Colors, identity and adulthood

The color conundrum that confounds our collective coexistence

Colors are something that we do not usually think much about, but would surely notice the absence of. When we are young, a lot of emphasis is placed on the idea of a “favorite color.” As we age, it tends to become less and less important as the question of one’s favorite color is reduced to a trivial ice breaker question. I think the concept of favorite colors are more important than we give it credit for, and I think it says a lot about the state of our society.
The question of favorite colors came to me when I was watching “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Michelle Visage, one of the head judges, always comments when a queen wears a green outfit on the runway, citing that she hates the color green. This has become a sort of running gag on the show, where queens wear green to make Michelle mad, queens make jokes about it during challenges, etc. While she says the color green is disgusting, I think it is pretty disgusting of her to completely dismiss an entire color as repulsive.
The term “green” in and of itself is extremely broad. “Green” is a blanket term for all colors that fall between yellow and blue on the color wheel. It includes forest greens, lime greens, mint greens, booger greens and more. To be so adamant that “green” is not a good color is rather ignorant, and puts an entire section of the color wheel into a box labeled “ew.”
This got me thinking about the evolution of the importance of colors in my life. When we are born, we are generally assigned a color — all people are assigned pink or blue based on their gender at birth. As a young girl in the early 2000s, I loved the color pink, and I loved poodles. Those became part of my brand.
As I learned more colors, I expanded my favorite colors to include purple and red. Throughout elementary school, these were the colors that I gravitated towards in my clothing, pencil boxes and “Sorry!” game pieces. I specifically remember having a pink pencil box with butterfly stickers that I got with Accelerated Reader points, and having those awful stretchy book covers in purple on every textbook.
When I got to middle school, it was 2012. Suddenly, I was told by my peers that it was “childish” to like bright colors, specifically, pink. The hot new thing was the idea of being “emo,” or wearing a lot of black and being really mean to people. I all but renounced my love of pink and purple, trading them out for black Harry Potter t-shirts and video game hoodies. In doing this, I was not only changing myself to fit in with my peers, but I was also making myself miserable trying to pretend that I did not love a good magenta, or a rich royal purple.
I kept this up for a while, but it ultimately changed around 2018 when I first watched the movie “Legally Blonde.” If you are not familiar, it is a 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, a preppy sorority girl who follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School, where she ends up excelling and surpassing him and her other classmates. A huge part of her brand is that she loves pink, frequently referring to it as her color. In the climax of the movie, Elle bursts into the courtroom in a hot pink blazer and skirt combo, ready to seize the day and win the case. It is meant to be a power move, and it very much succeeds.
Throughout that entire movie, everyone doubts Elle because she is blonde and because she loves the color pink. She gives in in the middle of the movie, agreeing to “wear black when nobody’s dead,” but ultimately is able to be herself again and be taken seriously as she is.
I have said all of that to say this: why did we let the color opinions of others influence us so heavily? I know that my experience is not unique; I have seen countless others share similar stories online, and people in my life have admitted to having the same experience. I have also seen this theme in the stories of queer people; they had an affinity to a color that was not “for” their gender, and were discouraged from enjoying such colors.
Furthermore, it feels very indicative of an aversion to childhood. In “Legally Blonde,” Elle is frequently told that she is not “serious.” Even when she does switch to wearing black clothing, she is still not taken seriously and is overlooked by her supervisors and her peers. The idea of her not being “serious” because she likes to wear pink feels like the same problem that I and others were faced with in middle school: bright colors are not adult enough. Bright colors are for children, and they are not to be worn by adults.
For me, this begs the simple question of, why? I feel that the answer lies in our capitalist society’s emphasis on work before self. Young adults are expected to grow up too quickly so that they can enter the workforce and contribute to the economy. In 9-to-5 jobs, there is no room for individuality and self-expression; there is only working oneself to the bone for a job that would replace them in a heartbeat. As such, young adults are told that certain colors are childish and unprofessional, and they are cast out by them as they struggle to be taken seriously by older generations that already look down on them.
While there are certainly other factors going into the color conundrum, including psychological ones, I really think that the idea of hating certain colors, endorsing other colors and assigning colors to certain people or ways of life is a very outdated concept. Gone are the days of pink being for girls, blue being for boys, black being for emo people and red being for sluts. In today’s world, I have loved to see children wearing whatever colors they want, and whatever styles they want. As the world progresses and becomes a more inclusive place for everyone, I hope that people in our generation will continue to protest the idea of fun colors being unprofessional and childish. Even if you believe that hot pink and lime green are childish colors, I just have to ask you: so what?