Pantone's Colors of the Year Are a Reminder of All the Places We Couldn't Go in 2020

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Pantone's 2020 Colors of the Year Are a Reminder of All the Places We Couldn't Go
Photo: Courtesy Pantone

On Wednesday, Pantone released their official 2021 "color of the year."

Firstly, we should address that it is not one, but two colors: Ultimate Gray (a dull gray) and Illuminating (a cool, foggy yellow), which according to a Pantone press release, is a color pairing that is “aspirational.”

We can read the allegory between the lines of the description. “The selection of two independent colors highlight how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it’s not about one color or one person, it’s about more than one,” reads the overtly positive statement which could pass as a journal entry from President-elect Joe Biden.

Because algorithms have conditioned us with subliminal marketing, most of us at InStyle reacted to the reveal by typing either “Drybar” or “SoulCycle” in our Slack channel — an exercise in color association, capitalism edition.

Founded four years apart on opposite coasts, the two companies have spent most of their energy marketing specifically to us: Young, professional millennial women living in cities and constantly working to improve ourselves by throwing what little money we earn at companies with aesthetically pleasing Instagram feeds. Companies that promise to make our lives just a little bit better, by smushing what should be two words together into one.

However you feel about the two companies, one thing they do have in common is that in the year 2020, many of us have not been able to visit these spaces. In pandemic times, it’s hard to pass a business that offers beauty services called “The Cosmo-Tai” or “The Southern Comfort” as “essential.” And the most I’ve heard of SoulCycle in 2020 has had little to nothing to do with exercise, and everything to do with instructor drama.

Maybe those responsible for choosing Pantone’s Color of the Year are not the core demographic for Drybar and SoulCycle, and they didn’t immediately have the same reaction as we at InStyle did to the foggy yellow and gray scheme.

The reveal of Pantone’s Color of the Year is strangely ritualistic, akin to the excitement we feel when awaiting Punxsutawney Phil’s February 2nd outing. The wait is more exciting than the outcome, which always leaves us feeling a little deflated, but ultimately aloof — only to be seen again in nail polish colors, and drapery.

I’ve only ever received one Drybar blowout, and it was fine. And expensive group classes really aren't my thing — I'm not afraid to admit that small blonde women with super-human strength intimidate the hell out of me. But in a year where we're all trapped inside, what I wouldn't give to have an appointment for either.

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