Feeling Blue (And Every Other Color of the Rainbow)
By: Calder Lachance
I could feel all of the blood rush to my face as soon as my friend said it. “You know, you probably shouldn’t wear red with acne like that.” Hearing that was the most humiliating thing I’d ever experienced up until that moment.
She said it so casually, the words just rolling off of her tongue in between bites from her sandwich. I was well aware that the red t-shirt made my acne pop, but I felt violated by her desire to dictate my fashion choices based on a skin condition. It wasn’t that I didn’t need the help as my high school years were plagued with several unfortunate fashion decisions. For a few years, I was a fan of colored cargo shorts and pastel v-necks from Old Navy and I wore straight legged jeans with every colored t-shirt in the rainbow, even when it made no sense with the outfit. She could have commented on any of these fashion choices and, while I still would have been furious, I would have known she was right. However, the bright red bumps on my temples, chin, and forehead were clearly off-limits. Anyone who knew me also knew that I thought that my acne was the end of the world, including this friend. Silently, as I sat across from her in my high school cafeteria, I vowed to myself to never wear red again and I started wearing black everything, opting out of warm tones in order to avoid accentuating any of the fiery red pimples holding down the fort on my face.
My acne was always more than a physical issue, and as my acne got worse, my self-esteem did as well. I allowed my acne to define me, to control the choices I made and the way I interacted with others. I went on every topical treatment and pill I could to get rid of it, but treating my acne didn’t reverse its effects on my morale. While it's embarrassing to admit that pimples had the power to knock me down a few pegs, my three-year struggle with the skin condition had exactly this effect.
After about a year of being acne free, I have started incorporating more color into what I wear every day, but I wonder if wearing more colors during high school would have helped to diminish my insecurities. With the psychological associations that each color has with emotion, I went through a week wearing only monochromatic outfits to see if I would feel the way that colors are supposed to make you feel: red to feel bold, orange to feel cheerful, yellow to feel optimistic, green to feel peaceful, blue to feel strong, and purple to feel creative.
On the first day, I decided to keep things as comfortable as possible and wore the color I wear the most, blue. Wearing blue from head to toe, I expected to feel something different instantly. I stared in the mirror for five minutes, waiting to feel a newfound inner strength or a deep sense of dependability, but because it was a color that I often wore, there was nothing special about wearing an outfit based around a single color. However, as the day progressed, I felt as though I had the capability to take on anything that was thrown at me. I had the sense that I could weather any storm due to several subtle moments throughout the day that cohesively worked together to give me the feeling of dependency and stability.
The next few days proceeded similarly. When I wore green, purple, yellow, and orange I didn’t feel a radical shift in my mood. I received some compliments on my outfits and some strange looks for my bold choices, but the breakthrough that I was craving never came, and I was left hungry and anxious for something profound.
The last day, the one I chose to wear red, was the day that I dreaded the most. As I put on my outfit for the day, my friend ’s warning about wearing red echoed through my head. The color had become a symbol for my insecurities and putting on nothing but red was daunting. However, as I donned my ensemble I re-claimed ownership of the color. About halfway through the day as I was waiting in line at a coffee shop, a stranger came up to me and said, “I’m living for your outfit.” Those five words were it for me. The confidence that pooled in me through every pore with that single compliment gave me the extra bit of external validation I needed to bury my hatchet with the color red. It didn’t cure all of the hurt that resulted from my fling with acne, but it felt like a release from a burden. When I walked around Ann Arbor, I owned every single slab of concrete I stepped on without feeling imprisoned by a color.
Maybe my psyche wasn’t something that could be instantly remedied by throwing on a designated outfit, but there was comfort in wearing a monochromatic look that I thought would change the way I feel and the way the world views me. There was a beauty in the control that I had when I woke up every morning that week to put on a monochromatic outfit. There was a sense of relief I felt from being set free from the fear of wearing colors that I believed used to draw attention to my acne. I was able to confront my insecurities head-on, and feeling empowered like that is incomparable. While I will never stop loving a clean black outfit, I’m also less ashamed of the insecurities that I allowed to put me in a box. While I likely won’t any wear monochromatic outfits again anytime soon, I won’t be slinking in the background either. I’ll be asking the world to stop and take notice.