Let's take red. For some, red is the color of harlotry. We talk about "The Scarlet Letter" or the "Scarlett Woman." However, red can also be the color of great achievement--"It was a red-letter day in history." Other times red is the color of anger--"I was so angry I saw red." "A red haze came over him." Red is for some people the color of financial problems--"The company is in the red." "That project is full of red ink." Red is the color of aggression--think the "Redcoats" during the American War of Independence. Red also serves as a warning sign that things may not be as they should--"His actions raised a red flag." Red tells us to stop what we are doing--red lights and red stop signs. To be caught by someone in the middle of doing something wrong is to be caught "red-handed."
And yet, red is also the color of life and love--hearts are red, blood is red, and red roses say "I love you." Red color lets the sailor know how to proceed--"Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning." In Asian cultures red signifies good luck and prosperity. We connect red to to temperature--"red hot"--and we think of red when we think of warmth. To go out and party and have a good time is "to paint the town red." To receive special/royal treatment is to have the "red carpet" rolled out for you. I don't hold with most superstitious beliefs and rituals, but it is not by accident that those who flock to buy the bands sold in Israel are buying red bands. Red is thought to guard against the "evil eye," an evil that is represented by black. Sometimes red is associated with positive things, and sometimes it is associated with negative things. And yet, with perhaps the exception of the sailor's motto and the sometimes color of blood, there is nothing "natural" about the connection of red with all these ideas.
Now let's look at black. Black is not a "happy" color for the most part. It's somber. We associate black with evil--ever see a witch dressed in red? Black is the color of night, a time when "monsters" come out to do their deeds under cover of darkness. Days we remember with fear and with hatred we refer to as a "black day in history." Some of the greatest scourges in history have been black ones--The Black Death and the Black Plague. Black is associated with things that are illegal, for instance "black market goods." To exclude/ostracize someone socially or in business is to "black ball" them or "black list" them. Extort or take money from someone by threatening him or her and you are "black mailing" them. If you are in disgrace or out of favor with someone you are in their "black books." Black is associated with secrecy and with misinformation--a blackout of news about a particular topic or "black operations." Black is associated with failures of some types--an electrical power blackout. Black is what we use to hurt others--"to blacken someones name."
Black is the color of loss--"It's like he disappeared into a black hole." Black is associated with negative emotions--he was in a "black mood." One of its few positive connotations is in finance--a company's books are "in the black." In fairly recent history we have come to associate black with elegance--and thanks to George "Beau" Brummel for foisting that upon us in the English Regency time period. But at the same time black was and is associated with death, in the color of mourning clothes and armbands. But as with red, there is nothing "natural" about the connection of black with all these ideas.
Overall, red has more positive connotations than black does. Red is mostly conceived of falling on the "good" side of the good/bad divide, and black is mostly seen on the "bad" side.Why pick on black and red? I'm frum, and the frum world, or at least parts of it, have turned black and red into a battleground. Red is out, and black is in. Black is pious, black is self-effacing (if not self-erasing), black is tsniusdik. Black is the color of modesty. Red says look at me, notice me. Red is prost. Red is what "they" wear, not what we wear. Or so the story goes. And it's not only red that is enjoined in the battle. Other than dark brown or perhaps deep navy blue, all colors join red as being "inappropriate."
We are told that the world and all that is in it is ours to use. And that world that God gave us doesn't come in black and white. There is no black in a rainbow. Look around at the natural world and you discover that black is hardly the dominant hue. We don't decorate our homes, our personal environments, in all black and white; most normal people would find such an environment as lacking something essential. Psychologists long ago showed that people are drawn to warm colors and are repelled by cold colors, black being the coldest of them all. If black represents absence or lack, just what is it that we are trying to show we are lacking when we deck ourselves out in all black with perhaps a touch of white--perhaps?
So yes, all associations between colors and ideas are artificial with no actual correlation. There is no reason, no logical reason, why black should be the color of frumkeit. There is no real reason why frum girls should walk around looking like bad penguin imitations.
And don't wave at me the clothing colors of our long ago ancestors that we believe have been passed down through the ages. Read a bit of history and you will discover that ancient clothing colors depended on what natural materials were available to make dye from and how advanced a given people was in the art of dyeing. It depended on how much money was available to a person, since some dye sources were rare and were expensive. It also depended on the climate. People long ago figured out that black colored material absorbs heat and that light colored material reflects it outward. I'll go on record as saying that our early ancestors in Israel weren't wearing black in the desert. The natural linen and cotton and wool available to them would have been white or cream in in their natural color and would have made for sensible clothing in the heat of a desert. And please, please don't get me started on the clothing color of Polish noblemen.
My favorite color has always been red, although I love a whole slew of other colors as well. Red has figured in my decorating and it has always figured in my wardrobe. Let's get one thing straight; if you think that my wearing red or any colors other than black or white makes me less frum than you are, less tsniusdik than you are, that's your OPINION, and not a God-given fact. There are no one-to-one correlations between a color and a trait or action or thought or idea. And from what I have observed of today's frum people, the women in particular, it's time to send black back to wherever it came from and bring out God's colors once again.
For a previous, related discussion you might want to look at The Clothes that Wear Us .