One of my secrets to having a peaceful marriage is that I almost never criticise my husband’s wardrobe, even back when he mostly lived in black rock-band T-shirts and khaki bermuda shorts. But there was one item I just had to put my foot down on — a shirt in bold, iridescent purple. For a couple of years, he would break it out during Chinese New Year, making me feel like I was visiting relatives with a Prince impersonator.
After several unkind comments from me — mostly variations of “Good grief, this shirt again” — he eventually stopped wearing it, even though purple is his favourite colour. Till today, I have not totally figured out why I disliked it so much, considering that I generally love colours and have a pretty high tolerance for experimentation when it comes to fashion. However, a recent Financial Times feature shed some light on my aversion.
In her article, ”The Colour Purple — How I Learnt to Love a Hated Hue”, Grace Cook quotes Joanne Thomas, head of content at Coloro (part of trend forecasting firm WGSN) as saying that purple is one of the most “divisive” colours. Unsurprising, perhaps, considering that it has strongly contrasting meanings: It can represent royalty and elegance, as well as arrogance and jealousy. It is also everywhere right now.
A colour of the moment in fine watchmaking
It is, for instance, one of the colours of the moment in fine watchmaking. In this issue alone, two unabashedly purple timepieces are featured — the Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Purple Sapphire and the Urwerk UR-100V UltraViolet. Brands such as Audemars Piguet and Tag Heuer have also employed purple on their dials; Zenith coloured the movement of one of its Defy 21 chronographs a bright violet.
Shopping around for a new Apple iPhone, I was surprised to see that its limited range of new colours includes two shades of purple: For the pricier Pro model, there’s Deep Purple, which looks almost black at certain angles, while lilac is one of the new colours for the regular models. At the time of writing, I had not yet made a choice. While I do wear some purple, sometimes, it’s not a colour that naturally appeals to me.
A divisive colour
To see if the colour might be as divisive as Thomas says, I conducted a poll of my friends on Instagram. A handful of respondents unequivocally dislike purple. One of them, a watch and jewellery editor at another magazine, declared, “I find the colour campy. And it reminds me of Barney.” I agree. Aside from goofy characters such as the aforementioned dinosaur, it also brings to mind cartoon villains such as Skeletor and Maleficent. Not exactly who I want to channel when I get dressed.
Among fans of the colour, though, there are those who really, really love it. Ng Ping Ching, a co-founder of Tria the Label, which specialises in feminine, sophisticated dresses, shared that she loves the hue so much, both her wedding gowns were purple.
Another friend, who works in public relations, has a more moderate stance. While she is a major fan of Prince, she does not go crazy with the colour most associated with the late, great musician. Except when she is actually dressing up as His Purple Highness: “I once wore a lilac top and purple pants as a Halloween costume,” she confessed, showing me a photograph of herself in said outfit.
It was topped with a purple umbrella from which purple paper raindrops hung — a nod, of course, to Purple Rain, one of Prince’s biggest hits. In this context, a no-holds-barred purple outfit is playful and fun. Not that I would ever admit that to my husband.