Have trouble picking out what to wear to work? Focusing on colors may not only help you narrow down your choices; it may also benefit your career.

Having trouble picking out what to wear to work? Focusing on colors might not only help you narrow down your choices, but may also benefit your career.

Research has shown that colors can greatly affect our moods and the way other people respond to us. Amazingly, colors can even change our heart rate, blood pressure and respiration, as researchers Keith Jacobs and Frank Hustmyer discovered in 1974.

With that in mind, here’s the ultimate color guide for what hues you should (and shouldn’t) wear to work:

Best Colors to Wear to the Office

1. Green. This color denotes freshness, safety and harmony. It’s also associated with money and the “go” signal for a traffic light—both great characteristics in the workplace. The color green is restful on the eyes and produces the least amount of eyestrain, making this a good choice for people who sit in front of a screen for many hours.

2. Blue. This is the color of truth and wisdom. It also has a calming effect and is linked to intellect. It’s also the most stable color. So if you have a volatile or drama-filled workplace, blue is a great color to wear to counteract the tension.

3. Brown. The color of stability, brown is also seen as masculine. If you’re a woman in a predominantly male workplace, wearing a chocolate brown suit can give you credibility.

4. Black. This power color can convey feelings of mystery and seriousness. It is also considered elegant and has a thinning effect. (And who doesn’t love that?) If you want to be treated seriously, the typical black suit with a splash of green or blue works wonders.

Worst Colors to Wear to the Office

1. Yellow. This is the happiest of all the colors and usually stimulates joy. However, yellow is considered an unstable color, so it can be over-energizing for the office and make the wearer look weak.

2. Grey. Grey implies that people are passive, uninvolved and have a lack of energy. If you like wearing grey, pairing it with a brighter color such as blue can help offset the negative effect.

3. Red. This is the color of aggression and passion—great for a first date, not so great for the office. It also increases metabolism and raises blood pressure, which is why it’s used for stop signs and fire engines. Red can be seen as a bit hostile in the work environment, so think twice before wearing it often.

Colors to Wear in Moderation or as Accents

1. Orange. This is a color of stimulation and enthusiasm. It‘s not as aggressive as red, but can catch attention, so it’s good to wear in moderation.

2. Purple. Purple reminds people of royalty and luxury. It’s also the color of magic. However, since purple rarely occurs in nature, it’s also seen to be artificial. A purple scarf, tie or purse can be a nice, subtle addition to any outfit.

3. White. This color is associated with cleanliness and perfection. It is always a safe choice for a shirt or scarf, but too much white denotes timidity and sterility—not good for workplace relations.

Colors affect our moods and how others perceive us. But, of course, colors aren’t the only thing that affects how people see us—you can still be liked at work even if you’re wearing a yellow suit. Still, when given the choice, pick a color that will work for you and not against you.

Vanessa Van Edwards is an author and behavioral investigator featured on CNN and the Wall Street Journal. She runs ScienceOfPeople.org, a website about relationships and human behavior.


  1. Spark Hire

    Interesting post about what colors to wear to work! It’s true, the colors we wear impact others’ perception of us. This is actually a good tip for the interview process as well, whether you’re meeting an employer in person or through online video. Make sure to stay away from colors that will leave a negative impression and steer towards colors that will put your interviewer at ease.

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    I disagree in part with the above general coment. I believe that to like or not to like a color is an individual choice made by previous occurrances association. I also believe that a group of people might like or dislike a color based on similar results of any action identified with the same color pattern. Just my opinion. In other words, someone might like Dark Green because while growing up there was a lot of Pine trees and there was a very nice smell and during chritsmas grandma had fresh pine chritsmas tree and subsequently presents were open and toys were given: while others grew near the re claimed water plant and there were sort of little lakes that always had Dark Green Water and every time Dad or Mom drive near the reclaimed water plant it smell horrible. So, if someone goes ahead and Interviews a job candidate, is it the color or is it the association to the color? Do you see what I mean?

  3. Rick Geiter

    I’m wearing green today. I always like it. Makes me feel like I can help peopl make money. I say quite often Green, it’s the color of money, feel like it brings me and my prospective clientele, Good Luck. :oD

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