Wendy Rush appears in the lounge of Baltimore’s Brass Elephant restaurant immaculate in waisted black frock coat, sharply creased black trousers, black stiletto heels and black sil" data-categories = "" data-popup = "" data-ads = "Yes" data-company = "[]" data-outstream = "yes" >

Paint it black By Margaret Renne

Wendy Rush appears in the lounge of Baltimore’s Brass Elephant restaurant immaculate in waisted black frock coat, sharply creased black trousers, black stiletto heels and black sil

Nowadays, black is the color of my true love’s hair, clothes and attitude. “The baby boomers are responsible for the new black rage,” says designer Danny Noble of Dawn Joy Dresses. “If you’re young, aggressive and on your way up, you wear black to intimidate your opposition.”
But Noble is quick to add that those aren’t the only reasons the color has connected. Black has other properties that make it right for the times. “If you’re in black, your clothes really don’t matter,” he says. “You can just be who you are. Black is magical that way.”
That new black magic has fashion industry executives everywhere singing monochromatic praises:
“Black has always sold well, but this year it’s selling particularly well,” says Ed Razek of The Limited. “It looks good on everyone. It’s terrific.”
“Black is a strong color for us,” says Brad Williams of Levi Strauss, where sales of black jeans are threatening to overtake those of blue. “It’s clean, it’s simple, it’s universal.”
“Black projects power,” says Lynn Clark of Fruit of the Loom. “It comes from the street.”
Indeed, black is the color of choice among the artistic underground and inner-city gangs. But perhaps the most unlikely source of black power is the world of athletics, where the best-selling team merchandise for every major sport comes from clubs with black as a principal color: the Los Angeles Raiders, the Chicago White Sox, the Chicago Bulls and the San Jose Sharks.
The appeal of the Sharks–one of the worst teams ever to play in the National Hockey League– extends far into hostile waters. At a Champs sporting goods store in Dearborn, Mich.–the heart of Detroit Red Wings country–two-thirds of the NHL garb sold carries the Sharks logo. “I keep asking teenagers why they spend so much money on Sharks junk,” says Bill Panian, manager of a sporting goods store on the edge of Beverly Hills. “I mean, the team stinks! They tell me it’s the look of that ferocious black shark on the logo.”
Black has long been a deeply powerful color, a symbol of mystery, evil doings and death. Reminds Noble, “It wasn’t just the Plague. It was the Black Plague. Not the White Plague. That sounds likes blisters. The Black Plague makes you think of a foggy night with people writhing and screaming as their limbs drop off.”
Black activists have long tried to blot out the color’s negative connotations. “Black is peaceful, man,” offers restaurateur Jamil Shabazz, whose Crenshaw Care sits at the epicenter of last year’s Los Angeles riots.
But it’s not as simple as black and white. A 1988 Cornell study entitled “The Dark Side of Self and Social Perception: Black Uniforms and Aggression in Professional Sports” found that the five black-uniformed National Football League teams were penalized more yards than the league-wide average in all but one season from 1970 to 1986. Over in the National Hockey League, the five black-clad teams finished first, second, third, sixth and 10th in overall penalty minutes.
Arenas and stadiums aren’t the only places black evokes a strong reaction. Because of the color’s ties to gangs, a Portland, Ore., high school recently suspended five students for wearing black team jackets. At another, parents urged the expulsion of students wearing black team caps. And managers of a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., shopping mall last year banned all black team paraphernalia.
“Wearing black makes me aware of the evil within me,” says Rush. “It puts me in a nasty mood. And the more black I wear, the nastier I feel. I become part of the blackness.”
Some say this dark trend may be heading for a blackout, though. “Once the boomers start hitting 40, the black boom will fade,” predicts Noble. “When you reach middle age, black starts looking very harsh against your skin. It doesn’t soften you.” So what’s the color of the future? Noble grimaces. “Dark browon, he says blackly.
Margaret Renner is a freelance writer based in New York.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)