Why are dark clothes warm

Too hot for black clothes?

A climate almost like in the tropics: burning sun, high humidity, temperatures around 40 degrees. This is dubai. Even in winter it doesn't get really cold here. Still, most native women in the United Arab Emirates wear a black abaya - a traditional Islamic garment that covers their bodies.

An unfavorable color for hot areas? "No," says Sarah, a young woman from Dubai. "It's hot here anyway - regardless of whether I wear black or white, pink or blue." Her friend Marjam agrees. "It feels normal under the abaya. It's not particularly warm or anything."

Elegant in black: women shopping in Dubai

Protection against heat and UV radiation

Not only women in the Emirates, but also the Bedouins in the desert often wear blue or black fabrics. Even their tents are made of dark material. Not without reason, says Hartmut Wiesner, Professor of Physics Didactics at the University of Munich. "People and animals that live in the desert or in the savannah and are exposed to very intense solar radiation have to cope with two problems: They have to protect themselves from the harmful ultra-violet radiation and they have to make sure that their bodies protect themselves not overheated. "

You can easily protect yourself from UV radiation with clothing, says Wiesner. It doesn't matter whether it's dark or light - it just has to be thick enough. Because if the fabric is very thin, the color makes a difference: a light-colored fabric lets more UV radiation through.

Air as a buffer

Sheima from Dubai doesn't mind the dark clothes

A thin, dark fabric becomes warmer than a lighter one because it swallows more radiation. In the case of thick fabrics, it is initially the other way around. Hartmut Wiesner has observed that the air temperature rises faster under a thick white fabric than under a black one. After a few minutes, however, the air under the black fabric gets a little warmer - but only a degree or two.

In everyday life, says the physics professor, the temperature difference is hardly noticeable. "It doesn't really matter whether you wear black or white clothes," says Hartmut Wiesner. "It is more important that the clothing is not too thin and does not lie directly on the body."

No difference between black and white

Bedouins in their tent in Dubai

That is also the reason why people in hot areas with dark clothing have no problems. "The Bedouins don't wear their capes tightly, but very loosely," says Wiesner. "As a result, there is air between the fabric and the body. When you move, this air disappears through the fabric and cooler air flows in."

With tight clothing, however, the color makes a difference: a black T-shirt that lies directly on the skin warms up noticeably. A black cloth loosely over the head and shoulders, on the other hand, is just as imperceptible as a white one. From a certain temperature, however, says Sarah, it's all just theory: "It's always hot here in the Emirates," says Sarah, "regardless of whether you wear a black abaya or nothing at all."

Authors: Anne Allmeling / Anna Kuhn-Osius
Editor: Diana Hodali