Rabble Rouser Review: Black Clothing


In my continued exploration of the topic of fashion and crime, recently I did something simple and it turned out to be highly effective.

I went to Google Scholar and typed in “black clothing” along with “criminal justice.” Wow! Did it bring out a lot of results. With Columbine permanently etched in our brains, and the numerous pieces in apparel and color theory writing on the power of the color black (including a piece I wrote in the book Color & Design with former WT contributor Gwendolyn Michel), checking out ideas regarding black clothing seemed like a logical search.

There were so many results linking clothing color, particularly black, with ideas about crime and justice that I’m just going to give you a taste here of the types of things I’ve found. This appears to be an area I shouldn’t research, as it’s heavily covered, however this volume of data (again, just a smattering below) should certainly inform whatever I do settle on. Within the range were pieces about perception, profiling, and behavioral changes to name a few.

Here are some of the pieces that grabbed my attention:

An old article from 1973 with an interesting premise: This one talks about uniforms of all in the system, enforecement and criminals and the symbols.
Title: Role of Clothing in the criminal justice system
Author: L. Shaw
Journal of Police Science Administration, 1973, 1(4), 414-420.

A piece that talks about crime and justice and the colors of the clothes worn and symbols.Title: Police uniform color and citizen impression formation
Author: Richard R. Johnson
Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 2005, 20(2), 58-66.

A piece discussing appearance as one of the top 4 factors driving police suspicion and attention.
Title: Transforming Citizens into Suspects: Factors that Influence the Formation of Police Suspicion
Authors: Roger G. Dunham, Geoffrey P. Alpert, Meghan S. Stroshine, Katherine Bennett
Police Quarterly, 2005, 8(3) 366-393.

An experiment that tested viewers of black and white clothing to see what they feel they saw.
Title: Effects on color on eyewitness identification accuracy: Implications for criminal justice
Authors: A.D. West, B. J. Long
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 1993, 9(4), 343-360.

Another experiment, this one tested the color of the police uniforms to se if they acted or were interpreted as more aggressive.
Title: An Examination of Police Department Uniform Color and Police–Citizen Aggression
Author: Richard R. Johnson
Published online before print October 22, 2012, doi: 10.1177/0093854812456644
Criminal Justice and Behavior, 2013, 40(2), 228-244.

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