Text by Craig Shparago
“From this day on, the world will be divided into two people. Blue & black, or white & gold.”
On February 26, 2015, something happened that changed everything. And nothing.
This was not a political revolution or social upheaval or religious movement. It was a silly thing, really. A crappy photo of a £50 dress that ended up blowing the world’s collective mind—and spurring a debate like no other.
Was it gold and white? Or blue and black?
I thought to myself, what’s there to argue? With the hard, tangible image vividly displayed on the 5-million-plus-pixel screen in front of me, the dress was clearly, obviously gold and white. Right? Then how on Earth could so many people—some that I love and trust, by the way—see blue and black? It was, and still is, as interesting as it is mind-boggling—and polarizing enough to send it hurtling into viral hyper-space in the blink of a billion eyes. It exploded across the globe, generating millions upon millions of views and spews and opinions and parodies. Celebrities debated, politicians jumped on it, brands weighed in and it was a free-for-all for any comedian with a Twitter account.
But months after the fact, I remain intrigued not just by the event itself, but how relatively unique and isolated this phenomenon seemed to be. If, as scientific researchers on this matter have concluded, our brains perceive shapes and colors differently, why had it taken our species 200,000 years to hit such a roadblock? If this is so common, why haven’t I heard any other examples? Where are all the other stories? Shouldn’t this be happening all the time? And before you go there, this isn’t about whether or not you recognize the image of Jesus on a tortilla or see the naked lady in a cartoon face of Sigmund Freud. Those illusions are eventually deciphered by the viewer. This is a simple either-or color question, one that’s not really open for debate (I’ll go to my grave seeing this as gold and white btw), and seemingly without precedent. Did half of 16th century Italy think the Mona Lisa was wearing pink, but never bothered to mention it? Did Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus glow silver to scores of ancient Egyptians? To half the viewers of “The Wizard of Oz,” was the Yellow Brick Road yellow in name only? Could it be we don’t know because we never asked? Hey, I’m open to hear anyone’s related anecdotes, but I believe this dress debate was an anomaly, one that ripped a temporary hole in the lacy, delicate fabric of human perception and objectivity no doubt—and one we’re likely never to see again. But I’ll keep my eyes open just in case.
The debate on Twitter
I don’t understand this odd dress debate and I feel like it’s a trick somehow. I’m confused and scared. PS it’s OBVIOUSLY BLUE AND BLACK.
Taylor Swift @taylorswift13
I think I’m getting so mad about the dress because it’s an assault on what I believe is objective truth.
Mindy Kaling @MindyKaling
My daughter thinks it’s blue and green and we are headed to the ER
Ben Smith @BuzzFeedBen
Not to be irrational but gonna unfriend everyone who sees blue and black. Feel like we’re better off building our own societies. #TheDress
Albertina Rizzo @albz
We started the What Colors Are This Dress trending topic to confuse the masses. You can thank us later.
The Illuminati @ThelIluminati
You’re all idiots. #TheDress
Professor Snape @_Snape
This is the most engaged America has been in a debate about color in a long time.
Gary Whitta @garywhitta
It’s somewhat refreshing that we’re debating colors other than red vs. blue. FWIW, I see white & gold. #TheDress #TheDressIsWhiteAndGold
Michael F. Bennet @SenBennetCO
Who is going to write the dystopian YA novel where adolescents are sorted into factions based on what color they think the dress is
Victoria Organa-Solo @vqnerdballs
White and gold in the streets; blue and black in the sheets.
Katherine Cross @Quinnae_Moon
raise your hand if you have ever felt personally victimized by #TheDress
Kardashian Reactions @KardashianReact
Punched a kid in the face the other day and gave him a #WhiteAndGold eye
Kimberly Congdon @kimberlycongdon
Trust us, #TheDress is white.
The color of a dress? Really? That’s what you’re asking Me? THE OCEAN LEVELS ROSE FOUR INCHES IN TWO YEARS. You know that, right?
Cecelia Bleasdale, a mother-of-the-bride-to-be, sent a photograph of the dress she had purchased to her daughter to give the thumbs up or thumbs down
Grace Johnston posted the image on Facebook
McNeill reposted the image on her blog (swiked.tumblr.com) which kicked started debate
The dress was picked up by almost every social media outlet from Reddit to Buzzfeed, The Guardian to Facebook
By Friday morning, dress-related hashtags on Twitter totaled as follows: #Thedress, 650,483 mentions; #whiteandgold, 326,484 mentions; #blackandblue, 103,264 mentions
Roman Originals auctions limited edition gold & white dress on Ebay for Comic Relief
Craig Shparago is a Creative Director at Leo Burnett Chicago. His work has been recognized by industry shows and publications including Cannes, The One Show, D&AD, The CLIOS, The ANDYs, The London International Awards, The MPA Kelly Awards, Creativity, The Addys, The OBIEs, Adweek, and Communication Arts. A graduate of Bradley University, Craig lives with his wife, daughter, and extraordinary cat in Wilmette, Illinois.
www.instagram.com/crgshprg | @craigshparago