When I have dircolors defined life is full of... color.
When I pipe
less to scroll around I lose the colors.
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Most likely your
ls is aliased to
ls --color=auto, which tells
ls to only use colors when its output is a tty. If you do
ls --color (which is morally equivalent to
ls --color=always), that will force it to turn on colors.
You could also change your alias to do that, but I wouldn't really call that a good idea. Better to make a different alias with
-R too, which causes it to output the raw control characters.