I am writing a story that is set in the Fourth World (metaphor meaning uncontracted people, hunter-gatherers, nomads, pastoral peoples, and some subsistence farming peoples, and sub-populations from First World countries who have the living standards of those from of Third World countries).

My people have a culture that is similar to Mexican Indigenous peoples.

They consider yellow to be the manliest colour, blue the second most masculine, and purple the third most boyish. At the opposite, for them, red is the womanliest colour, orange is the second most feminine, and green is the third most girly.

The colour symbolism is extremely varied from a culture to another, and even to an era to another.

For example, currently, red (especially pink) and blue (mostly navy blue) are respectively considered the most feminine colour and the most masculine colour in the Western World. However, some centuries ago, the roles were reversed.

In comparison, purple is mostly a feminine colour in the Western World (google Graceful Ladies Wear Purple), but a masculine one in Sub-Saharan Africa (google Purple is Powerful).

If green is considered an androgynous colour in the Western World, maybe a little bit more feminine because of the phrase Mother Nature (or as Francophones say Dame Nature) (I know that because I am a Quebecker with mostly French ancestors), in most other parts of the world including Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, and Polynesia, the trope Green is Girly is relatively common, and in the Muslim World, green is considered a symbol of religious power and is therefore the most masculine colour.

Orange is considered androgynous, maybe a little bit more masculine in the Western World because of the word Fatherland, but in Sub-Saharan Africa, orange is considered a boyish colour, and in South Asia, orange is considered a relatively womanly colour.

So, I wonder why would yellow be considered the most masculine colour in a human society. I ask because yellow is the colour of cowardice (the opposite of courage) (courage = masculine; cowardice = feminine).

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    $\begingroup$ You recognise that colour symbolism varies from culture to culture and era to era, so just declare the colours to mean what you like. (Not sure where you got the idea that cowardice=feminine, though - "different" and "opposite" are not synonyms.) Although, noting that sun-faded orange will tend to look yellow means that your choices are not very functional for people who are likely to lack the affluence to discard weathered garments. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 29 at 1:26
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    $\begingroup$ ??? There is no "why". As the wise Romans said, de gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum, [when speaking] about tastes and colors there is nothing to be disputed. You are of course aware than in the Roman Empire purple red was the manliest of colors, reserved for emperors and generals, and that in the Chinese Empire yellow, yes the subject of the question, was the one Imperial Color, reserved for the Emperor, and it was a crime for a commoner to wear yellow. Not to mention that the word purple has a fuzzy meaning; if you mean mauve, in Romania that's not elegant but rather whorish. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Apr 29 at 1:28
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    $\begingroup$ VTC. You really do need to talk more about your world and your culture and less about the primary world and whatever "graceful ladies" are. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Apr 29 at 3:06
  • $\begingroup$ Giant hornets use yellow and black as warning signal cause stark contrasts. So general idea is "i wear the warning signals of a slayen animal, thus i have its strengths". Same as wearing a lions skin.. $\endgroup$
    – Pica
    Commented Apr 29 at 8:06
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    $\begingroup$ Yellow in your culture is the color of cowardice. '"Universally, a bright yellow means warmth and sunshine. In Japan, it "often represents courage." In Mexico however, yellow marigold flowers are associated with death ("Yellow"). In Britain, it can mean honor. During spring festivals in India, many people will wear yellow clothes and eat yellow food, such as sweets. In Egypt, yellow is worn at weddings and can represent "good fortune."' Source $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 29 at 18:43

3 Answers 3


Because it is the color of daffodils, the manliest of flowers. When Randy, god of machismo, slew the Primordial Chaos Bear Pad-Ington on the blasted soil of the Great Volcano, daffodils sprouted from his blood, and men have worn these flowers into battle ever since.

Because it is the color of the Sun, who, along with Sky, impregnate the feminine Earth and causes her to bear forth life. Men paint themselves sun yellow and sky blue on their wedding nights in hope of siring many strong children.

Because it was the heraldic color of the feudal warlord who ended up ruling the kingdom and having all his warriors paint it on their shields, and thus it became the color of the martial spirit.

Because it is the color of the male American Goldfinch, which is the spirit animal of our tribe.

Because a procurement mistake left Chevrolet with only yellow paint in 1965. A bold and incredibly successful advertising campaign turned disaster into an enduring cultural legacy with a catchy jingle and the tag lines, "Every girl needs a fellow who drives in Chevy yellow" and "it don't matter if you're heavy if you drive a yellow Chevy".

In short: because whatever you want!



So, there are two components to what is considered 'Manly'

The first is perhaps the most important:

What Women Want

I don't want to set off an entire discussion - but like it or not, Women (via sexual selection) set the rules of the game as to what it is to be Manly. If you close your eyes and Imagine an idealized Man for a moment - you might have tall, good looking, physically fit, you might also have someone who is Dominant, but not aggressive, You might have someone who is practical and good with their hands, you might think of someone rich or at least, hard working, you might think of someone Brave who is not afraid to get into a fight over a point of principle - all of these things... Are things that Women (on average) find attractive.

And so - if your population of Women disproportionately find a Man in Yellow to be hot and a total bit of Man-Candy, then Yellow will be the Manliest colour.

What Men respect

This is the second part of the equation. Women set the rules as to what is Manly, Men play to win. Why do younger men and teenagers idolize the Rockstart F...Boy who has a dozen beautiful women hanging off their arms? Because they see in them a path to get what they want (A Woman or Women) and so will adjust their behavior accordingly.

Men tend to value results in other Men - so a good leader who helps with the team, leads by example, is humble etc. is someone that other Men aspire to be - and so if those Men are denoted by the colour Yellow, then Yellow will be the Manliest colour.

After that - you can throw in some other bits and pieces:

Yellow is the colour of the Sun (Manly), colour of Gold (Manly), Colour of dangerous animals (Manly), Really - you can add whatever justification you like here - but the key one is above:

Where your women go, the boys will follow.


Yellow is commonly associated with the sun, and sand, so perhaps your culture places masculine qualities on these things, e.g, perhaps the ancient mythological "sun god" was the strongest male god, and temples built in his honour were decorated with yellow accents. If your culture is in a particularly hot and yellow desert, perhaps it could be ancient mythology surrounding the desert/desert god. Perhaps yellow dye is quite common where they live, and was used to dye the military clothing that the men would wear. Gold has a yellowish colour to it, which indigenous south americans had plenty of, so perhaps gold is traded to your tribe, and becomes a status symbol amongst powerful men? As for blue and onwards, you can make that correspond to the ocean, in which traditionally men would partake in fishing our travelling on it, perhaps make the ocean god or the sky god the second in command to the sun god. Rinse and repeat for various other male and feminine figures. Or simply create some constraints around certain dyes, red and yellows being the most common, perhaps something to do with menstruation for women being red? You have a great deal of flexibility on this, and there isn't really any wrong answers, as human kind has shown there are a billion different cultural associations to colour.


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