For any student of fashion or art, colour and even the absence of it is integral to design. Pantone colour schemes are possibly one of the most utilised and underrated tools in fashion. More than that, Pantone always come prepared with their own “Colour of the Year”. Last year’s colour – ‘Living Coral’ described as “an animated, life-affirming shade of orange, with golden undertones.” 2020’s colour of the year is a stark contrast to the alternative pink shade of ‘Living Coral‘. Enter ‘Classic Blue‘.
This night sky inspired shade was described by Leatrice Eiseman (Executive Director of Pantone Colour Institute) as a “ …boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky, Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expand our thinking…”. As we welcomed the new decade with Blue, it’s interesting to see the influence of the colour in artistry (particularly fashion) over the century and at its heel.
Blue wasn’t always a masculine colour, in fact it was the preferred choice for girls. In infant fashion, garments for males and females were indistinguishable with children up until 5 or 6 all wearing dresses. This, of course, was primarily for function especially for toddlers and babies who needed to be changed frequently.
At the turn of the century, gender played a larger role in children’s clothing. A 1918 article by Earnshaw Infants’ Department publication stated “ The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being the more decided and strong colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Assignment of gender to the colour is arguably a recent phenomenon. Much of this thinking can be attributed to companies’ desire to market to a variety of people, regardless of their thoughts of blue or pink. Marketing strategies pushed these two colours into childrenswear in particular.
Blue soon became everybody’s colour, emphasised with the shift in society’s attitudes towards women, gender and more recently the advent of 80s androgynous fashion. Women led the way with clean power-dressing and tailored fits suitable for the office and a night on the town. The 80s, however, was also a time of vibrancy: jewel-esque tones of pink, red, orange, purple and blue adorned tailoring and women’s makeup.
Naturally, blue found its dominance in the industry through denim. During the 80s and 90s denim was inarguably a staple of most outfits whether it be mom jeans, biker jackets or a pinafore, people loved to wear it. Brands like Jordache, Levi, Wrangler and Lee were household names worn by many.
Although blue’s image has always been associated with masculinity, the other consistent feature of the shade, irrespective of gender, is stability and tranquility. Maybe the allure of blue lies in its versatility as shown through the years. I’ve found blue to be a colour with range when it comes to styling my outfits. From cobalt PVC to my standard denims, it’s a colour that I seem to gravitate towards. Whatever it is, blue is very much an evergreen fashion staple that won’t be going anywhere.