The Color Black
Posted: Oct 14 2016
According to color psychology, black absorbs negative energy. Black relates to the hidden, the secretive and unknown. No longer for the simply sad, black is poetic, rich with texture, a void in which to swim and peacefully sink. Once drowned, black – with its lack of color and absence of light - provides a restful emptiness.
The scent of black, licorice-like and anise-y, is spicy-sharp, murky, mildly euphoric. Without black, no color has any real depth, but when mixed with black, suddenly there’s shadow, finally fullness. Beginning in the Roman Empire mourners would don dark-colored wool togas to express their grief.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, black ceased to be the symbolic shade of death, as Benectine monks felt it was a uniform of humility and penitence. In the following century, magistrates and government officials robed themselves in black to show self-importance and seriousness.
The Duke of Burgundy, in the 15th Century, chose to wear the color exclusively, shifting the significance to that of luxury, refinement, hauteur. Soon black became the blush of the devil’s darlings in Salem, of the coal-stained industrial revolution, the sweet and sorrowful romantic era, of anarchism and fascism.
Four centuries later black dye was affordable, even common, and women wanted their portrait satins and velvets to have that stark and staunch silhouette.
1920s: Chanel publishes a single illustration – a stick straight black shift, cut at the calf – and fashion had the definitive staple for female tastemakers of charm and culture. Midcentury America: black was for those who simply “got it,” the creative class, the power players.
Jackson Pollock wore it to smoke and splatter; Georgia O’Keefe stuck out in the southwest.
Jazz heads afterhours, Beatniks downtown, Hells Angels on the highway, punks at the club; from the St. Marks gutter crust to the Park Ave upper crust. Marlon Brando was the Wild One in black leather.
Next the legendary Little Black Dress that no one will ever let go of. Civil Rights with a raised fist and iconic beret. 80s London Goths nodding to the Victorian Era – just another reinvention of the epic hue.
For Demeulemeester, Kawakubo, Pugh, and Yamamoto every collection crushes with season of the witch blackness. Wintour wants to abolish it, while Coddington feels confident in nothing else. Gaughin said, “Reject black,” and Abercrombie & Fitch won’t allow a single employee to sport it. But black is fact - Mystery. Potency. Sex. Sophistication.