Sunday, March 11, 2012

Black is Evergreen, or "What's your favorite color, baby?!"

From the Hubble telescope
When I was young (we're talking first grade), I had a black T-shirt that had some crazy space scene on the front, complete with a robot arm clutching a flaming star craft. It was a hand-me-down. It was awesome. It was my favorite shirt.

I wore it every chance I could until one day, my teacher, Ms. Just, scoldingly remarked, "Ugh. Why are you always dressed in black? Is black your favorite color?"

I said no, and hastily decided that green was my favorite. But I really didn't like green. Blue was a good candidate, but my older brother had already taken that one, so it was off the table. I settled on red for a while, but I wasn't really feeling it. I eventually mustered up the courage to claim blue.

Blue and I were good friends for a while. It's the color of my alma mater and two pairs of my jeans.

But honestly, black is my favorite color, and I've only just recently owned up to it. Society has told me that gentlemen prefer blondes, but to me, dark is fairer than fair.

I love the texture you get in black and white photography and film.

I love the deep black of concert pianos.

I like Shakespeare's "Dark Lady" sonnets more than his "Fair Youth" ones.

And then, optically, in its own paradoxical way, black is a much brighter color than white. Black absorbs light, while white shows an aversion to it.

I prefer autumn to spring and sunset to noon. Have you ever gone to a matinee and realized that the reason why you probably didn't enjoy it so much was the timing? It's hard to invest in a movie or play when you know there's still so much quotidian weight left in the day.

Also, cities definitely look better at night, with all the buildings, monuments, and statues lit up by artificial light. And who doesn't look better in the moonlight? I'm not the biggest Byron fan, but I think he was on to something:

SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

I like Frost a lot more than Byron, so maybe I should have started with him:

Robert Frost
O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud –
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.

Let's face it: even the words associated with black—raven and sable—are so much cooler than ivory or pale.

And while I'm getting linguistic, the word black comes from the Old English blacc, which means black. There's the saying "X is the new black," but black will always be the black: old, current, and new.

I've started to buy almost exclusively black clothes. I'm as far as you can be from punk or goth, but I just like black. I always have. An acquaintance told me that if a child starts dressing in black, it should be a warning sign for parents. Perhaps it's a warning sign that their child is desperately awesome.

A black T-shirt is one of the most socially malleable garments, solely by it being black. Black goes with everything. It's fit for parties and funerals. And I feel that a monochromatic wardrobe is bold in a very assured, calm way.

Also, not all cultures have this thing against black. I'm told that in some Eastern cultures (e.g., Korea), black is the sign of good stuff, while white is the color of death. Unlike chess, in Weiqi (or "Go"), the black player moves first.

And even in the West, black isn't always negative. In Elizabethan England, it was a sign of wealth and social status. (The amount of black dye required to make a garment truly sable [such a good word, right?] was prohibitive for most people's budgets.) And even today, black is the color of classical musicians and formal parties.

So, anyway. Black is my favorite color, and I'm done apologizing for it. It doesn't mean I'm morbid or demented or troubled. It means I'm awesome.


  1. Black is my favorite color too - have you noticed I mostly wear black, and dark blue.

  2. And you're the most positive, happy person I know. See? Black isn't just for the emo kids.

  3. I heard that the 'death' color in some northern countries (Scandinavia, perhaps?) is actually blue because it is the color of a frozen face... kinda makes you think see blue differently, eh? Good post. And Frost's "Choose Something Like A Star" is one of my favorite poems (and favorite Randall Thompson arrangements).

  4. That's crazy! Also, that Thompson piece is great.