Why is black always the new black?

Why is black always the new black? Why is black always fashionable? Little black dress Is black clothing boring? What does it mean to wear black? Is black a timeless colour? Why do we wear black clothes? Will the little black dress ever go out of fashion?

Why is it that we always come back to black? No matter how much we may try to inject colour into our wardrobes, it seems there is this inevitable urge to just ‘get it in black’. But what is it about this colour, once solely associated with mourning, that continues to absorb our attention?

Once upon a time, if your wardrobe was all black, your husband had probably died. Victorians considered black to be symbolic of spiritual darkness, with female widowers expected to wear extravagant black mourning clothes for at least two years after the death of their husband. And if it wasn’t death the colour was associated with, it would be piety and the black worn by those within the Church. It’s apparent why black would be avoided where possible as its strict and unwavering connotations rendered it a shade inherently linked to melancholia and autocracy.

However, the pensive sadness conveyed through black worked to the advantage of Romantic poets such as Shelley, Byron and Keats, who favoured the shade for this reason. The poets offered a sense of profundity and mystery to the colour, establishing black as a manifestation of intellectual intrigue.

On the back of these more constructive connotations comes the iconic black garment that changed the game for the symbolic shade. In 1926 Coco Chanel published a picture of a simple, calf-length black dress in American Vogue, and thus the iconic little black dress was born. A garment accessible to women from all walks of life, Vogue dubbed it “Chanel’s Ford” and almost single-handedly reinvented black in fashion as a uniform for the chic, modern woman. The legacy of the little black dress, or LBD, is indisputable, with new incarnations of the style seen on the catwalk and high street alike season after season. The colour against the body acts as an outline, hiding a multitude of sins while creating a clear and bold silhouette that can flatter timelessly, no matter the fashion landscape of the time. Brands often use black to “try and establish longevity of their ranges, and appeal to a wider customer base”, because most of the time our simplest black garments are those that last the longest in our wardrobes.

“Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy — but mysterious. But above all black says this: I don't bother you – don't bother me.” - Yohji Yamamoto

 The fact is that black is a colour that throughout the centuries has been imbued with symbolism, with each interpretation offering more mystique and allure to the hue. Black can simultaneously denote everything and nothing at all, or convey whatever you need it to at the time. It is the epitome of chic, yet also connotes grieve and depression. It is sexy, yet devout. Simultaneously modern and classic. Elizabeth Wilson summarises it best: 'Black says two different things at the same time. On the one hand, it's a uniform, but on the other, everybody's different in it.’ And that is why black will never go out.

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Tom Jeffrey

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