It is a truth universally acknowledged.
Black suits everyone.
It is with regret that I inform you of the reality.
The world has led us into colour falsehoods and this is the biggest lie of them all.
Black does not suit everyone.
We’ve learned not to notice black.
Not to look at it, not to observe its effects.
It’s suitable for all and sundry, day and night, any occasion.
Because black has become so ubiquitous, we have lost our ability to recognise when it is great and when it is just, well, kind of everyday.
Sometimes it can even look a bit weird but we are so used to seeing that effect on people it’s become normalised.
Let’s start tuning into black.
Let’s frame black in the context of the three dimensions of colour - hue, chroma and value.
The hue of black is 100% cool.
There is absolutely no warmth at all in this colour.
The chroma of black is bright.
Is there anything faded or gentle about black?
Anything dusty or muted?
If there is, it’s not pure black.
The value of black is dark.
No surprises there.
But think about just how dark - pure black is dense, vast and utterly opaque.
What season emerges from the combination of cool, bright and dark?
So now we have established that black is a Winter colour and as we know, there are three sub-seasons: cool-neutral Dark Winter, purely cool True Winter and cool-neutral Bright Winter.
But Winter blends into two other palettes, resulting in warm-neutral seasons Dark Autumn and Bright Spring.
What about them?
As it turns out, Dark Autumn and Bright Spring can also manage black.
All neutral seasons need that blend of warm and cool, it’s how they’re built.
And the type of coolness present in warm-neutral Dark Autumn and Bright Spring is from Winter, not Summer.
In addition, super-deep Dark Autumn balances black’s value level while highly-pigmented Bright Spring connects with its chroma.
This makes five Winter-influenced seasons in total.
And five is definitely not everyone.
Consider these images of people wearing black.
They all look glamorous and they all look red carpet appropriate.
But some look more natural and comfortable in black than others.
Who looks healthy and fresh?
Who looks like their head and body are completely connected?
Whose appearance doesn’t seem to have been greatly altered by styling?
Who is wearing their outfit and whose outfit is wearing them?
Some of these people are positively sparkling in black while others look like something is off.
One or two are kind of borderline. If you’re unfamiliar with reading these signs, you might not be quite sure either way.
So let’s break it down and understand why all of this is going on in the context of colour dimension.
Who is rocking black?
The Winters of course.
Clean and glowing. Check.
Head and body connected. Check.
Eyes and face the focal point. Check.
Dark Winters look the best of any season in plain black.
Sandra is making this feat seem easy.
Black is also great on True Winters but contrast gives them finish.
I’d love Camilla’s lipstick to be brighter or her necklace that bit more shiny and brilliant.
Plain black is ever-so-slightly boring on a Bright Winter and needs a little clever handling.
Here Jaimie looks fresh and clear but she could take this look to amazing by adding an element of colour or contrast, and possibly a lighter touch with the eyeliner.
But overall, this is what it looks like when black actually suits someone.
Just to be sure, let’s take a look at our Winters in different colours from their respective palettes.
They all look pretty similar to before - slightly more interesting maybe - but essentially unchanged.
There’s no doubt we are still seeing Sandra, Camilla and Jaimie, and they all look like themselves either in black or colour.
What about our Winter influenced warm-neutrals?
Dark Autumn and Bright Spring can wear black too.
Fresh, everything connected, face as the focal point.
This is another way black might look when it actually suits someone.
Minka is way warmer than the dress but with all those smouldery bronzed tones, she is showing how a Dark Autumn balances black.
You can see the clarity in Emmy’s natural colouring here - especially compared with Minka’s depth - and that brightness is connecting with the black.
Both Minka and Emmy look perfectly fine in black when it’s worn with harmonious makeup and accessories, as in these examples, so they’re getting away with it.
However by itself, plain black on Dark Autumns and Bright Springs can also be a tad boring and works better as a base or broken up with warmer colours from the palette.
Compare black-clad Minka and Emmy with these more colourful choices.
All parts fully united and absolutely nailing their best possible natural beauty.
Whether in black or colour, we still see Minka and Emmy as healthy and whole.
So where does that leave everyone else?
The other Springs featured in this post are Amy Adams and Taylor Swift.
They are considerably warmer and lighter than black.
One of the most attractive qualities about Springs is their delicacy - which is another way of describing value or lightness.
In both cases, black is punching that delicate energy into oblivion, completely dominating like a huge dark block.
Not seeing my point because they still look pretty?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
This is what I mean when I talk about the normalising of black’s effect.
Amy’s head doesn’t seem joined to her body, like it’s been photoshopped onto someone else.
It’s so light and warm in comparison it might just float away!
This is happening because there is no connection between Amy’s Springiness and black’s Winteriness.
Warm and light vs cool and dark.
Taylor is suffering a similar fate with the added effect of super heavy, drawn-on makeup, like big fake stage lashes.
There’s a lot of conflict in this choice of styling, between the delicate natural colouring and the competing black.
And by the way, unless you are a Winter influenced season, black will always win.
Let’s see what Amy and Taylor look like in colours closer to their natural palettes.
It’s quite a relief, really.
Their Spring faces look clean, clear and fresh.
Still glamorous, still plenty of makeup and loads amazing styling going on.
Without that black breaking them up, you can see Amy and Taylor as whole and unified.
Did you even realise how aggressive that black looked on them?
What about Summers?
The dimensions of Summer are cool, light and soft.
Although black is also cool, the value and chroma levels are so disparate that it never, ever balances for any Summers.
Case in point:
Margot Robbie, Allison Williams and Emilia Clarke look really leaden here.
The magic of Summers is their airiness.
As another high value season, airiness reads as delicate.
Which black isn’t.
Summers are also low chroma or soft, which reads as misty.
Which black also isn’t.
Soft and light vs bright and dark.
Take a look at these ladies in colours more befitting their natural tones and you’ll see how altered they were before.
It’s much easier to see the true radiance of Margot, Allison and Emilia in their Summer pastels than distracted by all that black.
Like our Springs, the result is like a weight has been lifted, like they’ve been cleaned up and polished.
I can see real people.
Of the three, Emilia seems to be able to carry black ever so slightly better than Margot or Allison.
This is because Emilia is a Soft Summer and that palette has more depth than the other two.
It can’t go all the way to black, but with good makeup - like in the example given - this season is half an inch closer to it.
That’s not a green light, by the way!
All Summers are miles too soft and light for black and it usually alters their appearance quite a bit.
The more changed a person presents, the less harmonious the styling.
Onto our remaining Autumns.
Soft and True Autumn have depth but nowhere near enough for cavernous black.
They’re also warm and soft and as we know, black definitely ain’t those!
Warm and soft vs cool and bright.
Kelly Macdonald’s dusky beauty has been swatted out of her.
The makeup is slightly too warm, trying to balance the black perhaps, and working hard in the attempt.
This look isn’t celebrating the glory of Soft Autumn.
True Autumn is a little different and I think it can be a tricky one because it sometimes seems kind of close.
There’s quite a lot of depth to a True Autumn. It’s not enough to balance black but it can seem kind of ok at face value if a few components are overlooked.
Shailene Woodley has terrific hair and makeup here - just look at those incredible eyes! - but it doesn’t stretch far enough to neutralise the all-powerful domination of black.
Her head is noticeably warmer than her dress and looks separate to her body as a result.
Still not sure?
Take a look at these ladies in more flattering colours.
Alive and engaging.
This is what good looks like for Soft and True Autumn.
Did black make Kelly and Shailene look like this?
And that’s exactly why it doesn’t appear in their palettes.
Remember, only five seasons can wear black well.
Those five fall north of this line.
If you’re not a Winter-influenced season, any black, anywhere, will present as really ominous on you.
A Light Spring wearing breathtaking ice cream pastels will be destroyed with a black scarf.
A True Autumn getting it right with olive and ochre will diminish their triumph by using black instead of brown eye makeup.
Even those with black in their palettes sometimes need to think about how it is best utilised.
For those who don’t, there are alternatives out there.
And they are more common than you’d think.
You just never noticed them before because you automatically went for black all the time!
Love your black if you can’t let go, it’s convenient and socially acceptable after all.
Just understand the consequences and open your mind to other ways of looking great.
You can do better.
Black is not everyone’s friend.