Formal Attire & Negotiation | How Clothing Color Affects Psychology & Negotiations

Posted by Rishi Chullani on

Alyssa Breeden

No matter your job, or your title – everyone will face a work place negotiation at some point.  You could be asking your boss for a raise, more vacation days, you could be deciding where the coffee pot is placed in the break room, or which color is best for a financial analysis graph. 

Stuart Diamond, a Harvard Law School graduate and professor of negotiations, claims that negotiation is not a competition – it is simply a collaboration.  Negotiation is very much a give-and-take proposition and when you ask the your peers what you can do for them you are setting yourself up for a successful negotiation.  In order to fully succeed, however, you want to keep your emotions in check.

Whether it’s for a job offer, or how to get a job done - at some point in your career you will be involved with a form of negotiation.  In today’s post we will guide you through the steps involved in creating the best (and most influential) wardrobe to get the credibility and attention that you deserve.

Color & Negotiation

Consider rich, textured fabrics as a base

Color Psychology

Color psychology is based on mental and emotional effects that colors can have on people and their perception.  In a Business Insider compilation of several studies, researchers found that the colors of your clothing are completely capable of communicating status and intelligence to others.  Color choices cannot only influence what other people think of you but they can also alter the way that you think of yourself.

Take this study, conducted by a British t-shirt company, for example:

Buy T-shirts Online surveyed one thousand people on how they perceive their peers based on the color of their clothing choices.  When looking to build a lasting first impression full of confidence“…you're probably going to have to go with black. A conclusive 56% of respondents in our survey favored black as a color of confidence. Split by gender, 48% of women and 64% of men favored it.”  When asked about colors most attractive on mates?  “Women liked their men to be wearing black or blue (66% and 48%). “ When asked about arrogance?  “In our survey, red topped our chart in arrogance perception, although it was by a moderate 28% of the respondents.  Orange and yellow came second and third, 19% and 16% - and good old white was considered the least arrogant of the colors at 6%.”  It should also be noted that ONLY 12% of people considered red to be an intelligent color.  (Read the full study at

This all begins to make more sense if you carefully consider how advertising executives consider product packaging.  Think about how much a product can have a different impact on an audience if the packing is designed and displayed differently across multiple segments.

Think about color as hard as these guys did in the 1960's! Courtesy of

Keep this bit of advice in mind as we navigate through the colors of the corporate world. 

So let’s dive right in.

Color, Messaging & Desired Effect

When planning your wardrobe for important business meetings and negotiations keep in mind that you want to achieve impact.  Use the guidelines and descriptions below to combine meanings and create your desired effect.

We are all familiar with the classic advice of wearing black, charcoal gray, navy blue, or brown suiting in a business setting.  However, using those colors alone can quickly go from classically polished to boring and drab. Which is not at all what you want to show up at the negotiating table with.  Really think about your surroundings and what you want to be perceived as.  

In some cases wearing black to a business meeting can be perceived as sophisticated and luxurious, however in other settings, wearing all black and come off as drab and stuck up.  On the other hand, wearing all bold and brash colors could peg you as quirky and childish – also not highly desired in a business setting. 

Color & Negotiations

Notice how the costumers made Leo’s clothing cohesive to his personality in Wolf of Wall Street.  Photo courtesy of Unilad.

Keep in mind that just because you choose to wear classic-suiting colors does not mean that you have to be a boring replica of Wall Street.  Pairing classic colors with colorful accents could be a simple and powerful way to stand out.  With the careful use of neckties, pocket squares, lapel flowers, cufflinks, and colorful socks you will be both looking and feeling confident.


Black is known to reflect authority and power.  It is a color to be taken seriously and can also represent luxury and sophistication.  However when worn solo, black can go from formal to depressing giving an appearance of somber and evil.  Wearing too much black can be overwhelming to your peers in a negotiation setting.

Black & Negotiations

Too much black can be overwhelming to your peers in a business setting. Photo courtesy of


Grey is a very neutral color that evokes feelings of practicality, cautiousness, stability, and success.  Grey is timeless and safe.  Excessive use of grey, however, can portray feelings of depression and isolation.

Grey & Negotiations

Too much grey can portray feelings of isolation. Photo courtesy of Quora.


Most style coaches recommend wearing blue to job interviews and important business meetings.  This is because blue exerts of a sense of loyalty and trust.  Blue can also evoke sense of calmness and stimulate creativity.  Multiple studies have shown that people tend to be more productive and cheerful when working in a blue room/surrounded by the color blue. On the contrary, wearing too much blue can project coldness.  Are you trying to project loyalty and trust?  Blue might be the color for you.

Wearing too much blue in a business setting can make you appear cold. Photo courtesy of Pinterest.


Brown can invoke feelings of wholesomeness, honesty, and orderliness.  Brown is a simple color that is strong.  Be weary of too much brown though - as it tends to remind people of dirt and age.  Wearing the color brown can also be very reflective of being a team player.

Looking back on those descriptions, is there one that sticks out to you?  That’s the color that you should go with.  Be sure to match the feelings of “what you want to achieve” with the color of your garments. 

When choosing a shirt color to pair with one of the above looks, consider the notes associated with the suiting colors (for monochromatic looks) but also consider the color white.

Brown Suits & Messaging

Brown evokes feelings of wholesomeness and honesty. Photo courtesy of Men’s Suits Magazine.


People who wear a lot of white tend to be dubbed as people who care about cleanliness and hygiene - hence, the stale and starchy white coats of doctors and dentists.  White can also portray traits of being open-minded, well balanced, and optimistic.  Too much white, however, can be associated with isolation and unrealistic views of perfection – making the color most effective as part of an ensemble.

White Color w/ Suits

Photo courtesy of Carra


Silk Ties from The Dark Knot


Accessories Colors & Implications

Have you decided on your suiting and shirt color?  Perfect.  Now let’s add a bit of flair and personality. 

As a general rule of thumb, warm colors such as red (and neighboring hues), can evoke feelings of excitement and action.  Cool colors, such as green, blue, and violet, tend to have passive and calming effects.  Warm colors also tend to simulate the central nervous system and increase tensions, while cooler colors tend to be a bit more relaxing.

To achieve your best look you are going to want to include some of the colors below in your accent pieces.  Mix and match the colors below to best suit your personality and the image that you want to portray to your peers.  Keep in mind that you do not always have to choose one solid color – multicolored patterns are a great way to maintain a nice balance of style and personality.


Green is often considered the color of balance and restoration and is commonly associated with generosity and peace.  However, you should choose your shade and (amount of) green carefully, as lighter shades tend to indicate growth and renewal and darker shades (and heavy use) can suggest envy and greed.  

The Dark Knot's Beverly Foulard Olive Green w / Brown Silk Tie combines the perfect shade of green with a wholesome shade of brown, giving off pleasant feelings of kindness and generosity.  Courtesy of @stevetillystyle


Yellow is most associated with feelings of happiness, laughter, and optimism.  This is the reason why a lot of offices and kitchens tend to be painted cheerful shades of yellow.  This color also has the tendency to pull out feelings of creativity.  While yellow can be quite nice, it can also be overpowering when used too heavily.  Cheerful shades of yellow work best as accent colors.

Yellow men's accessories

@thedapperchap showing us to how perfect accessorize an ensemble with yellow accessories. Featuring The Dark Knot's Falmouth Birds Yellow / Blue Silk Tie & Amherst Yellow Lapel Flower.


Purple is said to be the best color to promote creativity and new ideas.  This color utilizes both red and blue to provide a nice balance between cool and warm colors.  Purple is often associated with prosperity, sophistication, wisdom, and trust.  However when overused, the color purple can communicate ostentatious and destructive emotions.

Men's Purple Pocket Square

A beautiful display of sophisticated shades of purple by @runnineverlong using our Mansfield Paisley Pocket Square.


The color red carries a lot of authority - it reflects energy, power, and strength.  Multiple studies have shown that when people are exposed to a lot of red they experience faster heartbeats and breathing rates, as it is known to stimulate the nervous system.  We recommend being cautious when wearing red as it may cause irritation and stimulate defense mechanisms in those around you.  For instance, sports studies have shown that athletes who wear more red have a higher chance of winning because opponents are more likely to see the team as a threat – or maybe it is because those wearing red show more confidence and power?  As we said before, red reflects power and strength. Red is a beautiful accent color to any of the calmer shades listed above, perhaps in a beautifully patterned tie or pocket square.


Burgundy Tie Authority & Trust

@stevetillystyle characterizing trustworthiness and authority with this calmer variant of red, burgundy. Featuring The Dark Knot's Montague Burgundy Silk Tie. 


Pocket Squares from The Dark Knot



There are a ton of colors, shades, and hues out there – and while we may have not listed them all, we do feel that these are great starting points.  We carefully selected these colors as a guide to, what we believe, are the best colors to bring to the negotiation table.

I hope this guide provides you with everything that you need to make an informed wardrobe decision.  Upon careful selection and consideration of what colors to mix and match, you should have no problem negotiating your needs. 

Feel free to check out The Dark Knot's range of exquisite silk ties, which you can even view by the type of occasion you are dressing up for! 

 Looking for that perfect tie for your next set of negotiations? Check out The Dark Knot's Work Ties!

Alternatively, feel free to view our exquisite range of Ties Suited For Presentations!

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