why I wear black


Yes, one more blog about this subject. Care to continue?

It’s been a joke for decades about architects wearing black. Just search the internet for architects wearing black and you’ll be tied up all morning. Years ago Bob wrote about it, Jody wrote about it, I even found a video about it. Yes, there’s even a book about it. It just is.

I actually have this shirt that Jody designed years ago. It’s still funny.

architects wear black Jody architects wear black tshirt

I also have the Archispeak shirt…and guess what color it is.

archispeak tshirt

I can’t say I know how far back it goes, but when you get any number of architects together in a room, especially one where it’s an after-hour event, you’ll see about as much black worn as one would find at a funeral. If you’re still reading this and you’re shaking your head, all I ever promised is to “share how architects think.” I never said it was supposed to make sense.

architects wearing blackI’m not immune to this phenomenon of having a limited color palette hanging in my closet.


Why do I wear black? I thought about that one morning while getting dressed and I suppose I boiled it down to three reasons. I don’t think the second actually one counts. Maybe none count.

Identity – I admit that if I am going to be associated with a profession by my appearance, I’d prefer to be accused of being an architect. Years ago, I changed my day to day garments to a bit more casual because I’d rather not be mistaken for a banker, lawyer or accountant. I mean no offense to them, but I’d like to come across as a creative type who also appears professional. Black is no color, but it’s minimal. It’s mysterious and cool like Johnny Cash. It’s tough yet Bohemian. It’s not a color choice – perhaps it’s a non-decision. Don’t take this too seriously.

Ease of shopping – Most of my clothes are purchased by my wife. I really don’t like to shop and I really trust her taste. She’s not buying into this game of black, but will respect the creative aspect. She will buy interesting colors and artsy type things so that I am correctly identified. I trust her completely not to make me look stupid – I can do that for myself. I dislike shopping so much that when I do buy something, I pick up black and move on. Most of my other “things” are black. I have black phone case, sketch book, computer bag, mouse, pens, markers, shoes, wallet, project binders, book shelves. It goes on.

Lack of decision making – Face it, as architects we make thousands of decisions daily for ourselves and for our clients. We are not the type to simply pick something without a laborious, borderline annoying process of considering every alternative and winnowing down a selection for the comfort of knowing we’ve chosen the best solution. This thought type spills over into our menu selection at a restaurant, the color we paint our walls, the place we choose to go on vacation and just about every other decision. It’s the way we think and it’s the strength of our psyche that becomes our greatest weakness at times. When I stand in front of my closet, I don’t want to make a decision. I just want to get dressed and move along. I don’t need to be trendy or fashionable, just professional and not look out of date. Thinking of ways to match this shirt with these slacks is mind numbing. I can’t imagine how women do it. Sure I could have white shirts and dark pants and have the same ease, but I also have to satisfy reason number one above. If you’re not laughing by now, you haven’t really been reading this.

This is today’s look.


Every post can’t be serious right?

photo 1 credit: Go On, Step In ….. via photopin (license)

why I wear black

21 thoughts on “why I wear black

  1. Bob Moore says:

    I remember attending to a lecture by the late Sam Mockbee FAIA in the 90’s at which he made a comment that he was always amused when lecturing anywhere in the Bos-Wash Corridor. Every faculty member (of every school) thought the same and looked the same: they all wore BLACK.

  2. I am probably in a minority on this, and maybe i will write about it some day, but i prefer not to wear black. It annoys me that so many t-shirts come only in black or charcoal. I would choose a chocolate brown over black any day. I do not own any black pants. And i like a splash of color in my wardrobe.

  3. I wear blue. And black too. I own some reds. Except in the winter when color is so welcoming, I often put on red only to take it off. I work with existing houses. So I dress simply because I want my work to be what the client pays attention to, not my clothing choices. But, as a woman, I also want what I look like to be neutral on a job site and I want to visually say that I am NOT an interior designer.
    However,writing this I realized how much I am I’m not pure: I own and wear some impressive jewelry that looks great against my simple blues and blacks!

  4. Rob Humason says:

    While I do like black and have a number of wardrobe items that are black (it looks good with my silver hair and long silver whiskers), I am not exclusive. I do subscribe to a “simple is better” model though and rarely wear patterns. I have to admit a bright red or green shirt every now and again makes me feel good. I tend to wear a bright color on a day that I have a meeting scheduled that I expect to be boring – lets liven things up. Also, winter in Ohio is gray – color on some days is a must. We joke in the office about putting on the “uniform” for presentations: all black of course, although we usually don’t – no need to stereotype ourselves. One final comment: in grad school, I had a friend who told me you could pick out the sophomores in the design college because they were in all black, all the time. Freshman year was finding your self and getting into design school, as a sophomore, they proclaim to the world – “I am an artist”, by junior year, they were mostly over it.

  5. wmello1934 says:

    Here in Worcester County Massachusetts we are now enjoying the fruits of our “now” weather system. However in Boston enjoying even more of the same, “Rictor Noren commuted in an open coat and dress shoes.” …Noren…. a professor at The Boston Conservatory. “I’m dressed out of respect for the music”, he explained, his shoes damp. “Respect for tradition. “(Boston Globe, Feb/19/15).
    This leaves a question: Should “Architects” dress in respect for “Frozen Music”?

  6. I’d like to say I wear black because it’s all the things you say. But to be honest I’m wondering if it might have something to do with how under paid we are. Black, and it’s boring inlaws the grays, seem to be the dominate color on the clearance rack. Just sayin 🙂

  7. Now I don’t feel weird anymore after reading this. 99% of everything I own is black and this began at a very young age even before school of Architecture. I simply love black, I don’t mind putting on all black. I love chocolate brown, burnt orange and dark green, but how many times do you go shopping and find these colours…..this means at the end of the day I end up with black which I love most. I’m glad black is typical with most Architect so I ain’t weird like my mum thinks. I have been trying to change though and add some colours to my wardrobe….but right now i ain’t bothered anymore, my jewelries can add those missing colours.

  8. I used to be the lady in black, until I had two girls. I have added a hint of color to my wardrobe after that. But guess what, I shop for my husband, and his wardrobe is.. fifty one shades of gray and black 🙂

  9. I identify completely with the part about not using brain cells to pick my wardrobe each day. My wife says I look good in black (and a few other colors too) so that’s what I stick with. And I have to say that you look very handsome in the Archispeak shirt!

  10. Pamela says:

    I wear lots of color. But I’m a sort of bohemian woman. ha. And color looks good on me. Black, not so much.

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