Memorial Day 2021
Happy day, reader dear!
Wow! It’s almost a new month. For those of you in the U.S., I wish you a peace-filled Memorial Day. This holiday (like many others) has been subsumed in the consumer chaos (AKA: fun/festivity frenzy and shopping extravaganza) that has absorbed most long weekends. I hope you are blessed with some quiet time to reflect on the meaning of the holiday and the sacrifice others have made for us.
Flags will be flying everywhere, many at half-mast. Which sparked my thinking about color. All colors, not simply red, white and blue! And our complicated relationship with color. Mine included. On my Instagram profile I’m listed as a Personal Style & Color Evangelist, but I haven’t always been a fan of color. And I certainly was NEVER a fan of color systems until about six or seven years ago, when finding the right colors, my colors, created this strange snowball effect that changed my wardrobe, my career and my life. But more about that on another day.
Today, let’s keep this about red, white and blue. No political diatribe or patriotic flood here. Just a chat about the colors of so many flags around the world. Why are these three the most commonly found colors on flags?
Color and Culture
Color is both universal and cultural. Color is everywhere, and color preferences are, too! The meaning of colors, though? That varies from culture to culture and even through time from generation to generation. (For example, pink and blue were not associated with girls and boys respectively. They were the opposite until around the 1940’s!) Which brings us to a chicken and egg question. Would the colors red, white and blue still hold the significance of their meaning were they not flag colors? Hmmmm…
NOTE: Color is never seen by itself, but always in relation to the other colors around it, punctuating it. The associations we make with color, positive or negative are also made in relation to the colors around it and to the amount of color present. If you want a masterclass in the use (and overuse) of color, watch an episode or two of The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu.
Red is complicated. Associated with blood and its shedding, red has come to signify courage. No surprise then, that many western flag creators chose red to honor those who have died to bring a nation to life. We also associate fire, energy and passion with red. Lots of red? Opinionated and impertinent.
White and cleanliness, sure! (Especially after last year, I’m as unsurprised as can be by the preponderance of white for Spring/Summer 2021) Justice and peace (think white dove). Modernity. Too much white can come across as cold and sterile. There is also an element of luxury to white… If you can wear white and stay clean, that is!
We associate blue with loyalty, safety and reliability. Think about the popularity of blue uniforms for firefighters and security guards. Blue is also the world’s favorite color. Which shade? Now that’s a whole ‘nother story! Or should I say horse of a different color? Too much blue? Safe and old-fashioned.
How About You?
What’s your favorite color? If you were designing your own personal flag, what colors would you choose? What do those colors mean to you? If this feels unfair, my fourth grade students used to have a fabulous time designing their own flags! They were very colorful. Some had kittens on them. And dinosaurs. And volcanoes. What color is your least favorite? Do you know why? Do tell… And enjoy your Memorial Day.