Commentary: What Is Your Color?

By Louis A. Zona

When I was a kid, my mother described her feelings in terms of colors. She would occasionally ask me why I was feeling blue or shared with me that she felt blue that particular day.

Of course, the primary color bluer efers to a feeling of sadness with the very word being an often-used adjective. Blue also relates to a style of music and for some reason we dress baby boys in blue. Surveys show that men seem to gravitate toward blue because it implies masculinity.

I do not know for sure but most men would seldom wear a pink shirt or jacket since pink refers to baby girls or femininity. My very favorite dress shirt is pink and the tie I wear with it is mostly a shade of pink.

One of the most amusing episodes relating to colors happened when we took Mom to an Engelbert Humperdinck concert and Engelbert emerged on the stage wearing pink pants. That was the end of Mom’s Engelbert fandom! (Mom hated to see men wearing pink pants.)

Some of this is, of course, a bunch of hooey. However, the psychology of color is not completely hooey since we experience it every day in one form or another.

Yellow is often the color of choice in schools and hospitals since it is bright and inclined to be uplifting. The late television show host and painter, Bob Ross, would probably describe it as a happy color – and it is.

We all have favorite colors. Mine would be green. I don’t know why but I always loved the color and have even owned some five green cars over my life. Even my clothing has its share of green and my favorite color combination in nature is green and blue.

It used to be said that green and blue do not go well together. As far as I’m concerned, they go together perfectly. What could be more beautiful than a crystal clear blue sky set against the beauty of green trees? Mother Nature has to agree since she often paints her world with blue and green pigment.

I read that psychologists believe green represents healing and the freshness of nature. I agree. Don’t you love the fact that certain soft drink companies color their glass or plastic bottles in green to emphasize cool freshness? Sprite and 7Up come to mind.

I have an emotional tie to the color red. My late father was a redhead whose nickname was Red. In fact, when I was in grade school I was often asked if I was “Red’s boy.” I never minded since I was proud to be his son.

My father was a soft-spoken man. Therefore, when psychologists describe red as an attention getting color, they could not be referring to someone like my dad. He was not loud nor was he boisterous in any way.

Red belongs on fire trucks and small sports cars but not on fresh roses or on a painting by Barnet Newman. Newman was what has been called a “minimalist” or “color field painter,” which means he relied upon colors and colors only to make his artistic statement.

From what I gather, if your color is orange, you tend to be confident, successful and brave. Yet, you tend to be friendly in your dealings with others. Those who remember the record albums produced by Frank Sinatra will recall that he was often seen in an orange sweater. Actually, he often made reference to the fact orange was definitely his color.

Purple can refer to royalty, luxury, but also faith and spirituality. During the Christian Lenten season, Catholic churches and certain other congregations cover their statuaries with purple coverings until Lent is over. Priests wear purple vestments and altars are covered with purple draperies, referring to Christ’s sacrifice.

Brown refers to ruggedness, according to psychologists. It refers to the great-out-of-doors and even longevity. To those of us who live or work in northeastern Ohio, brown is the color of the uniforms of the Cleveland Browns.

The question always seems to come up if the Browns were named for the team’s founder, the legendary Paul Brown, or does the brown color simply identify the team name such as the Reds.

Then there are colors that are in a sense owned by teams. The Cardinals, of course, dress in red, as do the Cincinnati Reds.

There is Dodger blue and San Francisco Giants’ orange. When the Dodgers left Brooklyn and the Giants left the Polo Grounds in New York, the new team that replaced them was the Mets, who combined Dodger Blue, and Giants’ orange.

In Pittsburgh, the baseball team, The Pirates, wears black and gold, as does the hockey team, the Penguins and the football team, the Steelers.

When the Penguins decided to join their fellow athletics teams by also wearing black and gold uniforms, the Boston Bruins hit the ceiling since its members have worn black and gold for many decades.

The teams resolved the issue but I don’t remember how. Perhaps they saw black and gold as colors big enough to include more than one team.

Getting back to the dominance of blue in our culture, one is reminded that Pablo Picasso devoted a whole decade or two to his “Blue Period.”

For years, art historians have attributed his obsession with blue as indicative of a failed romance and a floundering career.

Years later, a reporter asked Picasso why he had gone through that blue period so long ago.

Picasso answered by telling the truth: “It’s the only color of paint that I could afford at the time!”