Tuesday, January 5, 2010

By the sea or down the drain?

I know this may seem a bit unusual to those of you who haven't been reading this blog for very long, but every year I write a post discussing Pantone's choice for the year's "Color of the Year." This will be my third such post; if you'd like to see the earlier ones, 2008's is here, and 2009's is here.

In 2008, the color was Blue Iris, a relatively conservative shade of blue. Last year was a bolder pick: Mimosa Yellow, which from my limited perspective never really caught on--or perhaps it's just a regional reality, as people in Texas would rather forget about the huge yellow heat-producer in the sky eight months out of twelve, and thus are unlikely to drape themselves or their houses in scintillating shades reminiscent of bright sunlight.

This year's color choice is definitely a bit retro: Turquoise. From the Pantone press release:

CARLSTADT, N.J., Dec. 8, 2009 –Pantone LLC, an X-Rite company (NASDAQ: XRIT), and the global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries, today announced PANTONE® 15-5519 Turquoise, an inviting, luminous hue, as the color of the year for 2010. Combining the serene qualities of blue and the invigorating aspects of green, Turquoise evokes thoughts of soothing, tropical waters and a languorous, effective escape from the everyday troubles of the world, while at the same time restoring our sense of wellbeing.

Whether envisioned as a tranquil ocean surrounding a tropical island or a protective stone warding off evil spirits, Turquoise is a color that most people respond to positively. It is universally flattering, has appeal for men and women, and translates easily to fashion and interiors. With both warm and cool undertones, Turquoise pairs nicely with any other color in the spectrum. Turquoise adds a splash of excitement to neutrals and browns, complements reds and pinks, creates a classic maritime look with deep blues, livens up all other greens, and is especially trend-setting with yellow-greens.
Is Turquoise supposed to put us all in a bit of a vacation mood? Perhaps:

NEW YORK — If color is any guide, we’ll be moving into vacation mode in 2010 with the world awash in tropical turquoise, forecasters say.
Turquoise was selected as the color of 2010 by Pantone, a company that supplies and tracks color for fashion and home decor, among other industries. Fashion insiders agreed the color is on the rise.
“Turquoise is universally appealing. It puts everyone in the same state of mind — on vacation,” says Jane Schoenborn, design director at Lilly Pulitzer. “Turquoise for us is a really big color. A lot of times it’s transporting, whether you’re actually going to a resort destination or not.”
Maybe. But the question is, is turquoise really transporting us to resorts, or to specific times in the past?
Turquoise was a pretty hot color in the 1950s, after all. The Magazine Antiques has some interesting pictures of vintage turquoise items, many of them from the late 50s or early 60s. And a blog with the clever title "Chronically Vintage" has a whole spread from June of last year showing off 1950s turquoise clothing and other items. One could argue that the choice of turquoise as this year's Color of the Year is an attempt to help boost the national mood by transporting us, not to a vacation spot, but to a place in the past when the economy was pretty robust and the postwar years were making Americans more prosperous and successful than ever.
Of course, turquoise enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the 1980s, when turquoise clothing, accessories, and home decor appeared all over America. An example of a turquoise dress from the 1980s can be found at this website;  click this link to see the full image.
The 1980s, like the late 1950s, were years in which we had a Republican president; but I doubt that those responsible for selecting the color turquoise as this year's Color of the Year expect this to be a year of Republican resurgence. Of course, growing frustration with our nation's continued economic woes, the pervasive unpopularity of the health care reform bill, and similar political pressures might end up putting quite a few Republicans in Congress following this year's elections, at which point I think it would be justifiable to say that a color which conjures up beach vacations and which was prevalent during Republican administrations has just a hint of the GOP about it--despite that party's famous rejection of "pastel patriotism."
Unfortunately for Republicans, lovers of vintage clothing, and beach-vacation aficionados, I think the color turquoise has one unmistakable setting which persists from year to year, and which is untroubled by mere trends or "Color of the Year" designations. There is one place where turquoise is often, if not always, found, and it doesn't necessarily mean that the place was last decorated in 1955 or 1980. Go into this place yourself, and see if I'm not right: turquoise is the color that reins supreme--in the bathroom.
Oh, you may not have vintage turquoise tile or wallpaper with turquoise hues in it; you may not own a single blue-green towel, and you may insist on modern chrome and glass bath accessories. But look beyond them, to the toothpaste tube, the shampoo bottle, the bar of soap or the packaging the soap came in, the toothbrushes or mouthwash bottle--somewhere in your bathroom, I'm almost willing to bet, you have at least one strong note of turquoise.
Does that mean that last year's failure to be sunshine-yellow brightness has faded into a kind of gloom that says this nation's economy--or the nation in general--is headed down the drain? Probably not; but it's hard to imagine too many people rushing to embrace the allure of a faux vacation by filling their closets or festooning their homes with shades of "Aquafresh (TM) Blue."


Anonymous said...

My friend's reminiscences included a turquoise blue drier in a turquoise blue laundry room. It was good quality and she never had to replace it legitimately, she knew well within hindsight that it would return some day. Turquoise can be used with grey, grey green, lime green and sea foam, lavender, and lemon yellow, white, cream, and various shades of green and blue, so is quite flexible. Red, black and orange can be used in touches to avoid shock value, but go with aqua/turquoise, mainly because turquoise is a natural color evoking sky and water.

Unfortunately, like mimosa yellow it is warm enough to expand the size of whomever is wearing it, so like most pastels I would only in a touch here or there.

My opinion, of course.

David J. White said...

Ugh, that turqoise is hard on my eyes.

It reminds me of the color of the interior of my parents' car when I was little. (It was actually a teal somewhat deeper than this turquoise, but it's close enough that I'm reminded of it.) I used to get carsick now and then when I was very young. I don't anymore; but because of the associations formed when I was little, I feel a bit queasy whenever I see that color.

Anonymous said...

The best turquoise connotation?

When your gift comes in that turquoise box...



Red Cardigan said...

Ooooh, Anonymous at 11:13, no argument here. :)

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I love turquoise, but this shade Pantone picked out is a little dark for my taste. My mother's kitchen was painted turquoise. That would be circa 1971.

Sarah - Kala said...

Yeah, I have one of the boxes, Annon. I got myself a sterling silver letter "O" on a long chain from Tiffany's in NY about seven or eight years ago and ate lunch at the Tavern on the Green, which is apparently closed now. Nice turquoise colour, that box!