PEOPLE WHO…. wear purple
There are those who love arithmetic, others who prefer water sports, and others still who enjoy inner-city goat farming. Each to their own. Personally, I’m passionate about people who have indefinable hobbies and pastimes. People who, without knowing it, make up entire groups of over-excited “members.” If they organised themselves a little better, they could one day go from subculture to minority, and who knows? Maybe one day they’ll be represented by their own political party!
While we wait for this resounding triumph, these people are still in the shadows. I sincerely hope this article helps them rise to power, and that the dictionaries will one day find them an official name!
The day I bought this skirt…:
… I also bought this “gabardine” coat:
When I got home, I immediately took out this scarf:
It was while looking in the mirror that I realised:
“MY GOD, IT’S HAPPENED. I’VE FALLEN INTO THE ENDLESS SPIRAL OF PURPLE!”
(But in my head, without really shouting)
This trend has caught my eye for a while. Haven’t we all seen it dozens of times? Everyone knows someone who always wears purple. Test the theory – ask the person next to you:
“If I say ‘woman who wears purple’, you immediately think of…?”
This phenomenon is rather feminine, although some men also fall prey to it. For guys, it starts with a tie…perhaps a pair of shoes to match the tie…a jacket that would look better if it was a little more…purple. A pair of trousers begging for a shade of MAUVE! And finally, a plain, white shirt. Just kidding! A PURPLE SHIRT, or fuchsia, at a push. “Purple calls for purple” – more than any other colour.
Wearing a purple jumper or a purple skirt is a statement. It’s a decision. It’s saying: “I am someone who likes purple.” And believe me, they’re few and far between. On a panel of ten people chosen based on how fast they replied to me on Facebook, just three said they liked purple, and only two of the three said they wore it…sometimes.
Purple is a black sheep.
The disowned child of red and blue, it is neither warm nor cold.
And although it reminds us of some of the world’s beautiful flowers, the jury is MOST CERTAINLY out on this one.
In western culture, purple is a symbol of both dignity and jealousy, deceit and sadness. Quite a range of emotions. In the 16th century it was the official colour of grieving (or sadness). Even earlier, around 1200, Pope Innocent II made it the official colour of repentance (hence the deceit – because everyone knows that those who must repent are deceitful…)
Purple always makes me think of Lavinia’s outfit in “Princess Sarah”, of Satomi Okawa’s hair in “Ai Shite Knight”, of the photo taken when I was eight (where I am clearly proud of belonging to the purple club), of the first episode of Ally McBeal and of the pimpin’ threads sported by Snoop. On a more serious note, purple also reminds me of the painting by Francis Bacon, which funnily enough depicts the same 13th century Pope who had strong views and big plans for the colour purple.
A few days ago I was on the Parisian metro, sitting in front of one of these “purple women.” She’d pulled out all the stops: wide-brimmed hat, blazer, pearl necklace, skirt and moccasins. All purple. Only her blouse and her bag weren’t purple. But her umbrella was! The wretch! We were sitting opposite each other on the self-facing seats in the new trains on the line 2. When we stopped at Jaurès, something miraculous happened: another “purple woman” came into our carriage. As there were no seats left she had to stand. Before the doors closed she took out a purple, leather glove, put it on and grabbed hold of the pole, keeping her eyes fixed straight ahead. I felt like I was in a thriller film. Something was going to happen! The tension was thick, like in a white-knuckle blockbuster…or purple-knuckle… Anyway. Purple no. 2 kept staring ahead.
Purple no. 1 now looked Purple no. 2 up and down. She was staring daggers, disgusted, and if she hadn’t been boasting a full-purple look, you’d have thought she was thinking to herself:
“My dear girl, you must be mad to be so attached to one colour. Honestly, just look at you, did you check yourself in the mirror this morning?! People really don’t have a clue… Some women….The mind boggles!”
This was an odd scene for the rest of the passengers as, of course, I was not the only one to be watching the film.
I was just waiting for no. 2 to catch sight of no. 1. To help things along, I stood up and offered her my seat. Before she had even sat down, her eyes darted to the purple hat opposite.
What’s up girls? You should be happy to meet someone else like you! Why all this competition? You can’t deny that you look alike! You might even be long-lost sisters!
They both carried on glaring blackly at each other, before pretending to be interested in something else. They didn’t look at each other again until I reached my stop, leaving them in their obvious denial.
So is the purple subculture something personal?
“If I say ‘woman who wears purple’, you immediately think of…?”
‘Of my friend Mirna’, said my friend Béné. ‘She wears it every now and then.’”
And so I contacted Mirna to find out a bit more.
Mirna works in a very large event management company in Paris. Around 30, she is very beautiful, with a killer body, and when I met her she was wearing all purple, tights included
While I was at it, I got in touch with Hélène Vié, a regular on French television. CEO of a company in Toulouse, she brandishes her love of purple in both her daily life and her business – her company is called lamaisondelaviolette.com (the house of violet), which just goes to show!
I asked them the same questions to compare the two extremes. And as you’ll see, if there was a purple lovers’ club, there would be only one rule: there are no rules…
Do you wear purple every day? And if yes, since when?
Mirna: No. (And stops there)
Hélène: Yes, I’ve worn purple, or things with lots of purple tones, every day for 25 years. (Finally! We’re getting there!)
Do you remember the first piece of purple clothing you bought?
M: No, not exactly, but I remember the most daring! Purple boots from Repetto. I bought them nine years ago and I’ve still got them!
H: Yes, it was a handbag. I started with accessories such as jewellery and scarfs, as I rarely found fashionable purple clothes. T-shirts and shorts soon followed. But my first beautiful piece of clothing was a magnificent violet suit I bought in February 1994, for my first business trip to Lisbon.
What does this colour inspire in you?
M: It’s a happy medium – the perfect mix of blue and red (two other colours I like). It makes me think of stability, “Femininity, but not too much.” (Interesting…).
H: Gentleness, lots of joy and wellbeing. I probably also need this colour because it represents my freedom to create and to travel.
Do you ever mix your purple clothes with other colours?
M: Yes: blue, red, yellow, pink/fuchsia, green, and black and brown as well… (Basically every colour, then).
H: Yes, I love matching purple with white, bright pink and orange. (That makes a little more sense).
What piece of clothing do you own the most in purple?
M: Dresses, tops and shoes.
H: Blouses and coats.
Do you think that purple calls for more purple?
M: Hmm, yes, I suppose so. (Yes!).
H: Oh yes. I generally can’t resist buying purple accessories or clothes, it’s stronger than I am! (I knew it!).
Do you feel like you belong to a special group of women who love purple?
M: No, not really. (I don’t believe it for a second, but fine).
H: Absolutely. When I see someone wearing purple, we always end up chatting.
Do you easily find purple clothing in shops?
M: Not all the time, it’s more in second-hand shops, or in Anglophone and Scandinavian countries.
H: It’s been a little easier over the last few years. Purple is no longer the colour of grieving, or for the old. I don’t look ridiculous anymore! Young people now wear purple clothes and make-up… (I hope we’re just talking about eye shadow here…).
Does anyone in your family also or often wear purple?
M: Not really. My mum sometimes wears it, but in small doses.
H: No, no one. But they buy me lots of purple accessories and clothes as they know I love it. (I bet they do!).
Which colour do you hate, or which colour would you never wear?
M: My least favourite is orange – but I like coral. It’s funny how different shades can make all the difference.
H: I don’t like sky blue. I’ve never worn it.
No rules, then.
I would really like to find out how this colour links men and women together. I like to think purple is the symbol of moderate femininity, and although I know gender theory lobbyists will shout me down, I find it plausible. Maybe purple is even an asexual colour?
One thing is for sure: in the art of outfits, purple is proliferating – like a virus. It starts with little patches, and slowly takes over until the entire body is covered, in the most extreme cases of course – a sort of textile psoriasis.
In his book “Psychosociologie de la mode » (which wasn’t exactly published yesterday), Marc-Alain Descamps reports on the research of Maurice Déribéré, who stated in 1951 that the most hated colour was…purple! Descamps does however highlight that “within this colour we find an application of our fashion mechanism, between the elite and the masses. The general problem is knowing if there is an overall fashion that transcends ages and civilisations. Otherwise, tastes in colour would simply be a question of reputation and visual conditioning. Tastes in colour, as with everything else, correspond to the preferences of the dominant class (…).”
I asked my friend Anne-Lise Lobbé, a psychologist, what she thought. Does wearing purple mean anything? Is it serious? And if so, what can we do about it? As far as she knows, there are no pathologies directly linked to the colour purple, nor to always dressing in the same way, other than being a little obsessive or seeking the reassurance of a uniform.
I recently saw a woman walk past me while I was having a drink on a terrace. She was all in red – from head to toe: hat, coat, jumper, skirt, tights and shoes. All the same red! This absence of shades and depth was even more unnerving, and made me think: “is this the same aesthetic pathology experienced by my purple lovers?” But it just didn’t stick…
Here’s what I think:
Purple women form a veritable clan, whether they like it or not. They want to be feminine, and so choose a colour reminiscent of flowers, sweets and red fruits. A cousin of pink, but less girly and more grown-up. These women are quickly caught in a spiral of shade associations. They easily end up dressed in tones ranging from purple to blue, without forgetting violet, burgundy and paler shades such as mauve and lilac, because “they go together.” And also because if you mix purple with green or yellow, you quickly end up looking like this little guy:
Bérangère Claire, a fashion designer, was kind enough to give us a few bits of practical advice for getting around the full-purple look, and for sporting just one piece of purple clothing.
Bérangère Claire: “I think bright purple should be associated with two other colours, not just one. For example, black and purple doesn’t work. I think it looks good with burgundy and camel.
Here are a few purple clothes I would happily wear:
-A vintage sweatshirt or a baggy mohair jumper worn with dark blue jeans.
-A slinky, silk dress with sandals.
-Accessories: socks, beanies and soft, woollen scarfs.
I see purple as a very delicate colour which doesn’t look great on cheap or overly-complicated pieces. It suits a rather particular style, which doesn’t really correspond to mine. It’s funny how some people are just head-over-heels for purple, far more than for other colours. There must be some sort of mysterious meaning behind it all.
YOU SAID IT, BÉRANGÈRE!
But I can’t help feeling the secret won’t be uncovered today, and that the full-purple look will remain one of fashion’s – and the world’s – great mysteries.
In the meantime, I ask you to take photos of the purple men and women you meet (with their permission, of course), and to talk to them. If you can tell me more about this phenomenon, I would love to hear about it.