• Jessica Perez for POLYCHROME

How does COLOR affect Performance?

With the 2020 Olympics just next year, many designers have already been working on how it will impact their fashion lines. One of the things that we are very interested in is what colors will be trending, but we don't often consider how color may actually impact athletic performance. If we take into consideration the colors that athletes will choose to dominate in Tokyo next summer, we may have some insight into what we as designers should be planning to include in our own color assortments for Spring/Summer 2020.

2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan

From the everyday gym rat to professional athletes, or even Olympic contenders, attire can be of great concern when it comes to performance. Whether it's high tech gear that monitors vital stats or garments that are designed for less friction and ease movement, your outfit can make a difference in how one performs. In addition to a multitude of advancements in activewear, we should also be considering the impact of color on the playing field. Could the color of an Olympic uniform be the difference between winning the gold or silver? Although the latest tech in activewear is top of mind for many athletes, a number of studies throughout the years have determined that color can make a difference, too.

While it might be inaccurate to say that color adds a physical enhancement to athletic performance, we can't deny its psychological affect. The same way that music can enhance or change a mood, color can as well, and that can affect behavior - not only yours, but also that of your opponent.

So how does this tie into athletics? The way that color can affect athletic performance is by the psychological associations that are being made between the athlete and the mood they connect with a specific color. With those psychological connection being made, the athlete may unconsciously exhibit and reflect the behavior dictated by what they visually see. However small these unconscious correlations may be, athletes and teams worldwide have leveraged this tactic to try and boost their chances at victory. Here's how they do it:

Seeing Red

2004 Olympics red color dominates

Andre Ward winning an Olympic gold Medal in 2004 Athens

Sports teams and athletes have used the color red for their attire as a way to unconsciously improve their performance in a more aggressive manner and ensure victory. Countless studies have shown that the color red has aided performance with its dominating aspect. Symbolic of increased physical energy, stamina, passion, and boosted testosterone, the color red has given an advantage to those wearing this color in events. In the 2004 Olympics held in Athens, research conducted on the sports of taekwondo, boxing, and wrestling showed that athletes who wore red clothing had a higher chance of winning against their competitors who wore blue clothing.

Although all three of these are already viewed as aggressive sports, the statistics behind wearing red have proven that the added benefit of wearing red enhances performance of the wearer. Despite the possible boost that red may provide, there are also some negative associations with this color. Red is also a color that is used to signal danger, and this could promote worry and distraction, which can be a negative for those looking to perform at their very best - unless it is of course your opponent who is distracted to see you in red!

True Blue

In comparison to the action-boosting color of red, blue has also become quite popular with athletes. As one of the most common colors in athletic apparel, athletes have gravitated toward wearing blue in order to promote strategic thinking, creative thinking, teamwork, calmness, and consistency.

In 2017, speed-skating athletes showed up to the first World Cup event of the season having changed from their respective countries traditional colors to suits of blue. Changing from a long history of red, Norway’s new color change came as a huge surprise given that the country has had a long triumphant reign with 80 speed skating