I’ll admit it: I look good in soft pink and powder blue and creamy yellow — it must be my pasty-white Nebraska skin that reflects those colors back into the world that makes me look truly alive instead of ghostly-dead. When I grew up in Nebraska, men who wore pink or pastels or creams were men who were secure in their sexuality and unafraid of being stereotyped by other straight men and women as “on-the-fence” or “in-the-opposite-mix.” Growing up in Nebraska you didn’t have many Gay people who were “out” because it was dangerous to do so back then.

There was, and still is, a physical danger to confessing a same-sex attraction in a conservative, red, neck of the woods. When I first moved to New York 20 years ago or so I had a few pastels in my wardrobe and, at that time, pastels were BIG in men’s fashion. There was no bravery in wearing pastels because everyone was wearing pastels. Miami Vice was a huge television hit show and everyone wore pastels on that show.

I didn’t, however, realize that when I dressed in pastels in New York I would attract openly Gay and bi-sexual men who felt my choice of colors were a quiet, public, symbol — just as at one time having a bandana hanging from your back pocket, or wearing a single earring indicated same-sex interest or a willingness to explore sexual experimentation — that required attention and a response. It didn’t matter if my wife was with me or not or if I was wearing my wedding ring.

Pastels speak their own hidden language! It took me awhile to realize the attention from the same sex went away when I didn’t wear my pink shirt and my baby-blue dress pants and my white deck shoes.

Now, 20 years later, pastels are back in style for men! I see men of all ages and stereotypes proudly wearing hot pink shorts and yellow tops. I see straight men wearing salty-blue blazers with violet dress shirts and creamy-white pants! It’s an 80’s fashion parade all over again! I won’t make the same mistake twice.

I have forsaken all pastels in my wardrobe. I may look pretty in pink and positively creamy in pastels, but if those colors send out the wrong sexual energy in fabric — then it’s best not to tempt the desire of those you do not seek. Thanks to ColourLovers I present an easy-to-follow pastels color palate that straight men of all ages may use to help them never choose clothes that match these hues, shades, tints, tones and tinges:


Here is another color palate I consider “man-safe” in that the colors are so boring and drab no Gay or bi-sexual male would ever touch a look at a straight man — yet these earthy tones still match the inspiration of the “never wear” pastels palette I previously presented:


Colors create power and symmetry and they attract various intentions from others around you, but — just as words have meaning
— colors create definition and context based on cultural traditions and sociological stereotypes.

If you are a straight man and you wear a bright pink top — even though pastels are once again in high fashion — just beware of the debt you may owe others due to the new attention paid.


  1. It is so interesting to hear a male perspective on taking care to dress so as to not attract unwanted attention. As a woman, I think consider almost every day as I get ready for work what message my clothing might give, both on the train and at work.
    I love black. I have discovered that I get a lot of attention from women if I am out in the evening wearing all black. They kind of look me over and then circle back around, like they are trying to figure me out. I don’t attract the same attention if I am wearing blue or red.
    That’s an interesting choice of words, “the debt you may owe others…” I feel that way about attracting male attention but not female attention. Do you feel a debt owed when you are dressed in a way that attracts attention from women?

  2. Hiya Antoinette!
    Yes, it isn’t only the clothing and their cut, but the color also sends simultaneous direct and subliminal messages. We should all be aware of that transmission but many of us do not actively comprehend the power our colors broadcast to others.
    It’s interesting here in New York wearing black wouldn’t get you a second look because black is everywhere all day and all night across both genders.
    I wonder why black gets you attention from women? Do they see you as being too formal? It seems a red dress would get the eyes popping more than black.
    You ask a fine question about owing a debt based on the colors you wear. Yes, I always feel a debt if you set out to look good and you succeed in garnering the attention of others — but I know how to react to innocent, reciprocal, sexual attraction from the opposite sex than I know how to handle a more direct, overt and unfamiliar approach from other men.
    When a woman makes an advance you feel you’re in the human game, but if a man makes an advance, you wonder what signal you’ve sent out to encourage that behavior.

  3. David – thanks for this open and honest article, it was a great read!
    After coming here in US I worked closely with GLBT, I know a couple of them very closely now…and you are right…clothes can send a different vibe.
    I was completely oblivious about clothing sending wrong signal when I was back home in India – the reason mostly being ignorance/unawareness/resistance to accept. I used to take all attention in a “straight” way.
    I love ‘earth colors’, and I prefer to go by it – I wonder – does ‘earth colors’ on woman signifies something?

  4. Hi Katha!
    Can you explain “GLBT” for those readers who may not know what it stands for or what the organization does in the field?
    I was oblivious about clothes as well until I moved to New York! It’s interesting how a culture change can shock you.
    Do men in India wear pastels? What colors are considered traditionally “male” there?
    I, too, like earth colors. They look good on me but not as good as pastels.
    I think women are “safe” in all colors in America. Colors were traditionally invented to celebrate women so, for your gender anyway, everything goes – though pastels and “softer” colors are considered more openly feminine and traditional.

  5. Red attracts more attention from straight males; black from gay/bi females. I don’t wear dresses when I am out usually, unless it is some romantic outing and we are driving into the city as opposed to taking public transportation (very rare). So I am usually in black pants or black jeans with black boots and a black shirt. With a black jacket depending upon the weather. I think it is a combination of clothing and other things (attitude, look).
    Women are rarely aggressive in their approach, so even when I have attracted sexual attention, it has not made me uncomfortable.
    You felt safe wearing pastels in Nebraska, but not NYC? I would have guessed otherwise. While I see men wearing pastel blues, yellows, and greens, it is rare to see a man in pink or lavender. It takes a certain type of guy to carry that off, unless he is openly gay.
    I do agree that women (in US) can wear any color without worrying. I enjoy that, because it allows a wide range of expression in clothing.

  6. Antoinette!
    I can see how black would attract females to you. Beyond New York City a woman dressing in all black — that is not a dress — is making a certain statement about her sexual availability.
    When I was growing up in Nebraska “the Gays” – for want of a more blunt term — were pretty much closeted and they would never dare to wear pastels in public because their clothes would “out them” as not fitting in — so the men who wore pastels were mainly the straight “Manly Men” who were comfortable in their skin and they wore what looked best on them and they didn’t have to worry about sending “mixed signals” to other men because no man would have dared to make an approach out of fear of getting rebuffed, punched in the nose, and publicly humiliated.
    In NYC there is more sexual openness and if you’re broadcasting a vibe or a color or even a look — there are men who are aggressive enough to make a play on the “signaling” male.
    I know several Gay men who prefer “taking” straight men because they know it’s a one-night stand and they’ll never have to “put up” with them again — plus, they claim the straight men never want to catch and so the straight guys do all the work.

  7. I’ve observed that color makes a difference.
    I am somewhat superstitious when it comes to color.
    I like to wear a dark red (maybe burgandy or cranberry) shirt when I’m having a final trial. When I wear that color, I always seem to get the results I want.
    Here’s a link to my “lucky” shirt George Foreman shirt style.
    On other days, I usually have a tie that incorporates some shade of red — I’ve found that one of my bright red ties with geometric patterns work pretty well with a white dress shirt.
    Of course, my slacks and jacket are conservative black that can fit in anywhere.
    There is some psychology that suggests that red might not be a good color to wear, but I think works well for me because it provides extra leverage because it symbolizes conflict and danger — the hallmark of my profession. 😉
    From Psychology of Color:

    The most emotionally intense color, red stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing. It is also the color of love. Red clothing gets noticed and makes the wearer appear heavier. Since it is an extreme color, red clothing might not help people in negotiations or confrontations.

    Combined with black, it seems to always work pretty well.
    From the Psychology of Color:

    Black is the color of authority and power. It is popular in fashion because it makes people appear thinner. It is also stylish and timeless. …

  8. Chris!
    I love the link to your shirt — and all the colors for your shirt match my “man-safe” color palate!
    Black is a great color. I like it a lot. You don’t wear much black in Nebraska. The darkest you go in fashion there is an unwashed denim blue.
    Colors do speak to us! My favorite color used to be purple. Then it was blue. Now it’s red. Red does have a unique energy that I like a lot.

  9. “GLBT” stands for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender – it works with this community.
    On the very third day after landing in here Wisconsin I became the member of local public library and attended my first workshop/round table there just out of curiosity.
    That was an eye opener.
    Before this workshop my knowledge about GLBT was limited to “Boyz Don’t cry” and “Transamerica”.
    If I didn’t know about it I wouldn’t recognize a certain person in our class having preference for the same sex. Infact, I have a very good friend who is a transgender – just went through the surgery.
    Indians males are pretty conservative as far as color goes. The two basic colors are blue and white and every possible shade of those two under the Sun. Typical corporate color is navy blue, gray and black.
    The scenario is entirely different in the entertainment section – you will find Indian males wearing all sorts of hideous colors sending all kind of wrong “vibes” possible on earth on screen.
    My primary colors are white and beige and all probable shades and tones of those; favorite is blue – black, red and dull orange also look good on me. I usually don’t like to experiment with other colors – tried once with mauve – the mirror turned into the opposite direction! 😀

  10. Hey Katha!
    Thanks for the fascinating detail! I appreciate your interest in GLBT. It says a lot about your kind character that you were interested in discovering on your own what to think and feel about their lives.
    I appreciate the Indian colors update! I love it! I learn so many new things here every single day!

  11. Thank you for your comment David!
    Throughout my life I operated as a soaking paper trying to infuse myself in my immediate environment. I see it as a learning opportunity, as a duty/responsibility of a global citizen.
    Some think I stretch myself too thin, some think I like to lead an adventurous/playful life, some think I am not focused enough…well – that’s me – what you see is what you get!

  12. I’ve always like interesting and unusual colors on men, and some men pull off pastels particularly well. In the past I’ve tried to get various boyfriends to broaden their shirt color spectrum. It’s amazing how many of them will simply not consider pink as an option.

  13. Hi Bianca!
    Welcome to the blog!
    Pink is a wearable color that, for any young boy, will bring ridicule and mockery and a hard punch in the face because it, unfortunately, has the reputation of being the color of girls, sissy-boys, cotton candy and Barbie.
    Pink is a hard color for many straight men to overcome even when they grow beyond the elementary schoolyard.

  14. The power of color is amazing, Dave. Thanks for sharing those wild tidbits!
    In urban areas you need to beware of blue and red — those can be gang colors and if you’re in the wrong area wearing the wrong color you will have trouble.
    I’m from Nebraska and the Huskers are a RED team.
    I fast discovered wearing a red Huskers had in certain areas would get instant eyes on me for a second as they tried to determine if I had friendly or enemy intent.
    After a few of those scary attention-getters I threw away my Huskers hat and chose a plain black one instead.

  15. Hi David,
    I had a high school physics teacher who always wore pastel shirts. He was particularly fond of pink.
    One day he was wearing clothing that didn’t match and someone must have said something to him, since he was always usually very fashionable.
    After the class had settled down after entering the class room, the teacher admitted that he was color blind and that his wife always picks out his clothing for him. She was away for business and he was left to his own devices so everyone had to forgive him if he looked strange during the week.
    Speaking of colors …
    Have you heard what people are up to now with their use of color to signal willingness to engage in certain activities?
    From Sex Bracelets — The Complete Guide which can be found by using Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” feature and searching for “jelly bracelets.” The site probably isn’t for everyone, so I’m not directly linking to it.

    Sex bracelets are inexpensive and colorful jelly bracelets. They sometimes signal, based on their color, willingness to perform a certain sex act. They are sometimes used in games in which sexual favors are exchanged.

    The widespread use of bracelets for this purpose might be a media myth …
    From Snopes:

    Yet it is not solely romantic yearnings and social awkwardness that give wings to such rumors — burgeoning sexual desire also plays its part.
    Boys caught up in the throes of hormonal tumult fervently pray for easy access to sex, so such a rumor falls upon their ears like rain on a parched field.
    Likewise, girls at that same stage are trying to come to terms with their impulses. One of the ways they do so is by abdicating responsibility for their urges to someone or something else, leaving them to preserve a particular view of themselves. …
    We would happily shift this from the “Undetermined” category squarely into the “False” column save for a small handful of e-mails from youngsters who claim the rumor is on the up-and-up and that they know someone who did it. …
    If, however, there have been some actual instances of sex obligated by bracelet-snap, they have been rare.

  16. David,
    I have to tell you the “man-safe” term is kind of insulting. I know you don’t intend it as such, but I think it just perpetuates the myth that gay men aren’t real men.
    I can’t recall ever showing interest in someone based on the choice of colors in their wardrobe, but then again, I haven’t really given that concept much thought. Rest assured, I’m going to start paying more attention to it to see what kind of difference it makes.
    I’m kind of surprised at how freaked out many straight men seem to be by how they are perceived, sexually. The “no red shirt” guy in particular.
    The most disturbing, however is this quote from you
    “When a woman makes an advance you feel you’re in the human game, but if a man makes an advance, you wonder what signal you’ve sent out to encourage that behavior.”
    Am I not in the human game because I’m gay?
    The fact is, homosexuality in general is much more out of the closet now, and especially in New York City, where everyone seems to be coming out of some closet or another. Certainly, there are men who are less respectful of other’s sexuality and willing to make uncomfortably overt passes. Women have been dealing with this for centuries. The discussion here seems to present that behavior as a gay problem, rather than a problem with the socializing of male sexuality.
    I’m sorry so many self-identified straight males are so uncomfortable with male attraction. We’re not animals who are “turned on” or “turned off” by your decisions. As women and men come out of the closet and same-sex relationships are more accepted, it only stands to reason that more of this sort of misunderstanding will occur all the time. Largely, it’s been a heterosexual centric culture that has forced gay people to develop “signals”. Now that those signals aren’t as necessary as they used to be, there’s all sorts of confusion. Gay men, like all other men, are responding to what they find attractive.
    Maybe if straight men would stop making such a fuss about being the slightest chance of being perceived as gay, this wouldn’t be such a big deal.

  17. Maybe if straight men would stop making such a fuss about being the slightest chance of being perceived as gay, this wouldn’t be such a big deal.
    Very true.
    When I was younger, I worked at a place with a lot of employees from all different backgrounds and orientations.
    A couple of times after going to various house parties at my coworkers’ places, people would want to go to the town’s “gay bar” because it had good dance music.
    It wasn’t always the openly gay guys who wanted to go — often it was the women coworkers. Bloomington has a relatively large gay population, so I probably there were probably 5 or 6 openly gay co-workers where I worked at any time.
    The women enjoyed the dance music and I always enjoyed any opportunity to watch them dance, so I tagged along. I remember being a little worried the first time I was invited to go — would I have any problems or would anyone say anything?
    I was told not to worry and that I’d be a fun time. People aren’t going to hit on you, unless you give them an invitation. The women promised to keep me safe. 🙂
    I went and had a good time.
    It was like any other bar for the most part. And, I never did get “hit on.”
    When I was an intern in college, one of the pols I helped out with our intern crew said he had been at a gay bar the night before.
    One of the interns from a rural part of Indiana looked at him in shock and asked “You really went there?
    The pol told the naive intern that some of his biggest supporters were in the gay community and that he liked to go out and meet his constituents.
    It shouldn’t have been such an eye opener — but it was for the intern from a small town.

  18. Color has great power, Chris, as your excellent research has proven here again and again! It creates mood and affects sexuality in many amazing ways.
    I think I saw a story on the local news a while back about those jelly bracelets and young, teenaged girls. The girls were explaining what the colors meant and they were pretty explicit about the degrees of yearning and satisfaction provided!

  19. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the pastels article, Loquacious. I have a long history of posts here that are in solid, undeniable, support of the Gay community, so I hope you’ll seek out those articles and comment on them as well.

  20. Chris,
    When I was in college, I used to go with my friends, who were gay, to the local gay dance club. I loved going because I could just relax and have fun without worrying about anyone making unwanted aggressive advances. And my friends had fun, hassle-free, which they couldn’t do at many of the other dance clubs.

  21. Interesting topic!
    So what about golfer(s)attire? I believe the message of clothing is entirely upon the locale and the ultimately upon the spectator.
    People I associate with wear pastels frequently on the golf course, usually because the color is not a “bold statement” or a distraction to others.
    Red and Black both symbolize power and strength whereas white symbolizes passiveness or innocense.
    I am a person who likes to ride the razory edge of an icy wind. I am a jeans and a black or white t-shirt person, but I also look good dressed for success.
    I agree with Ms. Antoinette, in that I would have thought you would have more difficulties dressed in pastels “back home.”
    I am extremely curious to know how much of your attracted attention was self inflicted by your wardrobe choice. For instance: the style of clothing, short skirt, skin tight pants, etc… AND, if you were the subject of so many unwanted advances, why you simply didn’t modify your wardrobe so you could be more comfortable going out. Your posts suggest you are a highly intelligent person. Your posts here suggest you understood the problem, but chose not to change.
    Personally, I like a woman in black. The problem is, in my experience, most of them are too withdrawn due to some life event. I beleive we choose our attire based upon our mood, like we choose our music genre based upon the same.

  22. Hi, CrypticKeeper. I am uncertain of your reference. Are you referring to my comment about some attention from women when I am wearing black, or a different comment?
    It would be disingenuous to wear something tight or revealing and then complain about unwanted attention!

  23. loquacious,
    This is just my opinion based upon my own experience, but!
    It is my understanding, like that of the black community; the gay and lesbian community too dwells on the past. It is sadly unfortunate, that we live in a society where one cannot be expressive of oneself. Or do we?!
    You suggested “the wolf whistle.” Simply put, that is a very rude and unsolicited advance, performed by a person who doesn’t have the decency to even speak to the recipient. Why not just yell out, “Yo! You’re a fine piece of meat, and if I had the courage to address you in any other manner, I’d go home alone, because I’m pretty sure you’re out of my league.” To me that’s what horn blowing, whistling, etc.. is all about. This addresses the hetero community as well.. I have no tolerance for this behavior.
    Another fact is that various ethnical/racial groups continually throw their beliefs, and/or past, in the face of others, rather than simply leading a life of personal acceptance. The black community still blames the white folks for the years of persecution, when in fact it was the blacks in Africa who were selling them to the slave ships.
    You state “…there is a distinct notion in this culture that gay people are gay first, people second.” Well have you taken an honest look around you and how the gay community acts? I’ve been hit on by my fair share of gay men, and of all the times I have been hit on; it has been by the pink shirt, overly-flamboyant “sissies” that have been the most aggressive. Also, How many yearly “observance days” can be listed for the white or hetero communities? Yet, we have black history month, Martin Luther King Day, Gay Pride “”, and more..
    I say this to all who want to live. “Live.” Do your thing. Just don’t put it in my face unless I ask for it to be there.
    And.. Don’t blame me for what the white ancestors may have done. I wasn’t there! Err.. I don’t think. Dave, Can we discuss reincarnation next?! 😉
    Seriously.. You come across well thought and spoken (written). Pastels or not; we present ourselves in the way we want to be perceived. Tell the 7 foot black linebacker, the next time he wears a pink shirt, that he’s a sissy.

  24. CrypticKeeper,
    While it may be true that black people were sold into slavery by other black people, are you asking us to believe that the persecution of minority groups that exists to this day is all the fault of those who sold the initial slaves? Is is the fault of some Africans that white America created segregated schooling, bussing and other apartheid programs over a hundred years later?
    As for your patently ignorant comments regarding the gay community, are you sure that the “overly-flamboyant ‘sissies'” are the only gay men who have had an interest in you? Or are they just the ones you’ve noticed? Chances are, you’ve been looked at and even talked to by gay men and just didn’t know it because they didn’t “put it in your face”.
    You talk about racism and homophobia like they were distant relics, yet you’ve exhibited a fair amount of both in your own writing.

  25. Antoinette,
    The reference “So I am usually in black pants or black jeans with black boots and a black shirt. With a black jacket depending upon the weather. I think it is a combination of clothing and other things (attitude, look).”
    I only assume the jacket is leather based upon you proposed imagery.
    I fall back on my previous statement regarding perceptions. If you were the recipient of said un-welcomed advances, why did you not alter your appearance slightly? I get the feeling your “attitude” is un-weatherable. A bit feisty perhaps? 🙂

  26. Well,
    My intent was not to offend, but to offer a different point of view. So in polite response… Phobia? Not a chance!
    I’m comfortable in my own skin and I have gay, black, white, and Latino friends. The comfort my friends have with me is that they’re seen by me as friends. Not by what they represent, what they wear, and certainly not by their orientation.
    I struggle personally with the previous paragraph. As statements like that usually illustrate someone who is looking for acceptance. However, there’s no other way to get the point across in this case without saying.
    Additionally! And as you so eloquently state yourself; it is usually the most flamboyant of the male homosexual orientation that are in fact noticed. Just as the most butch woman are the ones noticed for the females. Therefore, I don’t feel it is fair for anyone to blame society for the stereotype, when it the “extreme” members of the various groups that the apparent perceptions are derived from.
    And hey, I’d wear a pink shirt, but I’d get beat up for blinding the general populous with my pink shirt and inhumanly white skin.

  27. CryptKeeper,
    I think it incredibly fair to blame society at large for failing to understand that the “extreme” members of various groups are seen as representing the whole of that group to outsiders. On one hand, you’re telling people to “live”. On the other, you want people to “keep it out of your face”. And then you’ve invited me to take a look at the gay community as if you were an expert, when you’re clearly not.
    You branded people in minority groups as “throwing their beliefs in [your] face” and yet you are just “offering an opinion.” No, no. It’s really all the fault of black people that they’re given unfair treatment in a society largely run by straight white males. It’s all because they dwell in the past.
    Your own opinions are the only views here that seem rooted in a sophomoric and bygone reality. You want us to live our lives, but only if we do so in a way as to stay out of your face. It’s you who have branded some gay men as “overly-flamboyant ‘sissies'”. Since you’re not a part of the gay community, but you are a part of society, I’ll leave the blame where it was originally leveled.
    Members of the gay community are well aware of the diversity it contains. It is people outside of that community who continue to point the finger at some of its members and say “unacceptable”. People who say things just like you do.
    So which is it? Do we just “live”, or do we need to monitor our members to make sure they don’t do anything to give you the wrong impression?
    Perhaps, now, you can see the reason I originally raised the objections I did. I’d love to participate further in this discussion, but frankly, I haven’t seen anything on this page that indicates a gay opinion is welcome, either from you (you addressed everyone else’s point and hastily dismissed mine as “unenjoyment”) or your readers.
    It’s nice that you all support us so heartily. Maybe, someday, you’ll even consider our opinions of ourselves as valid, but I’m not holding my breath. I might turn blue, and that’s obviously a heterosexual “man-safe” color.

  28. Everyone:
    I think we’re quickly leaving the realm of polite conversation and moving into the mode of speechifying and hectoring and running too far afield from the original intent of the “Men in Pastels” topic and so I thank you for your thoughts and comments and passions and I am closing this thread.
    Do not email me to continue this conversation offline.
    Thank you!

  29. Everyone:
    I am reopening this thread. There are people who have contacted me with questions and they would like to add to the conversation because they find the topic fascinating and they want to learn more.
    If things get hoary again — I’ll have to close down the conversation — so let’s keep things intellectual and impersonal even though the topic is highly internal and can create external embers of hurt.
    I don’t have anything more to add on this topic so I will likely pass on diving into it again.

  30. “I won’t make the same mistake twice. I have forsaken all pastels in my wardrobe. I may look pretty in pink and positively creamy in pastels, but if those colors send out the wrong sexual energy in fabric — then it’s best not to tempt the desire of those you do not seek.”
    I’d like to address this piece of the original post.
    I don’t think this is an appropriate statement for the following reason.
    1. Clearly, in this case, the individual is dressing for “others” and not them self. This is fundamentally wrong. You should wear what makes you feel good and what enhances your better features. No matter which gender or persuasion notices you, take the compliment. Does it really make a difference whether it’s a gay or straight man/woman when you walk into a public place and they compliment you on your attire/physique? It shouldn’t.
    Superheroes wear masks, right? If I wear a mask does that make me a superhero? That depends on the scenario I guess. If I was in NY I might be seen and approached as a robber.
    Know your environment and dress for success!
    I strongly believe in wearing conservative attire. Casual dress specifically.

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