The use of color in the world: North vs South

The use of color in the world: North vs South

Color in the world takes on different meanings, and this is known.

But I also noticed that the approach to color changes a lot between north and south, precisely because the colors are related to history and culture, but also to the style and color characteristics of the people.

Here is a reflection on the different influences that North and South have given to the color:



Some colors take their name directly from war materials.

The so-called ENGLISH RED, for example, takes its name from the famous scarlet coat of the English guards; as well as the PRUSSIAN BLUE from the Prussian and Napoleonic army uniforms.

Alcuni colori prendono direttamente il nome da mezzi e materiali di guerra.

Always the British army is the KHAKI GREEN of military camouflage; the  NAVY BLUE of the English navy and the ROYAL BLUE of their military air force, which were camouflaged respectively with the sea and the sky.

As it happens, these are countries with an ancient war and colonial tradition.



In addition to drawing on political history, color tells us a lot about the industrial history of the various countries.

On the other hand the LONDON SOFT GRAY  SMOKE refers to the soot that covered the city during the industrial revolution.

Think also of industrial materials: one on all the color PETROLEUM, but also the colors CARBON BLACK, GRAFITE GRAY and BASALT GRAY, all coming from the British and Irish mines.


Also worth mentioning is the automotive industry: our RED FERRARI and the GREEN ENGINE of racing cars (British Racing Green).



If the productive countries of the North have transmitted the colors linked to the industry (war and civil), the countries of the South are linked to the colors of the earth. Of agriculture, but also of art and spirituality.

The so-called INDIAN SUMMER RED perfectly represents that rich and deep color that we Westerners know as mahogany.

Yellow has a very distant artistic tradition. Think of the SUNFLOWER YELLOW: it characterizes the South of France, but also the paintings of Van Gogh, who had found inspiration from it.

But also to the NAPLES YELLOW: in the 17th century the painters used this pigment coming from the sulfur of Vesuvius.





Speaking of clothing, you have already noticed that the use of color in the world changes a lot between North and South.

From the South come the strong and bright colors: MEXICAN PINK, CEDAR BLUE from Lebanon, TURQUOISE (from Turkey), INDIAN YELLOW, … The North, on the other hand, is decidedly more sober in the color palette.

In Italy, total black is decidedly Milanese, just like plain colors; from Rome down instead, the use of colors and patterns is much freer and more relaxed.

Suffice to see also the choice of cars: under my house in Milan, I find only cars black, gray or at most white; in Naples they are in all colors!



Color is not only representative of the history, taste and culture of the various peoples.

The perception of color changes depending on where we are: at the equator the sun’s rays fall perpendicular to the Earth, so they break down the intensity of the color very much.

That’s why the same flowered shirt we like on a holiday in Rio seems to us completely inadequate in Vienna.

And then of course the lifestyle: in the frenetic metropolitan cities gray prevails for obvious reasons of practicality (it gets less dirty) as well as Dress Code (it is the most formal in Western countries).




Last but not least, a purely armocromatic and different approach to color in the world.

In the South of the world, stronger colors are used because the populations have darker skin, which requires deeper colors. Conversely, in the northern areas the most muted colors are preferred.

Try looking for a headscarf in a Hermès boutique in Paris and one in Istanbul: you will find a very different color range. Cold and delicate colors in France, dark and bright colors in Turkey.

A matter of taste, of course, but also of the chromatic characteristics of the population.


And you, how do you place: North or South?


If the different approach to color in the world has intrigued you, do not miss my next Color Analysis course:

FOUNDATION: 5 e 6 october 2018 

ADVANCED: 7 e 8 october 2018

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Rossella Migliaccio
Follow me also on Italian Image Institute