Colourful Emotional Empowerment or Dressing like an unsolved Rubik’s Cube?

Let’s get this out of the way first: what I’m going to say is not a new concept. I want to talk about clothes and dressing for emotional wellbeing.

I suppose it used to be called “power dressing” back in the 80s; when women – and it was always women who needed to power dress, in an attempt to somehow shift the unfair balance of power that men have traditionally had in the workplace and in society in general – and this manifested as shoulder pads and power suits, which I suppose were intended to not only imitate the male physique, but also to intimidate them. But I am not talking about power dressing here, even though “power” forms part of the word “empowerment”.

For the past year, I have been experimenting with dressing for emotional empowerment. What do I mean by that? I’m talking about wearing clothes that make you feel more positive about yourself; consciously selecting to wear colours and styles that boost your self-esteem and self-confidence. Choosing not to dress like everyone else. Choosing not to “blend in” but instead deciding to stand out, with purpose and intent. To dress like you mean it.

Of course, there is the fear, deep down, that this could all go horribly wrong. And I would be lying if I said that there weren’t moments when I looked down at myself as I walked into work and my brain whispered: “what are you wearing?”

So, for this past year, what have I been wearing? For starters, I wear red trainers to work every day. I have discovered that wearing red shoes is like acquiring a superpower. Everyone who has ever commented on them has only had positive things to say: they wish they had a pair like that; they love them; they think they’re so cool. It is no lie when I tell you that I receive compliments about my red trainers every week. (Before you ask, I do have more than one pair of red trainers: I alternate between my two pairs of red Nikes and my red Pumas). But wearing bright footwear is just the start.

Today, for example, I wore a yellow suit to work; not bright yellow exactly, but definitely more banana than mustard. And, yes, with red trainers. For contrast I had a plain black t-shirt, with a long-sleeve pink t-shirt underneath. I know it sounds a bit outlandish, but honestly, it looks good.

Photo by Pixabay on

Yesterday I wore red trousers and a red jacket, which people mistook for a suit, but I didn’t bother to correct them. Yes, of course, I had my red trainers on as well, and a black t-shirt (I mean, red and black go so well together). Now, wearing a red suit will get you noticed; it’s pretty hard to ignore a male teacher walking down the corridor wearing clothes that are the same colour as an angry tomato. But, I’ve worn it so often that nobody comments on it any more, which I suppose is a reflection of just how colourful I have become.

Now, if you had said to me, oh I dunno, about ten years ago, that this is what I would be wearing at age 48, I would have laughed in your face. Previously, you see, I hated standing out in any way whatsoever. I used to wear greys and blues and blacks and more grey; anything that was vaguely dull. It was as if I wanted to be insignificant. (I was a stay-at-home dad back then, and honestly, I did feel insignificant most of the time. Dress the kids up in bright colours, sure, but not me).

Now my wardrobe is bursting with colour: blue, yellow and red jackets; pink, green, yellow, red and blue trousers; red, orange, pink and green hoodies; red, pink and yellow t-shirts. Oh, and some black, too, for contrast, to make those colours stand out.

One of my students said to me last week: “you always look like an unsolved Rubik’s Cube” and I took that as the biggest compliment.

So what’s the point I’m trying to make? I’m not saying you need to dress like a rainbow in order to feel good, or that you should dress like me. In my experience this past year, I know that when I wear bright, bold colours I always feel more confident. I walk taller. I walk with intent. When I enter a classroom, my students know that I have arrived. I feel seen, and I feel in control of how I see myself. In short, the clothes I choose to wear help me to feel empowered; I’m dressing on the outside to boost how I feel about myself on the inside.

For the first time, I feel ambitious, and I know that I would not feel this way if I had been wearing grey everyday. So, take inspiration from a Rubik’s Cube, find your empowering colours and dress the way that you want to be seen.

Even if that means sometimes looking like a banana or an angry tomato.


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