Japanese research tells us what colours of clothing are cooler in hot weather

Close up of Colorful t-shirts on hangers, apparel background
What are the best colours to wear to beat the heat?

Living in the tropical region can be a torture sometimes, since the sun shines so mercilessly on us all year round. Most of us know that wearing black will make you feel hotter under the sun, while wearing white will make you feel cooler. But what about the other colours?

According to an experiment carried out in June 2019 by Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies, apart from wearing lighter colours, it seems that wearing warm colours will, ironically, make you feel cooler too.

In the experiment, nine different coloured polo shirts were placed on mannequin torsos under the Japanese summer sun. After five minutes of exposure, the fabrics’ surface temperatures were measured.

Nine different coloured polo shirts were placed under the sun in an experiment by Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies. (Photo: National Institute for Environmental Studies)
Nine different coloured polo shirts were placed under the sun in an experiment by Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies. (Photo: National Institute for Environmental Studies)

The results revealed that the white shirt was the coolest, followed by the yellow shirt. Both shirts had temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius. The next coolest were the light grey and red shirts. In the middle were the purple, blue and green shirts, while the dark green and black shirts were the hottest, with surface temperatures of over 50 degrees Celsius.

This essentially meant that the white shirt and the black shirt had around 20 degrees Celsius difference in surface temperature!

The difference is actually due to what wavelengths of light the colours reflect and absorb, along with the heat energy associated with those wavelengths. White reflects all wavelengths of light and its heat, while black absorbs all wavelengths of light and its heat.

The next time you are sick of wearing white on a hot day, you can consider wearing yellow, light grey or red, which have relatively higher reflectance.

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