Every December, Pantone selects a color of the year, deeming dazzling shades like “Chili Pepper,” “Tangerine Tango” and “Radiant Orchid” the hottest hues for the next twelve months. But to ring in the new decade, the color company has anointed a more stolid choice that promises to offer a sense of stability in trying times: “Classic Blue.”
The newly crowned color of the year is distinct from other blue hues Pantone has chosen in years past, including “Cerulean Blue” (2000), “Aqua Sky,” (2003), “Blue Turquoise” (2005), “Blue Iris” (2008) and “Serenity” (2016). Some have decried the choice as dull—it’s “kind of humdrum,” says GQ, and “boring as hell!,” according to Jezebel—but Pantone prefers to describe “Classic Blue” as “a timeless and enduring hue elegant in its simplicity.” The shade is likely a safer bet than last year’s selection, “Living Coral”; given the fact that the world’s coral reefs are, in fact, dying at an alarming rate, the choice faced some backlash.
Pantone says “Classic Blue” is a deep shade “suggestive of the sky at dusk,” “solid and dependable,” and a “restful color.” Sure, blue is often associated with gloominess (see Picasso for details), but the company hopes to tap into the color’s other traits.
“Blue, from an emotional, psychological standpoint, has always represented a certain amount of calm and dependability,” Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of Pantone’s Color Institute, tells Architectural Digest’s Anna Fixsen. “It’s a color that you can rely on.”
This, says Eiseman in a statement, is exactly what we need from our color trends as we navigate a “time that requires trust and faith.” Pantone isn’t specific about current events that might drive a person to seek comfort in a reliable shade of blue (officials have denied that the selection is a subtle endorsement of the Democratic Party), but the company does identify rapidly advancing technology as a source of stress in the modern world.
“As technology continues to race ahead of the human ability to process it all, it is easy to understand why we gravitate to colors that are honest and offer the promise of protection,” the statement reads.
Pantone, a for-profit organization that develops colors and sells swatches and formulas, chooses its color of the year by analyzing a broad range of influences, from art to film, popular travel destinations and “socio-economic conditions.”
As Regina Lee Blaszczyk, a historian at the University of Leeds, tells Jessica Testa of the New York Times, “People who are interested in clothing and fashion do pay attention” to the color of the year—which, she says, “is really a marketing effort on the part of Pantone to get media attention.”
This year, for the first time in its history, the company has created a “multi-sensory” experience that it says captures the essence of “Classic Blue,” according to CNN’s Kirsi Goldynia. Partnering with multiple brands, Pantone has developed a kit that includes, among others, a swatch of velvety blue fabric, a three-minute audio track called “Vivid Nostalgia,” a tea (“berry mélange with subtle citrus notes”), and a candle (“musk-and-sea-salt-scented,” according to Architectural Digest’s Fixsen). The kit even boasts a “Classic Blue”-inspired berry jam—because in this rapidly developing, uncertain world, why not have your blue and eat it too?