflect heat the dark colours would absorb.

Undoubtedly, colour is much more than just a light wavelength; it’s a means of expression and symbolism from our most primitive origins. Colours are complex combinations of emotions, features, light and instinct we still have plenty to research upon. Symbols of nature, health, culture and many horizons are yet to be explored in the psychology of colour. 

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