Feeling brown?

Colour Environment Secondhand clothing Vintage

Vintage handbagWhen we first designed our website, Charlie's photo of Bella on the banks of Katarapko Creek with her vintage bag (left) featured on the front page. My work colleagues loved it and said, 'It's very you' and 'That photo represents what your shop stands for' and other nice things. Awesome.

Then Louise said, very matter-of-factly, 'We can't use that photo. It's brown.'

'What do you mean?' I asked.

'I removed it from the front page because I got depressed at so much brown being the first thing you see,' Louise replied. 'People won't buy from a brown shop!'

I was truly confused. When I see brown I think of chocolate cake and chocolate bars and hot chocolate. And more chocolate. And  horses. When Louise sees brown, she thinks of poo. And 1970s Ford Cortinas.

So we decided to seek opinion from further afield, by sending an email of different photographs, including brown ones, to more friends. We got back a mixed bag of responses to the brown:

'I like brown in photos because it gives a lovely warm tone.'

'I like these photos because they are earthy.'

'I don't like these photos because they are brown.'

'Oooh, I like the sitting-on-the-log-with-the-bag one. Might need a bit of green somewhere in it to balance it.'

'Warm browns are generally old on people, cooler browns like taupe are better.'

'I hate the brown.' (This comment was not submitted by Louise!)

In skimming through blogs and other colour psychology references, it would seem that in a general sense people associate brown with good things like strength, reliability and structure. They find it nurturing, down-to-earth, conventional and sometimes sophisticated. But some find it evokes feelings of sadness or isolation. It does not rate well as a 'favourite color' and 'should be used sparingly in your decorating and be well balanced with other colors to avoid a lack of ambition and drive.'*

Colour wheelThe results of my small survey demonstrate the fact that the psychology of colour is, however, not straightforward. People's past experiences reflect the impact different colours have on the psyche - particular colours can be reminders of significant events or memories. (Take vintage caravans or 70s TV shows - do they make you feel sick? Or warm and fuzzy?) The significance of a colour can also differ according to culture and lifestyle. For example, showing my work colleagues a brown photo may have returned a positive bias - I work for an environmental agency where people relate brown to spectacular outback landscapes, vital habitat features such as soil and leaf litter, and exciting rare lizards or birds of prey.

In the end, I decided that as much as I like brown, if some people despise it then I don't want to be losing those customers before they even get through our first page! The Katarapko photo was replaced with a beach scene, but I still like it and it is floating around our social media pages, perhaps attracting the admiration of all those brown-lovers out there!

So whether brown is your thing, or green or even orange, we're sure you'll find your next favourite colour garment in our store. Head there now.

[Note from Louise: So does this mean I won the brown photo argument? Yes. Yes it does.]

*Tchi R. How To Use Color Brown for Good Feng Shui. The Spruce. Updated May 15, 2017.

Photo courtesy of Bella and Charlie Milne.

Colour wheel image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay.


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