Barbara Joens

Everyone wants to use their dating profile photo to leave a good first impression to potential matches. Many people focus on making themselves look as appealing as possible by using the most flattering angles, lighting, hairstyle, and make-up, but have you ever wondered what message the color of your outfit conveys to the person viewing your online profile? 

Studies have shown that certain colors impact other people’s perception of you. Depending on which color you choose to wear, this can make for a positive or negative first impression.

What About… Red?

Red is an eye-grabbing color that is often associated with romance, excitement, and passion. But does this translate to clothing as well? 

In a series of experiments, researchers found a positive link between the color red and women’s romantic attraction towards men. 

When men wore red, or had a red background in their photos, women perceived them as “more attractive and sexually desirable” (Elliot, 2010). This result suggests that color can amplify a man’s desirability. 

In another set of experiments, when women wore red outfits, men viewed them similarly. Red clothing made women appear more appealing to men (Elliot, 2008). 

It is important to point out that the subjects in these experiments were not aware that the focus of the research was on the influence of color on first impressions. It is therefore likely that the results of the study are valid, and that color can influence people’s opinions in a subtle, yet significant way.

The Downside of Wearing Red in Your Online Dating Profile

The research described above might lead people to believe that red is an excellent choice when trying to make the right first impression for a potential match.  However, findings also show that red can have negative connotations, particularly for men. 

Women rate men wearing red as being more dominant, aggressive, and “angry-looking” (Wiedemann, Burt, Hill, & Barton, 2015; cf. Kramer, 2016). As suggested by the expression “seeing red,” red can be a color associated with feelings of violence and rage. Therefore, men should use caution in making this their preferred color.

The Benefit of Blue

What about another popular outfit color choice, blue? 

While blue may not increase attractiveness, it also does not lead to an increase in men’s perceived level of aggressiveness (Kramer, 2018). Therefore, consider blue a “safe” color that gives off a reliable, calm, and friendly vibe.

Caution, Stay Away From This Color

For what color you should avoid in your online dating profile or on a first date, studies show that yellow is the least attractive color for both men and women (Mack, 2020). 

Yellow reportedly “exudes arrogance,” as does red, but researchers found respondents also associated yellow with more negative traits. 

Ranked as the color “least likely to inspire confidence,” yellow can definitely be off-putting to someone looking for a potential partner online. 

Yellow is a hard color to pull off, which can make people feel iffy about wearing it, especially knowing that they are being judged by a public profile picture on a dating app or website. While you might stick out in a yellow top or dress, it may not be in how you hope.  Therefore, use yellow with care if you are trying to make a good first impression.

To Each Their Own Preferred Color

Ultimately, however, there is no one answer for which color will make you more or less attractive to a person, since everyone has their own individual preferences. 

It may also be true that the link between color and attractiveness is not as strong as originally believed (Lehmann, et al., 2018). 

Dr. Andrew Elliot of the University of Rochester, the psychology professor behind many of the color study experiments, admitted that the sample sizes in his earlier work were too small (Chawla, 2017). According to Elliot, “I have an inclination to think that red does influence attraction, but it is important for me to be open to the possibility that it does not” (Chawla, 2017). 

No Guarantees, But Some Suggestions

A link between specific colors and levels of attraction may be real, but obsessing over whether you are wearing the “right” color in your profile photo is not necessarily a good thing. It does not guarantee that you will attract the person you are hoping to meet.

In addition, while some studies have shown a connection between background and clothing color and attractiveness, they may not have considered other factors. Grooming, hygiene, style of clothing, body language, and overall appearance and presentation undoubtedly also play a role in initial attractiveness. 

In a picture, smiling, or posing in a way that appears relaxed and welcoming rather than unapproachable might be more important in generating a favorable impression than the colors associated with your picture. The “right” color is no replacement for neatness and a friendly demeanor.

Looking Your Best, No Matter What Color You Wear

Finally, even though your photo might be the first thing that people see in a profile, it is not the only thing responsible for making a good impression. Other factors come into play, such as common interests, hobbies, values, beliefs, and countless other things. 

Therefore, it is essential to build up a strong “About Me” section in your online dating profile that will get people interested in getting to know the real you. By reading the “About Me” sections from the profiles of others, you can identify those things that contribute or distract from making a good first impression and use them accordingly.

In conclusion, it is important to take the information gathered from color studies with a grain of salt. 

While there may be positive and negative associations with particular outfit colors, be more concerned with which color makes you feel the most like your true self. 

In addition, post information about yourself on your profile that is true but puts you in a positive light. The combination of these things is most likely to lead to making the best first impression on others.

References

Chawla, D. S. (2017, May 12). No, Wearing Red Doesn’t Make You Hotter. Slate Magazine. https://slate.com/technology/2017/05/dont-wear-red-in-your-online-dating-profile.html

Elliot, A. J., & Niesta, D. (2008). Romantic red: red enhances men’s attraction to women. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(5), 1150–1164. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.95.5.1150

Elliot, A. J., Kayser, D. N., Greitemeyer, T., Lichtenfeld, S., Gramzow, R. H., Maier, M. A., & Liu, H. (2010). Red, rank, and romance in women viewing men. Journal of experimental psychology. General, 139(3), 399–417. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019689

Kramer, R. S. S., & Mulgrew, J. (2018). Displaying Red and Black on a First Date: A Field Study Using the “First Dates” Television Series. Evolutionary Psychology. 16, 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1177/1474704918769417

Lehmann, G. K., Elliot, A. J., & Calin-Jageman, R. J. (2018). Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Red on Perceived Attractiveness. Evolutionary Psychology. 14, 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1177/1474704916673841

Mack, Z. (2020, September 15). Wearing the Color Yellow Makes You Less Attractive, Research Shows. Best Life. https://bestlifeonline.com/worst-color-attractive/

Roberts, S. C., Owen, R. C., & Havlicek, J. (2010). Distinguishing between Perceiver and Wearer Effects in Clothing Color-Associated Attributions. Evolutionary Psychology. 8, 350-364. https://doi.org/10.1177/147470491000800304