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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

This Week:
What colors should I wear for my online dating photo?

I’m trying to give my online dating profile a makeover. Are there certain colors I can wear to make me look better?


Obviously, we live in an unfair world and appearance does matter – both online and off. To be sure, I did say in an earlier column that posting a good photo (and many of them) was the number way to enhance your online profile. I also talked at one point about how both men and women typically take into account two main factors when sizing up a potential prospect: How attractive the prospect is and how accessible the prospect is. This was called the “attractiveness and proximity principle.” However, women tend to be a wee bit more forgiving in the looks department – indeed, women usually put more stock in a man’s personality and social status than his physical stature.

Now having said all of this about the importance of physical appearance, I should also make it crystal clear that it’s more important in the long run for a person to “feel” good than to “look” good when searching for love. For instance, laboratory studies and observations in actual social settings by Dr. Monica Moore at Webster University reveal that given a choice of a beautiful woman who’s aloof and a “plain Jane” who’s clearly approachable and flirtatious; men consistently choose to approach Ms. Plain Jane. This tells us that looks only go so far in attracting a prospect, whereas a person’s projected “attitude” goes much further. What does this have to do with an online profile makeover? Well, we can apply Dr. Moore’s findings to online photos.

Besides having a good photo that really showcases you, careful selection of the colors you wear may well enhance your profile even further. The fact is that when people wear clothing that they like, it promotes healthy, upbeat and generally positive emotions in us and motivates us to act and poise ourselves as more sociable and approachable. Simply put, when you feel attractive inside, you radiate and project attractiveness on the outside. And, it’s an attractiveness that speaks beautifully to Dr. Moore’s notion of an “attractive and flirtatious” attitude. So, I say wear the colors that make you feel confident, attractive, and mentally and emotionally stimulated. Believe me, these feelings will come across loud and clear to those viewing your profile!

Finally, let me leave this topic by summarizing how certain colors are often perceived by others. This knowledge is widely available online, so I’m not passing along any secret information here. Rather, I hope this summary helps you focus your color choices even more. Note that I’m ranking them according to the most desirable to least desirable choices:

1st Place: Blue
There’s a reason why this is one of the most popular color choices. Most people equate blue with peace and tranquility. This makes sense given that some research indicates that blue causes the body to release hormones that instill feelings of calm and relaxation. Blue is simply soothing. However, blue can also be perceived as cold or even depressing. I mean, they call a music genre the “blues” for a reason. Still, it’s an excellent choice overall and fashion experts recommend wearing blue, because it symbolizes loyalty. This is just the message you need to convey in profiles posted on online dating sites that cater to long-term relationships.

2nd Place: Green
I personally love green, but not just any shade. Olive green or lighter shades put me off for some reason. You might disagree. However, many shades of green symbolize nature, health and fitness. There is a certain maturity to the color green, if you understand what I’m trying to convey. Along with blue, it’s the easiest color on the eye. It’s also said that green can improve vision. Guys, listen up – dark green is masculine, conservative, and implies wealth (perhaps due in part because US currency is green). This is all good to note, because where men place importance on physical attractiveness in a partner, research based on evolutionary theory reveals that women place importance on social status and economic security.

3rd Place: Red
Red is an extreme color; one often associated with passion, sensuality and lust. Not that I’m saying that women who wear red will be seen as “putting on the red light” (ala “Roxanne” by the Police!). Those most interested in casual dating sites might place this color first on their list – especially you ladies out there. Red stimulates a faster heartbeat and respiration. Those symptoms nicely mimic the initial feelings of romantic love and lust. Red clothing gets noticed, which is great for women because men are such visual creatures. But, just remember that red can also make the wearer appear heavier.

4th Place: Black
This is my personal favorite color, next to red. To many people, black is a very sensual and alluring color. It’s popular in fashion since it makes people appear thinner. Therefore, online daters with relatively poor body images might select this color scheme first. Men might also throw in some black. After all, it’s the color of power and authority. This perception nicely feeds into the whole “women are naturally looking for men with social status and economic security” idea from evolutionary theory. Yet there are some potential pitfalls. Black can be dull and cliché – I mean just how many “little black dresses” are out there anyway?! Additionally, black outfits can be overpowering or make the wearer seem aloof.

Second-to-Last Place: White
Let’s face it, white is so popular and fashionable because it’s light, neutral, and goes with everything. This is its strength and weakness. White is perhaps the most dull and cliché color, and it arguably gives people a “clinical” look. I mean, many uniforms utilize white color schemes – doctors with lab coats, nurses with those quirky hats, and some formal military dress. But, white also conveys cleanliness and purity. Many consider it a summer color. Done well, white can lead people to perceive the wearer as innocent, fun, and sophisticated or classy.

Last place: Yellow
I’ve been told by professional PR agents to avoid at all costs yellow clothes when I’m doing a television spot. I can see their point. Yellow is the most difficult color for the eye to take in, so it can be overpowering. Nevertheless, many people perceive it as an optimistic, cheerful, and tropical color. There’s no doubt that it’s attention-getting, but if it is overused it can have the same effect as yelling at a person! I’d recommend this color primarily for those using casual online dating sites. This is because yellow is basically a “loud” and “care free” color.

And if you need more evidence that color choices and preferences really do influence us and reveal our inner qualities, then I encourage you to check out the Dewey Color System. Dr. Rense Lange of Integrated Knowledge Systems, who also happens to be my friend and a brilliant statistician and researcher, has recently validated aspects of color theory in conjunction with the “Dewey Color System Test.” It’s a fascinating read and a fascinating test!

There you go! Keep in mind that the order of my previous recommendations is simply my personal opinion. What matters most is that the color or colors you wear make you feel confident and attractive. Be as colorful on the inside as you are on the outside. :-)

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