Psychology of the Colour Brown


psychology of brown“There’s no brown downtown” is a saying of my gorgeous and super talented image consultant friend and colleague Sarah Brummitt from London. You don’t wear brown in the traditional corporate world (think big finance) in big cities like London and New York.

Why no brown? Brown is about stability (think about the tree trunk that is strong and stable). It’s earthy and non-judgemental. Sound like business? I don’t think so.  Dog eat dog business dressing is about power and expertise and keeping your opponent off solid ground.   Fortunately this is only a smaller proportion of the business world and brown is completely fine in many business environments.

Brown is the earth  or the wooden floor beneath our feet.  Stable and solid, keeping us grounded.

It’s a comfortable colour.   Brown tones from sand through to chocolate are warm and inviting.  It’s friendly and approachable and people open up more to those wearing brown (so if you’re interviewing someone for a job, think about wearing brown tones if you want more honesty from them).

Brown is hardworking, with both feet planted firmly on the ground.  This is why it also isn’t a colour seen in corporate business as it’s associated with the earth and the land (farming).

Brown is not fun or frivolous.  Brown is mature.  It can be perceived as boring and ‘beige’ and bland if you’re not careful. It often looks best when mixed with another colour.

Camel tones are seen as more sophisticated than darker browns.

Brown and beige, caramel and tan, sand and ivory are all part of the brown spectrum.  Lighter browns are more friendly, whilst darker browns more stable and reliable.

Brown is chocolate and coffee which can be perceived as delicious too!  Browns can be warm or cool, light or dark, but everyone can wear a shade or two of the brown spectrum.

How to choose neutrals – Brunette

How to choose a warm or cool beige

Do enjoy wearing brown or dislike it?  What does brown say to you?


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  • This explains why I am so drawn to shades of dark and medium brown. I love the grounded feeling that comes from being connected to the earth. hmmm…guess I reslly am working in the wrong enviroment if corporate and business mean less stability lol. Thanks for writing this

    • It’s only the high end corporate areas (finance/law) in really mega cities that have cold climates that tend to have a no brown rule!

  • I grew up in the 70s (brown, orange, avocado, and harvest) and spend the next 35 years loathing brown. In recent years I’ve made peace with it and gone so far as to embrace dark chocolate brown, as it’s less harsh and more flattering than black on my warm, fair coloring and golden-blonde hair. A black ‘power suit’ reflects ghastly shadows on my completion, therefore I convey LESS strength than I do in the right bold, strong color. If people can’t accept me in brown (or teal or red-orange) in the workplace because of its connotation, it’s a field or company I no longer want to be in.

  • I love brown but it is a little more difficult to find cool ones! I love the elegance of camel but sadly it doesn’t look well on me. That just means I have to enjoy it on others!

    • They are around every now and again – you just have to grab them when you see them. We haven’t had much brown in fashion for the past few years which is why they are particularly hard to find at the moment.

  • It seems to me I stand alone on this but – brown is my favorite color.

    Thank you for acknowledging browns. I know it takes courage and I commend you for it.

    I love and wear all browns except the pinkish shades, I adore it, especially luggage, cognac, or tobacco brown, worn with white and black. Or mocha with pale blue, pale yellow or blush peach. It is by far my most flattering color – it takes me from pasty pale to light golden ivory. I find that beige with deeper browns looks frumpy but white or the right shade of ivory makes them look snappy.

    My only problem with brown is that it is so hard to find. If it isn’t in the color palette of the year (and it hardly ever is) it’s virtually impossible to find it in clothing. Yes, I am a nature girl, er grandma – live in the country, relish the woods and fields and garden til my body makes me stop.

    • I personally love brown – it’s the colour of chocolate – one of my favourite things in life! All colours come and go so hopefully in some time soon we will be seeing brown again in fashion

  • Brown is also my favorite color. Now my hair is grey (my eyes are brown) and I still wear it, but I avoid beige. I mix it with pink, clear blue, grey, clear green or yellow.

  • Brown is not my favorite color; I’m more attracted to bright colors, but my mom always said that I look good in brown so I have a sort of sentimental fondness for it and I do have a brown dress and several brown blouses, all different kinds of prints, which makes brown much more interesting.

  • I love the lighter and greyed versions of browns and pairing them with black and pastels/jeweltones, but for some reason, just like navy and olive (the latter I cant see as a “neutral), they looks too colored when worn with certain colors, especially “cognac” brown – orange-y. I like to wear triadic/two third color schemes so maybe thats why (brown with blue or/and red). :p

    I also find brown to be a tricky color to wear, as the muddy warm shades makes me look “jaundiced” while the very grey toned browns makes me pale. Reddish browns seems to work best though (my skin is “peachy pink”) but harder to find so I often opt for taupe/rosebeige and top it with gold jewelry.

    BTW, for more than a year Ive stop dying my hair due to a damaged scalp and my hair is finally going back to its natural color (no, not too look “younger”, medical reasons! 😉 ), a very strange blonde-brown color that cast silver highlights in sunlights but turns into a stoney dark shade otherwise. Although I dont really care about color analysis (in the end I wear ALL browns coz I like all of them) – is my hair color more warm or cool in undertone?

  • I love dark brown instead of black. I avoid wearing it with green as it is a bit Robin Hood, but love it with ivory, coral, red, duck egg blue etc. It’s the undertone of my hair and a really easy neutral for me. I do work in the corporate world but in a small town and for an organisation which is very cooperative rather than competitive.

  • I have a wool cardigan that is so old I can’t even remember when I acquired it, a medium value rusty brown. It is the color of my hair. I’d been using it only for around the house for years–it’s very plain and unremarkable. But since I’ve been reading your articles for a few months, I’ve been wearing it out, to the store, the coffee shop, running errands…and getting compliments from strangers everywhere I go! I’ve developed gray through the rusty colored mane, but the sweater still looks good, even great, on me–so I’ve discovered. At this late stage of its life cycle, it has become my favorite piece of clothing. How can I help but love brown?

  • I’m a bright spring (golden blonde-brown hair and blue-green eyes with a light-medium warmish skin) and love brown but cannot wear some shades – look deathly. What shades of brown can I wear and with what colours to mix – I love brown with tangerine/coral/aqua/turquoise/white/cream. Thanks…Tania.

    • Tania – getting a personal colour analysis will give you an understanding of the best shades of brown for you to wear. There are so many variations out there! I would suggest the warmer shades not the cooler ones if you say you have warm colouring.

      • Thanks so much for your reply. I also wear creams, ochres, terracottas and rusts/reddish-browns. I wore a rust top this week and today I wore a terracotta jumper and felt good in those – my skin glowed without any blush ! Please keep these psychology of colour articles coming ! Also I love the range of brown swatches in the photo at the beginning of this article.

  • A key principle is to repeat your coloring in your outfit, so how can wearing browns be a problem for people with brown hair? I wear mostly browns and blues, a combination that I rarely hear about or see, but that I think is beautiful. The brown harmonizes with my hair, and the blue contrasts with my skin. For example, I wear a brown top or jacket with dark jeans practically every day, creating a slimming column of color. For some reason, the complementary outfit of navy top and brown pants doesn’t work as well. Why do you think that is?

  • I love brown and hate corporate ANYTHING. I was lucky and worked for years in a university. They tend to be more tolerant of that color.

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