2021 PANTONE COLORS OF THE YEAR: ULTIMATE GRAY AND ILLUMINATING
MARCH 12, 2021
by KRISTOPHER FRASER
by VARIOUS BRANDS
It was a lovely Saturday afternoon at TheRealReal when I was shopping with my friend after brunch and a particular Kris van Assche coat caught my eye. Now, I am not the world’s biggest fan of neutral colors, I find them boring and I think all black and white photos should’ve been left in the fifties where they rightfully belong. However, this gray coat was a true masterpiece. It was plaid check with two birds embroidered on back and was cut like it was fresh off the runway at Paris Fashion Week. I had never wanted to buy something gray so bad in my life. Sadly, after an attempt at trying it on it was one size too small and that dream was shattered.
One good thing came out of that day though, I learned to embrace the beauty of wearing gray. It’s one of the best neutrals, as it can go with everything from navy to canary yellow.
Although, yellow was a color I had not learned to embrace until circa 2019. It was a balmy, but thankfully not too cold winter day when I was gifted a beautiful pair of brown and yellow Sperrys. I had actually selected these Sperrys myself as a press gift from the brand, and it was the first time I had wanted something with a true hint of yellow in years.
When I was a pre-teen boy, I was politely informed by my parents that yellow was not my color. At the time, I agreed. I quite frankly thought yellow made me look like I was recovering from hepatitis. At some point post college after years of being relegated to a heavily neutral wardrobe living in the Midwest, I started to embrace color. I became all about maximalism and color, albeit sometimes with a good neutral piece to contrast, whether it was black shoes or a gray shirt.
Now, as we go into 2021 with hope that gray skies are going to be illuminated, Pantone has named ultimate gray and illuminating the 2021 colors of the year. These two independent colors highlight how one can support the other. The contrast of the practical with the bright and bold Is quite the combination, and this marks the first time Pantone has selected two colors of the year. This year those who are adore bright colors and those who plan on dying in neutrals can both be made happy, rarely does this happen in Pantone’s color selection.
Why these two colors though? It’s fitting for the moment in history we have arrived at. The year that shall go unmentioned, more simply referred to as last year, or 20**, rang in a new decade and a very gloomy period in American history. There was a global pandemic ravaging the planet, economies were crumbling, the world had reached a literal standstill, and we had one of the most nail-biting presidential elections in U.S. history. The doom and gloom seeped over into 2021, but then also came a new period of sunshine and hope.
States began reopening, a new presidential administration came in with economic recovery policies, the COVID-19 vaccine is in its rollout phase, and there are brighter, yellow, more sunshiny days to look forward to, especially now as spring is approaching. At the same time, there is still the gray area of the unpredictable, because in these times we are living in, who knows what could happen next.
“Why these two colors though? It’s fitting for the moment in history we have arrived at.”
As a neutral, gray has of course found its way in many collections during this past Fashion Month, including Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Paco Rabanne. Yellow was here to add some color to the runway shows at Max Mara, Loewe, and Versace. The great thing about gray is that you can wear it year almost any shade of it year-round, although charcoal gray isn’t recommended as a summer color, unless you have a business meeting. With yellow, you can opt for brighter, canary yellows in the spring and summer and darker shades of yellow edging toward gold and the fall leaves for fall/winter.
While no one ever has to think too hard about how to wear gray, wearing yellow can be a bit more challenging. First off, stop thinking it necessarily needs to be loud or has to make a bold statement. You can easily add a subtle hint of yellow to your outfit by tying a small scarf around your à la Hermès style, or you can add a pale-yellow pocket square to a classic suit. Something as simple as yellow socks can also be just that little detail you need to take an outfit from drab to fab. If you have the reservations my younger self did about wearing yellow, subtlety might actually be your friend in that regard.
It’s a two-for-one special this year for the Pantone color of the year. Who doesn’t love a good deal?