In my world, there are magical humans often named wizards. Their scientific name is Homo magicus. However, there are standard humans (Homo sapiens as you shall know).

Traditionally, wizards live in a polytheistic theocracy divided in five castes (their main country is an India pastiche) (before India was colonised by Europeans such as British people, French people, and Portuguese people). The five castes rated to the most privileged to the most discriminated are:

  1. Clergy (that includes monks and nuns, shamans, and priests and priestesses);
  2. Rulers, and warriors (that includes nobles, lawyers, judges, police officers, security guards, soldiers, and counter-terrorists);
  3. Businesspeople, and scientists (that includes entrepreneurs, merchants, traders, nurses, pharmacists, and medical doctors);
  4. Artists, sportspeople, and workers (that includes actors and actresses, filmmakers, professional singers, professional martial artists, electricians, plumbers, miners, farmers, and sex workers);
  5. Untouchables/outcastes/outlaws (the homologues to Indian Dalits) (that includes street sweepers, latrine cleaners, pirates, criminal bikers, gangsters, mobsters, hitpeople, and spies).

Wizards and witches who are authority figures tend to wear more colourful uniforms than average magical humans:

  1. Police officers tend to wear purple (purple policepeople).
  2. Aristocrats tend to wear blue.
  3. Soldiers tend to wear green.
  4. Judges tend to wear yellow (as they say in French: Les Juges Jaunes).
  5. Attorneys tend to wear orange.
  6. Priests and priestesses tend to wear red.

Wizards and witches who are not from any of those occupations tend to wear black, or white, or grey. However, in the context of a wedding, both the bride and the groom traditionally wear red (in the main Wizarding religion, priests and priestesses can marry and have biological children) (clerical celibacy is something specific to Roman Catholic Christianity) (also, having both male priests and priestesses is commonplace in many non-Abrahamic religions) (red is the colour of love in many cultures from around the world).

So, I wonder what would be both the usefulness and the symbolism for authority figures to wear colourful uniforms in comparison to normal people.

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    $\begingroup$ "The usefulness and the symbolism for authority figures to wear colourful uniforms in comparison to normal people" would be that authority figures would be easily recognized and their status would be emphasized. As it actually was throughout history until quite recently. I do not understand this question, which is about a well-known real-history situation presented as if it were something out of the ordinary. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 7 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ Reminder that the caste system as it exists today is mostly a product of colonization, and while it existed before, it was quite different. $\endgroup$ Jan 8 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ What makes you think that there is a single reason why authority figures would wear colorful clothes? Remember that questions with many valid answers are not permitted on this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jan 9 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ This seems very broad and opinion-based, for example in this world - Clergy: anything between jeans and a t-shirt to full finery and a shiny (and silly) hat. Depends on rank and context as much as anything. I've seen a reverend in pyjamas, but don't tell his congregation! $\endgroup$ Jan 10 at 4:38

4 Answers 4


All sorts of reasons, which are compatible:

  1. Dressing in an eye-catching manner helps you carry out your duties; the judge dressed in yellow while all the lawyers and people in court are drably clad means that people automatically regard him as someone set apart.
  2. Conspicuous consumption. Many good dyes are expensive, and not color-fast, so you are showing a new garment, and show dirt, so you are showing off that you can afford the laundry.
  3. It allows people to see their positions at a glance and know who to obey and in what sphere, and thus keep order in society.
  4. The very fact that an occupation wears a color will give it symbolism, but they will probably invent, if necessary, explanations. For instance, a judge illuminates justice, like a flame, and so is yellow. Lawyers, because of their clients, are a slightly less pure flame but still illuminate justice, so orange.
  5. The colors are magically useful when casting spells related to the job. (And hinder unrelated magic, so they do not disrupt good order.)

Historically, Dyes were very expensive because they were made with rare materials (I.E. Lapis Lazuli was a deep blue gemstone used in ancient Mesopotamia for blue dyes and was rare, so only the rich and ruling classes could afford it), different colors could symbolize what caste a person is in

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    $\begingroup$ Same goes for purple, it was rare and used in a lot of royal outfits (and never on flags) because of it. $\endgroup$
    – A.bakker
    Jan 7 at 20:05

You're kinda mixing two things there... sumptuary laws, perhaps, and uniforms. And even uniforms can fulfill multiple purposes, some practical, some merely to distinguish them from others.

Its that "distinguish from others" that seems to be a pretty common theme in historical sumptuary laws, especially when it comes to distinguishing classes. I don't know if the Indian caste system which you're basing your setting on had formal sumptuary laws, but it certainly had restrictions on what some castes were allowed to own or wear.

Your society is clearly keen on distinguishing and separating people, and having restrictions on dress (enforced by law or social pressure) is one way to go about doing so. It will be very obvious when people encounter each other where they belong in the hierarchy and what they do, and this will immediately set the tone for how they will interact in that encounter.


A more light-hearted answer is that your worlds OSH/OSHA has strict regulations about Hi-Viz fabric for various occupations and are notorious for issuing large fines for breaches.

"Excuse me Sir, but I couldn't help but notice you were engaging in a little Pyromancy without the regulation Blue uniform. Suppose a mere peasant was to stumble into the working range, by accident, and was incinerated in an instant.

Would your response of 'Oh, I'm sorry I forgot to wear my Hi-Viz today' be any comfort to their grieving family? I think not.

That will be a 1,000 gold pieces fine and I'll be back in a fortnight to ensure that all pyromancy certificates are in order and current and the correct Blue attire is being worn correctly"


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