Wear Black

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Alexander Wang explains how to wear all black without looking boring - Business Insider

Want more? News U. HuffPost Personal Video Horoscopes. Newsletters Coupons. Follow Us. All rights reserved. It means never worrying about matching. It camouflages any stains. It can be layered endlessly.

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It flatters every skin tone. It can make anyone look mature. It allows you to go wild with accessories. It works for every season. It helps you blend in if you want to, that is. It masks whether your clothes are expensive or cheap. It always looks kind of dressed up. A white object is white because it reflects white light, and white light is a combination of all the visible colors.

This means that a white shirt or pants will reflect most of the light and not get hot. Simple, right? Wear Black. But wait! What about the bedouin in the desert regions of North Africa? They often wear black clothing, and it's super hot there. It seems they wouldn't wear black unless there was an advantage. Maybe the black clothing prevents body heat from reflecting back on the human—thus keeping the body cooler than a white outfit. Let's be clear.

This black vs. People actually study this stuff—here is an article from Nature published in "Why do Bedouins wear black robes in hot deserts? There are clearly several situations to consider with the Bedouin clothing. But what about more common outfits, like a T-shirt?

Should you wear a black or white T-shirt on a warm summer day? The first thing to consider: Does a black shirt get hotter than a white one? I can explore this question with an infrared camera. You see, everything gives off light electromagnetic radiation. Some super-hot things like a lightbulb filament or a stove burner are hot enough that this emitted EM radiation is in the visible spectrum, and we can see it.

For most other objects, the emitted light has a wavelength that puts it outside the visible range. Most of this light falls in the infrared region. Using a special camera, a sensor detects the infrared radiation and uses this to determine the object's temperature for the most part. Now for an infrared image.


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Note: this is a false-color image. Since we can't actually see infrared light, different colors in this image correspond to different wavelengths in the IR region. From this image I can get the temperature of the shirts.

OK, technically there is a small problem measuring the temperature, but I will address that shortly. The black T-shirt on the right measured Yes, it's clear the black shirt was hotter. Other than that, there were no real surprises. But come on. You already knew this. In fact, you can even do your own experiment. Grab some paper—a white piece and a black piece. Place them outside in the same sunlight.

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You only have to wait a few minutes before picking them up to realize that the black paper is hotter. Now for the second question.

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Does a white T-shirt reflect thermal radiation from your body back to your body to warm you up? The answer is yes. Perhaps the question should be: Does white reflect MORE thermal radiation than black clothing I'm equating thermal radiation and infrared light—same thing. Is a white shirt "infrared white"? Does it reflect more infrared radiation than a black shirt?


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  • How about another test. To measure the infrared reflectivity not a real term of different shirts, I set up the following experiment. There is a hot but not too hot iron that you can use to make your clothes wrinkle-free. This is my infrared source. I placed it around a corner so my infrared camera couldn't see it. Then I put different objects in front of the camera to see how they reflected this infrared light. Let's start with something fun.

    Should You Wear White or Black on Hot Days? Here's the Data

    Here is a tile board. It's the same stuff those whiteboards in classrooms are made of. What happens when infrared light hits it? This happens. This is a composite image in case you couldn't tell. I cut out a part of the visible image and placed it on the IR image to make it more obvious what you are looking at.

    The important part is the bright spot in the middle of the board.

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