I was pretty psyched when, way back in the olden days of my Intro to Anthropology course, I learned the fun little tidbit about black, white and red being the most basic colors a culture will single out — that if they distinguish any other hues like blue or green or yellow, you can put good money on black, white and red being in the palette too. What can I say, I really like black, white and red.
At first I didn’t really notice that fact, to be honest. When someone asks an English-speaker over like, nine years old to choose a favorite color, it can be a surprisingly tricky proposition, like choosing a favorite number. There are a LOT of colors in the English language, enough that any given person is unlikely to even *know* all of them. Of course, there are the basic “primary” and “secondary” colors (plus the weird inclusion of pink, despite other dilutes like light blue or light … yellow? not really being a thing), which is probably what you’re expected to choose from when asked for a favorite. But what if you like dark red more than dark blue, but light blue more than medium red, and you like pink and medium blue equally? WHAT DO YOU SAY?
My point being, I tended to assign a “favorite” color at random from a shortlist of four or five that I generally preferred depending on mood, context, etc. No one really asks you favorite color combination, though, and if they had I probably would’ve seen a pattern much sooner. Ladybugs, woodcuts, buffalo plaid, and Scar from The Lion King are just a few things I have loved to look at pretty much since I can remember. It was pretty much only when I started having to coordinate shirts and skirts (not bluejeans) for work, over a decade later, that it really clicked: I have a LOT of black, white and red stuff. Next runner-up is dark brown, which is kind of just black + red anyhow.
Now, my summer wardrobe is all over the place. I have stripes, spots, leopard print, flowers, and pretty much Any Solid Color Other than Green. There’s a lot of blue — I look good in blue. But fall and winter, which, let’s face it, is a large portion of the Midwest calendar? Black, white, red, with brown accents. Same for my decor. Above are some thingies I cut out of leftover black paper so I’d have some interesting wall decorations for once. Same for my accessories and knickknacks as well:
There’s also a reptile/dragon theme, of course — there’s a Charizard keychain in that Pokeball (also that journal-dragon always bothers me, why does he have one bird-foot and one paw on his rear legs?). But also definitely a color theme. Not pictured are my MP3 player (black-and-red — and shaped like a cassette tape, though that’s not strictly relevant), my bed sheets (white fitted, black top, red blanket and pillowcase), my jewelry box (black-and-red ladybugs on a red-and-white gingham-checked background) or the lights I have strung up in the bedroom in lieu of a lamp (black and clear bulbs — Halloween discount merch). There’s enough Other Stuff that it still doesn’t stand out right off as a theme, but aside from the incidental black-and-silver that comes of buying generic appliances, it’s the only real recurring color scheme.
The question of “why” isn’t such an easy one — any more than why we humans often find the warning colors and patterns of poisonous/venomous plants and animals particularly attractive. That just seems like a bad idea all around. But it’s a good balance from the perspective of general color stereotypes — red for energy, black for power, white for calm. It doesn’t work quite as well when you’re trying to make a meal, as I discovered on Thanksgiving this year. The colors aren’t necessarily rare in nature, but that does bring us back to the whole “pretty poison” problem; I wanted an *edible* Thanksgiving dinner. There’s also more red in late summer, which is why I had to freeze this year’s Red Fruit instead of getting fresh ones (for years I’ve had to have a different bird and a different Red Fruit each year. It’s my one ridiculous holiday splurge).
I have to say, I don’t know what I’d do if I had to wear a uniform to work. Especially if it was a color I didn’t like. I did have to wear orange for a while, but honestly I look pretty okay in orange. And it’s almost red. As it is, this time of year most of my co-workers are wearing black and red anyhow, so I wind up blending right in. Between my hair and my clothing choices, children often mistake me for various other staff members anyhow. Let me tell you, it is a bit of an odd sensation when you first realize you are part of the curly-haired *majority* in your department, and will have to find a new way of narrowing things down with patrons in the eternal game of “okay, which staff person are you trying to describe?”
One day I’ll write that book about my job. Frankly, it would work better as a comedy series, or possibly a recurring SNL sketch. Maybe a comic….