Sexual Dichromatism: Don’t Pity the Peahen

A new study of bird species in which the male and female have different marking patterns or colors throws a little cold water on the belief that flashy males are arguably the further evolved—the usual logic being that the most eye-catching birds attract more females and pass on their gaudy, tacky taste (and genes) to the next generation.

The new findings, published in Evolution, suggest that females, too, have evolved their looks, but drab-wards, possibly in order to blend in with their environments and be less susceptible to predators than dumb, risk-taking males, taunting animals up the food chain.

Our findings show that, regardless of how showy a male’s traits are, the differences between the sexes in these traits are driven mostly by evolutionary changes in [the] female.

Of course, this doesn’t mean females don’t select partners based on their colorful plumage—but might it not mean that male birds may want to consider toning it down a little, maybe ditching the loud patterns and “peacocking” in favor of some classic colors and restraint?



Real People: Unassailable Combinations

People pity the poor peahen, forever in the shadow of her showier suitors, but I prefer to think she lives a life of restrained good taste in plumage of gray and brown, with a dash of blue-green (and a fun hat!). Likewise, a palette of blues, grays, and browns is a sophisticated one for humans, and intentional “peacocking” is associated with the seamy (at best) pick-up artist scene.

RT in Copenhagen would still turn all the peahens’ heads in the blue-gray-brown palette in the three photos above, where all the pieces are different but consistent in fit and tone. On the left, RT wears a tshirt under a cashmere blend cardigan with a cashmere scarf at the neck and casual gray cords. In a word: cozy. In the center, a rollneck complements trousers hemmed at a cleaner, slightly more formal length, and at right, a folk-ier style cardigan (in this case, Inverallan) is worn with a collared shirt and flat-front midgray flannels. Each combination is simple but sophisticated, with no need for pieces of flair. They’re also excellent examples of un-boring business casual (although you’d probably have to add a collared shirt on the left).