Pantone went with two colors this year — “illuminating yellow” and “ultimate gray.”
Etsy settled on sky blue.
Both style-making authorities cited optimism in choosing uplifting colors, though Pantone said the gray, “provide(s) a firm foundation.” Still, one wonders if optimism can just be forced right now, that we can “fake it till we make it?”
A rosy outlook can help keep your spirits up when you most need it. But too much optimism at the wrong moment risks looking out of touch. A depressing reality can feel that much grimmer if an overly hopeful picture doesn’t quite pan out.
Americans are an UP people. But there needs to be a bit more balance these days to guard against toxic positivity, or optimism at all costs.
Full Disclosure — I Wasn’t In The Room
So at the risk of sounding like an upstart, I’m going to take issue with both outlets’ colors, but only in the spirit of good fun.
I get it that, like Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, years of expertise and multiple factors converge when tastemakers set the style tone for the times. (See this video excerpt of Miranda really laying into Andy over the color origins of her cerulean sweater.)
Yet even with a few years of style prescience baked in, unexpected immediate events can play a role in switching up the mood, fundamentally altering the color-feeling state by what’s really happening.
That’s why, unlike Pantone, I don’t see ultimate gray as creating a “firm foundation” right now. Or at least not one for this time and this historic moment.
Gray is like a rainy day, the planet Neptune, brain fog, and diffuseness. Rocks issue in gray, which some might interpret as gravitas. But when we’re in a landscape dominated by rock outcroppings it’s usually more moon-feeling, thus a little too dreamy for the larger moment at hand.
I love Pantone’s ultimate gray, but while it has a place in our times, it’s not the color story we need most right now.
I Lift up My Eyes to the Hills
Like so many people in these turbulent times, I too want to feel optimistic. I’m actually kind of eternally optimistic, probably a result of a strong faith life, a generally sanguine outlook, and being American.
And I love yellow like nobody’s business.
So as for illuminating yellow and Etsy’s sky blue offering a much needed upward glance on a buoyant horizon, I’m all in. Add this to Pantone’s ultimate gray lending a bit of softness around the edges of life right now, toning down all the yucky stuff, and I can work with it. Totally.
But there’s a marked lack of grounding here, the element of earth utterly missing.
It’s my style argument that on color that —groundedness — is what’s needed more than anything else in the world right now.
The Earth Beneath My Feet
In a culture too mired in lies, hotheaded opinions, rash action, and passions run amok, I believe we’re desperately in need right now of standing on terra firma, Earth, the humble ground of truth and consequences.
As the surreal and insane 2020 drew to a close, I actually expected wholeheartedly that a brown — with some kind of zeitgeist-nailing name of course — WAS going to be hailed as the color of the year. I was heartily shocked for calling that so wrong.
Or maybe they called it so wrong.
So as Lady Virginia I’m issuing my upstart decree to formally-informally allow brown as an honorary color of the year for 2021.
Stability. Reliability. Groundedness. Reality. Yielding. Humble. Fertile. Rich. Nurturing.
Yes, the ground can sometimes give way to earthquakes — there’s always a risk of ungroundedness in the acceptance of the unknowns in life. But we have to know that and yet move past it right now.
The real earthy theme is looking for common ground, planting seeds in the generous earth, and nurturing the fertile field we’ve laid. This sets the tone for harvesting our highest yield.
Sure this takes sun — illuminating yellow — and rain, from sky blue mixed with ultimate gray. But the place where it takes place is the ground beneath our feet.
On the prosaic side we simply need to get out of our fanciful, spacey, Internet-addled minds and put one simple foot in front of the other, the ground on which we stand. That, and no more crazy.
The Ground of Reality
For giggles some proposed names for this perfect brown are:
- Ground — an uncomplicated assertion of where we stand.
- Pecan — it’s got a hint of “we can.”
- Russet — more than the potato, this slightly reddish brown imparts spark and energy to the otherwise quiet brown.
- Espresso — we all get the depth of this, and the energy. Our brains come together around espresso, and all the comfort that is coffee.
- Mushroom — calling it “Mycelium Brown” would be too confusing but mushroom hits the hint, that the intelligence of fungi, coupled with its extraordinary communication ability, sprouting up unexpectedly, is just the kind of psychic power that’s needed right now. A little bit — but not too much — and only the right kind, of woo woo.
Whatever you call it, I believe brown has a vital, fecund, stabilizing, and encouraging role to play in 2021. In that spirit, here’s some great vintage fabrics from my shop with Lady Virginia’s Color(s) of the Year — Newfoundland Browns: