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7th February 2017

Tangerine dream

Considering all the colours of the rainbow, it’s not often that orange stands out as a favourite. So how is it we come to love and favour one colour over another?

When the obligatory ice-breaker sessions begin during group interviews or in second semester’s introductory seminars, a favourite question offered to stimulate conversation is: what is your favourite colour? Many possess an unshakable assurance in their chosen shade: “Well, that would be a slightly purple lapis blue or maybe a malachite green — but not too turquoise!” However some may nervously deliberate over a specificity of colour, fearful perhaps that a particular shade will denote each and every personality trait, childhood trauma, or maybe even your deepest darkest secret.

In reality, our preference for favourite colours may simply arise from something as simple as happy childhood memories, a preferred colour to wear or an emotion evoked by a particular shade or hue. Mine certainly encompasses all three but when I state my favourite colour as orange, surprise or laughter often ensues, followed by the eternally hysterical question as to whether this arose from food shops at Fallowfield Sainsbury’s.

Flicking through family photo albums, the same features arise continuously from the pictures of me: a box fringe, chubby cheeks, and orange clothes. In my opinion both then and now, I won out with the lesser of two evils; my elder sister suffered her youth in yellow whilst I lucked out in the slightly sickly (but maybe one could argue iridescent) orange aesthetic. Let’s be honest though, when matching outfits are involved no one wins.

Orange and yellow may not be the most flattering of colours but who cares at the age of five? However as I grew up and became vaguely aware of my wardrobe, my preferred orange lost out to outfits styled around neon pink legwarmers, which eventually transformed into an all-black wardrobe. Since then, three years in Manchester converted my style into one with slightly more colour and I’d love to say greater maturity but that might be pushing it.

Whilst Barbie pink eclipsed my tween years and my teenage self came scarily close to Wednesday Addams’ outlook on outfits, these undoubtedly fell neatly into my mother’s favourite self-reassurance: “It’s just a phase.” I denied this vehemently during questionable style experimentations, especially around the time I begged my parents to redecorate my room in bubblegum pink. How could I possibly ever regret that decision? Yet still orange obstinately remained my favourite colour whilst other phases dissolved as quickly as they appeared.

My childhood undoubtedly honed my love for orange, including my first nail varnish from a princess magazine. Then there was my waterproof mac and matching hat, which boasted a radiant tangerine glow with white dots. Of course, my sister had the yellow version. I am now fortunate to say my taste has matured from the plastic sheen of crazy orange coats; I now assure people I prefer a sunset ambiance — evidently with maturity I adapted my justification to new levels of pretentiousness to oppose any haters.

One reoccurring look during my primary school days included an orange velvet dress, often styled by yours truly with yellow wellington boots, a multi-coloured felt pompom hat and pink sunglasses. My mother later told me I wore the dress every day for a year; she’d wash it every night as I refused to wear anything else. Evidently my stubborn streak was born with my love for orange…

Studies show that bright colours draw children’s attention for the energy and emotive responses they evoke. The ways in which we associate colours with different emotions or signifiers, like red represents danger or lust and green denotes envy or harmony, resounds with children who experience and grow through similar means. We are taught from a young age that the sky is blue, the sun is yellow, the red man means we cannot cross the road and any green food is healthy and therefore repugnant. I for one claimed an allergy to any green food at the age of seven. However even before the moment we denounce peas and beans as the bogey monster of nutrition, colours’ emotive powers have an effect before we can waddle, walk or talk.

Therefore the colours for which we show preference at a young age is likely to stay with us, even if those reasons change and alter as we experience more of the world around us. Whilst my wardrobe may not often imbue sunset hues (it’s not the easiest look to pull off after all), I remain drawn to my favourite childhood colour. It just goes to show that our childhood shapes us in many unexpected, subtle ways, even if those ways present shades of the most unsubtle nature.

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