Nike Sportswear Illusion: Is This Outfit Blue and Gray or Pink and White?

August 14, 2019 Updated: August 14, 2019

Read on at your peril; this optical conundrum has the power to divide opinion like no other!

A seemingly innocent image of some Nike sportswear has been doing the rounds on Facebook. A British woman named Rachael Stewart posted a photo of her new Nike sliders, a vest top, and a pair of shorts, and people are outraged.

“Dunno how anyone sees anything other than pink and white,” Stewart captioned the image. That was all that was needed to send the internet into a color-crazed meltdown. People wrote back immediately, adamant that the outfit was gray and blue and nothing else.

Others agreed with Stewart and wouldn’t hear a word to the contrary.

Illustration – Shutterstock | baranq

Some even went the extra mile and named other colors on the spectrum. “Teal and gray is the only answer,” wrote one confident Facebook user. “Mint green and gray!” suggested another.

“I see aqua and gray, my husband sees pink and white,” chimed in another divisive user, adding a secondary consideration to the mix; could the colors change before your very eyes?

Illustration – Pixabay | ZIPNON

While some people said they saw the Nike outfit in the same colors every time they looked, others returned to the photo at different times of the day. Each time, the colors seemed to change.

Never fear; there is an explanation, and it comes from our trusty perennial sidekick, science. But to make sense of the explanation, we have to revisit another old friend. Remember #TheDress controversy of 2015? Of course you do!

Illustration – Pixabay | SharonMcCutcheon

As it turns out, the reason some people saw the dress as white and gold and some saw it as blue and black is all down to illumination. That’s right; essentially, it was all a trick of the light.

A study conducted at New York University revealed that people who saw the dress as gold and white were viewing the picture in a shadow; those who saw it as blue and black were viewing it fully lit. It really is as simple as that.

NYU researchers also believe that “assumptions about illumination” really do come into play when ascertaining how a person sees an image. Above and beyond the lighting in their own room, if a person assumes the image itself is naturally lit, they see it in a certain way.

If they assume it is in shadow, they will be liable to see it differently. It’s pretty mind-blowing.

“Assumptions about the nature of the illuminant are strongly associated with different perceptions of the dress,” said the experts, concluding that “illumination assumptions explain the dress effect.”

Extrapolate, and we know exactly why the Nike sportswear image has been so divisive. Turn on your desk lamps, people! It will all make perfect sense! ABC15 even featured a new “break the internet” sneaker photo in May of 2019 that backed up the very same explanation; it’s all in the lighting.

Of course, there are myriad reasons why people may see colors differently from one another, and they’re not all due to ambient light. For example, people who are color-blind, says All About Vision, will have difficulty distinguishing certain colors from one another.

After all was said and done, it was revealed that #TheDress was blue and black in real life. And Rachael, after her Nike shopping spree, put an end to the furore by telling people that her outfit was “gray and teal” after all.

Illustration – Shutterstock | Doctor Leo

I guess that’s “gray and blue,” to the rest of us. Unless, of course, you think we should start a debate about it?

Off we go again!