Orange is the first colour I ever remember someone disliking. I was seven or eight, not yet into black, and I was surprised to hear my mother say she found orange-coloured things repulsive. I hadn’t imagined people could dislike colours. I mean, sure, it made a kind of sense: I certainly knew which foods I disliked, for example; it just hadn’t occurred to me that colours were up for discussion. I knew I liked tigers, and that they were mostly orange. It was an earthquake of a moment.
My mother, like all mothers, was half-right. Orange mixes its messages. It’s both warning and invitation. It has connotations of illness, of plague, of those glistening little rainforest dart frogs that exude poisonous syrups – and yet think of apricots, the nudity of peaches, the juice of tangerines and of, well, oranges. It’s sweet, is what I’m getting at, with all the sin and danger that word implies.
But we’re talking blaze orange here. Saturated safety orange. The colour of road cones and the Plymouth Barracuda. The colour of easyJet aeroplanes and the mobile phone company. That bright, toxic, new-basketball orange. The shade of deer-can’t-see-it orange you’d find in a hunting store. It’s the colour of autumn, of change – halfway between the self-sure reds and yellows of this world, it’s the colour of construction, of caution on building sites. Primordial, volcanic. Of something not yet fully made-up. A Halloween melding of this world and the other.
It’s a colour that’s been creeping up slowly. Oriental. Creeping onto shoes and bags, Sartorialist posts, the floor of Prada’s Men’s Fall/Winter 2012. It demands attention and works well with black, white, or dark brown. With leather. With wool. It’s one of the few colours – purple’s another – that asks something of the wearer. It confers a kind of power, a double-edged radiance you would do well to respect, and, like Alice Walker says of purple, I think it pisses God off if you walk by it and don’t notice.
Do not wear more than one orange item. That one thing should be protective or functional rather than decorative, i.e., a coat, a hat, a tie, or shoes/boots. Don’t wear it with green. Don’t wear bow-ties. Don’t live alone.
*This article was written by my friend and colleague Sam Eckett, press release editor and writer with a unique sense of style and a passion for all things beautiful.