Ashma John

For as long as I can remember, I have stayed away from dark-coloured clothing. Unless it was a single article like a black pair of jeans paired with a brightly-coloured top or because I was attending funeral, I wouldn’t be caught in anything black.

Growing up I was always told I should wear bright or light colours to ‘show up’/highlight my colour/complexion. My sapodilla brown skin tone was always made to seem as something I should preserve and not darken further.

Interestingly, the argument that light colours keep you cooler was never really used as a point in the whole push to not wear black. I later matured to learn it was an internalized colourism complex that was being channelled into my upbringing. I was made to believe that being dark was a highly subjective beauty construct. My two-toned skin was a partial setback and the dark spots from acne scarring also chipped away at my supposed beauty points. In other words, darkness, or hints of it, was not beautiful.

Early this week, I scrambled for whatever clothes I could find in my cramped apartment and prayed the bits I had ordered hurriedly would all come together nicely for a wardrobe on a last-minute holiday to recharge my exhausted body. My husband and I are currently in the process of moving into our new home, so naturally it feels like my closet is upside down as everything is packed away in suitcases and boxes.

In the midst of my brightly-coloured midi dresses and skirts, lily-white vacation shirts and denim cut-off pants, I found what turned out to be my most beloved, staple holiday piece: a plain black linen dress. Paired with black flats and black, vintage cat-eyed sunglasses, it was the furthest thing from appearing dull and morbid on vacation.

Normally people don’t tend to associate black with vacation wear because it is said to drive heat and it does. However, I recently read an article in the Guardian titled “The most improbable scientific research” and according to a controlled study of Bedouins who wear black in hot environments, done by C Richard Taylor and Virginia Finch of Harvard University and Amiram Shkolnik and Arieh Borut of Tel Aviv University, “the amount of heat gained by a Bedouin exposed to the hot desert is the same whether he wears a black or a white robe. The additional heat absorbed by the black robe was lost before it reached the skin.” The research found that because the robes are loose, “inside, the cooling happens by convection – either through a bellows action, as the robes flow in the wind, or by a chimney sort of effect, as air rises between robe and skin. Thus, it was conclusively demonstrated that, at least for Bedouin robes, black is as cool as any other colour.

It is likely then that as long as we do not have loads of cloth tightly pressed onto our bodies we should be more than fine and not worried about suffering from a figurative meltdown.

I have to say that having done it, I find that there is something about wearing black in the midst of the chaotic colour explosion that takes place during summer. There are so many different prints, cuts and fabrics that sometimes the choice of bright colours can be exhausting. Black brings precision and undisputed elegance in a sea of clothes screaming hopelessly for attention.

Black is timeless, classical and in a category by itself.

Today I leave you with a few words from Chronixx’s song “Black is Beautiful”. The song has resonated with me for some time and really forces me to think how ‘blackness’, in every sense, has been demonized.

“Most time we hear about black,

We hear about black magic and black witches.

Black list, black book, black market, black Friday,

Ya spend off your black riches.

I’ve never seen a doctor in black

Nor seen a black pill fi cure no black people…”

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