Naruto never understood his strange affinity to orange.
He had been swathed in bright-colored clothing since he was born. Even the tees given to him when he entered the academy were always adorned with large, bright-colored swirls. He never questioned it or thought it odd, having more serious things (and sometimes nothing) on his mind. If he did, he'd have thought that he just got the charity handouts no one wanted. Just like him.
What he does know is, by the time he could make his own wardrobe decisions he'd grown fond of orange. And he was ready to make a statement.
In his last year at the academy, Naruto traded in his oversized tee-and-shorts combo for a full-on orange jumpsuit.
It was loud—borderline offensive to more conservative tastes; the perfect enhancement to his self-proclaimed way of life. His peers would have never guessed that the color chose him as much as he chose it.
As if he wasn't unpopular enough, this fashion faux pax was fodder for schoolyard ridicule. More passive classmates rolled their eyes. Others were more direct.
"How stupid can you be? Ninja rely on stealth. That nasty outfit makes you a walking target!" Naruto remembered Sakura saying. Somehow, he always remembers Sakura's insults clearly. It stung, but, as with all comments along that vein, he replies:
"I'm not going to hide. When I do something, people are going to know it!"
"Well, you're right about that. I don't think there could be an uglier color anyone could wear," she retorted. "Don't you ever think about your appearance?"
Truth be told, Naruto thought about what he was going to wear more than one would expect a boy his age when necessity finally drove him to clothes shopping. He couldn't really afford to purchase more than one outfit after all.
(Naruto was ecstatic to find his now infamous jumpsuit was actually on clearance at the thrift store. He went back and bought the remaining two sets.)
What's wrong with it? Naruto wondered as he stood examining his reflection on a particularly brutal day of taunting. It protected him from the elements. It was comfortable. It made him seem bigger than he really was. And somehow, wearing orange made him feel more confident – after all, only confident people, shinobi or otherwise, would dare to scream at the world with their clothes. Shoot, as far as he could tell, he was the only one who could pull it off.
He imagined his crush Sakura wearing orange and made a face. Even he knew her pink hair clashed offensively with the color.
He imagined his rival Sasuke in his outfit too (who, according to all, was so flawless he should have looked good in anything) and snickered. Not only would Sasuke's standoffish, serious demeanor make him a walking contradiction, everything about his appearance from his pale skin to his midnight-black hair made him look absolutely ridiculous in Naruto's outfit.
No, only his unruly, sunny locks could compliment his bright ensemble. It was fitting. He was the only one with hair like his. He was alone – no, unique he corrected himself – since birth. He was never meant to fit in.
He pondered at his reflection with the jacket unzipped, the faded black tee he always wore underneath exposed. He absentmindedly noted that it was always bright on the outside and dark on the inside. Never one good with metaphors, he didn't bother to ride further down that train of thought. He didn't want to know what he'd find at the end.
People aren't entirely wrong when they accuse Naruto for wearing his personality on his sleeve. If they cared to look, he literally wore it.
But no, he never understood his affinity to orange. He didn't like it on anyone else. He didn't even like it as a color by itself. Yet on him it just felt right. It was his natural skin that communicated for him much more effectively than his own words. It just fit.
And he's more right than he could imagine. He would never ponder the complexity of colors or the simplicity of its message. He would never search his primordial mind and capture the truth long enough to examine it before it wormed and slipped away. His subconscious self-defense mechanisms wouldn't have allowed it.
Because Naruto was destined to wear bright colors. The collective subconscious couldn't ignore eons of evolution. The adults that first clothed him couldn't. Neither could the strangers who knew to fear and hate the child on sight despite never having set eyes on him before. Color spoke when the Third's decree banned words.
Naruto wore orange the same reason dart frogs and monarch butterflies wore orange. Orange meant Danger. Orange said watch it, I'm poisonous. Orange said I'll take you down even after I'm dead. In nature, the brighter you were, the deadlier.
And Naruto was the brightest of them all.
Author's Note: Thank you for reading. Your thoughts are appreciated.