– collage by yours truly
I’ve recently had a conversation with my dad trying to tell him about my latest Internet obsessions: Pantone Politics and Millennial Pink. Despite my enthusiasm, he replied treacherously: “So, who cares?”
However, I understand his reaction and I do not condemn him for it. He does not know what Pantone is, he has never taken into account the fact that the nuances of clothes might have meanings (except for the election campaign and the football matches), he has never heard of the “Millennials Generation” and he could not care less about pink. So obviously he was not interested in hearing more about my story: we weren’t speaking the same language.
And that happens often. It is normal, the differences between generations are becoming increasingly sharp, as technology creates even greater discrepancies between the habits, needs and abilities that we and our parents have.
This is the reason why, starting October, I will write for ELLE Romania about the generation I belong to, namely the Millennials, to increase the level of understanding between generations and to create a constructive dialogue.
Let’s start from the beginning:
The Millennial generation, although defined differently by several theorists, generally includes people born between 1982 and 2004. And although the period is frequently challenged, it does not change the fact that this generation has some specific features, such as the lack of the need to own – Millennials prefer to rent or borrow, the willingness to work differently, as in more flexibly, and to embrace freelancing or intensive travelling. In a nutshell, Millennials are more concerned with experiences, thus they invest less in things.
In media, they are usually portrayed negatively, being cited as one of the sources for which the real estate industry has issues, as the perfect examples for illustrating narcissism, especially in the society where selfies are the most common type of images or as the main source for the degradation of relationships: from long-term commitments to open relationships and not too much emotional investment.
But this generation can not be summed up to some negative assumptions. Reality is more complex and conceals a problem: the fact that the voices we hear the most from the young side of the generation are those of beauty and fashion bloggers, vloggers who accept crazy dares and those who offer every summer some „wonderful” blunders at the Baccalaureate exam. Considering them too young and too inexperienced, we do not know what they think about politics, although most of them are part of the electorate, we do not hear too often what their views about work are and if they really consider themselves representatives of the „gig economy” and we rarely give them the confidence to speak up during important times.
Okay, okay, so how does pink fit into all of this?!
It is essential to state that Millennials are naturally more inclined to fight for equal pay, feminism and the inclusion of all categories of people in society as they want to continue the struggle for equality started by their parents. What brings us to Millennial Pink, a series of pale pink and peachy hues, considered in the last decades to be feminine and as a result, used to separate boy toys from girls’. Although at the beginning of the twentieth century the two colors were inversely related to the present given that blue was the color in which Virgin Mary was most often portrayed, and pink was the closest hue of the carnal, passionate and warrior-like Red, with time, these associations have been lost. Today, pink shades have been recaptured by younger generations and used with the desire to eliminate the gender stereotypes that have accumulated around them over the years. What brings us back to a cause for which Millennials are fighting for: accepting all categories of people in society, who may be members of the LGBTQ community, ethnic and religious minorities, individuals with disabilities, or people who do not want to have a set gender, who are often put under the “gender-fluid” umbrella. Thus, Millennials want to tear apart decades of stereotypes, not only by promoting that anyone can wear pink, but also by stating that this should not imply wearing a social label. Moreover, a year before Pantone declared Pink Quartz as one of the colors of 2016, the trend forecasting agency The Color Marketing Group had said this would be “shim,” a powdery pink hue that was defined as a neutral pink, wearable by anyone, its name being a combination of “she” and “him”.
You may have already noticed the fact that over the past few years, more and more pink shades surround us: from the rose-gold Iphone 6s to the Acne shopping bags, the cover of the best-selling book “Girlboss,” Wes Anderson’s universe in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” to Unicorn Frappucino, one of the newest Starbucks drinks. And that’s not a coincidence. Given that the target audience of these products is a young one, captivated by #PalePink aesthetics, the most popular chromatic hashtag on Tumblr, a microblogging platform, color matters more than ever in design.
I have mentioned above Pantone, the international color authority. This institution is the first to build a standard color reproduction system, which involves passing a unique code between two people who can use the same shade without problems of accuracy. Thanks to its practicality, this system got adopted very quickly by the design, painting or printing industry. Moreover, each year Pantone studies the presence of colors in cinema, interior design, architecture, fashion and other areas to observe new chromatic tendencies that lead them to declare a star color for the coming year. For the last years, the colors selected were: Quartz Pink and Serenity (light pink and baby blue for 2016), Marsala (a cherry hue) in 2015, Radiant Orchid in 2014 or Emerald in 2013. The current year is marked by Greenery, a hue of light green with yellow tones, inspired by the early spring days that mark new and fresh beginnings.
And although the colors of our clothes have always been associated with a mood, an event or a message, such as black clothes for mourning (a tradition started by Queen Victoria of Great Britain after the loss of her husband, Albert, in 1861), using specific colors to transmit a political or social position has entered the current vocabulary as Pantone Politics.
Two case studies relevant to the deliberate use of color in clothing are Hillary Clinton in the presidential election campaign of 2016 and the British Royal family. To start with, Hillary Clinton got a lot of attention for choosing pants suits that came to define her image, and by subtly transmitting messages through her clothes. For example, one of the first suits worn during the campaign was a white one, associated with both purity and innocence, as well as the suffragettes, the women of the early twentieth century who had fought for equal political rights in England. Thus, Hillary paid tribute to women who had campaigned for equality and who had paved the way before she was elected the first woman to represent a major political party in the United States. Moreover, the white conveyed innocence in front of the multiple allegations claiming she would have sent classified information by email. Another important chromatic moment was her purple costume during her concession speech, a time when she admitted her defeat to Donald Trump, the Republican party’s candidate. In her speech, Clinton addressed the crowd, assuring her supporters that the fight would not stop there; while also wishing Trump good luck. The purple color, though less common in Clinton’s wardrobe, reflected exactly her words, being the shade resulting from the mixture of blue and red, the colors of the Democratic and Republican parties.
As for the British Royal house, the Cambridge dukes, William and Catherine, they received a lot of public attention after deploying Clinton-like tactics in their international travels. And while it is a common practice for diplomats and politicians to wear pieces created by local designers when they are abroad for work, the British Royal family has taken diplomatic dressing at a different level, namely chromatic coordination with the flag or history of the host country. This is also the case of the recent visits to Poland and Germany, where William and Catherine landed with their children, all dressed in red and white pieces, respectively in Prussian Blue. Thus, these calculated choices indicate the extent to which colors have come to do politics, the importance of seemingly insignificant nuances in changing gender prejudices and the role that colors have in relationship with our image and the messages we transmit.
Hey, Dad, have I caught your interest now?
This article originally appeared in ELLE Romania, October 2017 issue, number 239