Do you remember biology class? All those awkward “back to nature” style explanations about how each of the species attract their mates? I vaguely recall explanations of why the male cardinals are such a bright red or why the peacock’s feathers are so colorful. However, by studying the natural scenes around me, I’ve discovered another species who uses color to match up their mates: human beings.

While looking around my church a couple of Sundays ago I noticed several different couples. I noticed them not just because I knew they were married or dating, but because my eye was easily drawn to their visual display. Yes, these couples were quite easy to pick out across the sanctuary because they wore matching outfits.

Now, you might be thinking, well sure, that’s old school. The older married couples do that all the time. Well, apparently matching outfits is not just for twins and married couples anymore. I picked out multiple matching couples this past Sunday who are established dating couples but who aren’t married.

I’ve know some couples who call each other to coordinate colors, and some in which the girl (or on a occasion the guy) will basically suggest an outfit for the significant other to where that day so they will be in sync. But I’ve never heard an official explanation for this particular phenomenon. It seems that the unspoken reality of this way of life is that when you see a couple in matching outfits, you know that that couple is not to trifled with. There is no since in flirting with that guy or going after that girl; he or she is clearly taken by the person beside them wearing the exact same shade of blue (or purple, or green, and on).

There also another unspoken rule to this truth; if you are not a couple, you should not wear matching outfits. I know the chagrin of showing up to an event or an outing in basically the same shade of color as a guy who was part the same event. It’s an uncomfortable experience when people see you dressed alike and assume that you two are “together”.

This may not be common knowledge, but singles don’t really enjoy having to explain that the person who looks like a coordinated partner “is just a friend.” And apparently coordinated outfits is an unconscious signal to ask just that question. The guys I know seem especially quick to point out any subtle differences in color, hoping to deter people from thinking that are potentially linked up with one of their female friends. (That’s okay guys; we’re strong women. We secure enough not to be insulted by your horror at inadvertently matching our outfit.)

Thankfully I’m now aware of this pattern of colors, so I can be better prepared to celebrate those couple have distinguished themselves from the masses, while avoiding any more misunderstandings of my own. Sometimes color can be used to both set people apart and link them together. I think I like this sweet cultural tradition that allows that to happen.