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Color of Uniform Affects Attitudes, Experts Say

Expressions such as “seeing red” and “feeling blue” have uncommon connotations in the uniform industry.

For designers and buyers of uniforms, color selection is a serious business. Marketing psychologists and uniform industry leaders believe that colors affect public attitudes.

Wearing navy tends to make one “feel blue,” which makes people feel more authoritarian, according to Michael Broome, head of the Career Apparel Institute, a trade group within the National Assn. of Uniform Manufacturers & Distributors.

“Navy is authority,” Broome said. “That’s why most police wear navy. . . . Police blue is almost black. The color says: ‘Don’t mess with me, man!’ Sheriffs wear brown because there’s more of a need to be in touch with the people. It’s earth tone for a down-to-earth authority who’s more of a peacekeeper or coordinator.”

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If you’re “seeing red,” you’re looking at a color designed to attract, according to Broome. One major rental car company uses red because it wants its employees to be easily seen at crowded airports, he said. Another major rental car firm uses yellow, another eye-catching color, Broome noted.

Bright colors like red and yellow are eschewed by banks and savings and loans. To evoke a conservative feeling, financial institutions often request customized blazers, jackets, shirts, blouses and ties in shades of gray or dark blue, Broome said.

“Banks won’t order red because red is too bold a color and banks don’t want to be seen as bold,” he said.

Broome said hospitals have long used white to give patients the feeling that the environment is clean. However, he said more and more hospitals are concluding that a clean environment is not the most important concern of patients. More and more hospitals are prescribing a color for patient jitters.

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“They’re moving to hospital green because its more calming,” he said.

On the other hand, some optometry chains are dressing receptionists and other employees in white, according to Michael Solomon, a consumer psychologist and head of the marketing department at Rutgers University.

“It projects an aura of a scientific nature,” he said.


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