What colours are #thedress ?


We were told this morning that the internet had been ablaze all night with the most urgent question in the world’s history. Exactly what colour was #thedress ?

Most people thought it was blue and gold; a minority saw it as blue and black.

A quick check with the colour picker in Photoshop shows that it’s blue and black, even if it doesn’t look it. The Journal.ie produced one of the best explanations of the phenomenon.

So, we should see it as blue and black, these are the ‘correct’ colours, right?

Wrong; it’s shades of grey.

Now before you think I’ve totally lost my marbles, hear me out. We know that there are receptors called cones in the eyes; and that these are sensitive to either red, green or blue light. That’s not strictly correct; they respond to wavelengths of the electro-magnetic spectrum, those parts which we call the ‘visible spectrum’. We can’t (normally) see into the infra-red or the ultra-violet parts of the spectrum, though some animals such as raptors are able to tract small rodents by seeing their UV urine trails.

It’s now thought, though it’s clearly very hard to be certain, that what we perceive as ‘colour’ is a function of the occipital cortex of the brain, where images are processed. To make it easier for us to distinguish, say, healthy vegetables from unripe or rotten ones, we now have them ‘coloured’. We can tell when a tomato is ripe from it’s ‘colour’, as we can tell when the steak has gone bad.

It seems that there are no colours in nature, they are, in a way, a figment of our imagination. Life is just grey. Which is rather sad to know.


  • Reader

    And the evidence used to ‘perceive’ colour is the mix of light wavelengths detected, tricked out with all the various optical illusions we are subject to.
    “Colour” does exist, “perceived colour” is its confused cousin.
    And also:

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It’s all in your mind………


  • Jay

    Green white and gold yeooo!!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Blue cone monochromatism, also known as S-cone monochromacy, is a recessive disorder that is linked to the X-chromosome. The affected person’s green and red cones are missing while the blue cone mechanism is dominant and functioning properly. ”

    Effectively, the “green” cones that distinguish yellow/ gold and the “red” cones that see red are absent and everything is seen as either blue or grey/black. The problem I’m still having is that most people with this problem are well aware of it, and do not distingusih red or yellow areas of the spectrum at any time, so what are “the minority” seeing blue and black actually evaluating their colour perception of the dress against in this instance? After all, everything is going to be either blue or grey for genuine Blue cone monochromatism, always.

    A similar dress in blue and black, available on Amazon, has been put up on some sites:


    But a cursory comparison reveals that even though it may have an exactly similar lace pattern, the “Roman Original” dress is a) much more figure hugging, and b) does not have either the sleeves or the upper cloth detail of the dress in the first picture.

  • carl marks

    could this be the solution to the Flag problem, stick the dress up a flagpole and you see the colours you want !