More than anything else, the hilltribes of northern Thailand are known for their colorful outfits. Colors represent a vital role in each of the tribal colors and can be seen reflected in the everyday lives of people who have long-since stopped wearing their traditional clothing. Indeed, it is often possible to tell the tribe of a person by the color of Western clothing he or she is wearing.

The clothing tribal people, especially the Lisu, describes a vocabulary of colors far larger than that which their languages describe. Ironically, for peoples whose identity is so tied to the colors of their clothing, most of their languages are barely equipped to describe the colors in an eight-pack of Crayola crayons.

Auspicious Colors
Inauspicious Colors
Black represents sturdiness, victory, success, and happiness for Hmong people.
Red is the color of death. Hmong funeral suits are red, thus you are very unlikely to see a Hmong person wearing red clothing. Given the contentious history Hmongs have had with the Chinese, it seems more than coincidental that Hmongs would attach negative feelings to red.
Red is the color of blood and represents hope and success for the Mien people, much as it does for the Chinese from which the preference is likely borrowed.
Black is the color of death for Miens.
White and a yellowish-orange are colors that represent peace, victory and holiness for the Red Lahu. Ceremonial flags in a Red Lahu village feature these colors as do the robes of the Dtobo, the village religious leader. No other villagers wear yellow or orange clothing, favoring bright blues, reds and greens.
Black is the color of secrecy and confusion for the Red Lahu people.
Red represents blood, bounty and success for the Lisu people, and is one of the many, many colors employed in Lisu outfits. Lisus also value white as the color of purity. Lisu bags, in contrast to their rainbow tunics, are simple red and white affairs.
White and black represent death for Lisus. White is a color that holds dual symbolism, also having the positive connotations of purity. Black represents loss, failure, and a lack of progress for the Lisu. It is also about the only color that one will not find employed in Lisu clothing.
Red is the color of success, and of the dyed chicken feathers and gibbon fur Akhas use to adorn their outfits.
Black is the color of failure. Even so, black cloth, because of availability, has become the standard replacement for the dark indigo handspun cloth that Akhas traditionally wear.
Karens like red and white. Red represents strength, victory, and progress for the Karen people. After marrying, a Karen man's traditional shirt will be red. White represents purity.

Black represents darkness, confusion, and loss for the Karen people.

So, there you have it, most hilltribe people like red but don't like black. Hmongs, on the other hand, are exactly opposite. This topic first came to our attention when Lek (a Karen) and Yee (a Hmong) were instant messaging each other using MSN and started to have an argument because Lek had switched his font color to red. That's something to keep in mind the next time you are chatting with someone you have met on