Pantone's 2021 Colors Of The Year Are All About "Brighter" Days Ahead

by Danielle Naer
Courtesy Of Pantone

Each December, the Pantone Color Institute sets the tone for the year ahead by choosing a hue that somehow speaks to the overall mood. 2020's Classic Blue (which was selected in 2019, long before the year's ill fate was sealed) was all about "calm, confidence, and connection," according to the Pantone site, which became something of a positive affirmation amidst our shifted reality. Now, as the world prepares to turn the page on a rather tumultuous year, Pantone is announcing its 2021 Colors Of The Year — Illuminating and Ultimate Gray, both of which come with a deeper meaning that totally align with the current moment.

This is the second time in its 20-year run that Pantone picked two shades — the first in 2016, with Rose Quartz and Serenity blended together in the form of a gradient. Now, the color pairing goes boldly in two separate directions, starting with with Ultimate Gray — the natural, durable shade that also feels a bit weathered, like a rocky cliff or pebbles on a beach. Then comes Illuminating, a lemony-yellow hue that casts light, positivity, and visibility on everything in its path. Together, the shades reconcile a sense of strength, as forged over the past several months, with our hopes for an auspicious future. In the Institute's words: "The combination ... is aspirational and gives us hope. We need to feel that everything is going to get brighter — this is essential to the human spirit," the Pantone site reads.

Courtesy Of Pantone
Courtesy Of Cariuma x Pantone

To kick off 2021 on the right foot, you'll want to start thinking of ways to incorporate these shades sartorially. To do so, Pantone suggests applying them in the way that they were intentionally chosen: use the Ultimate Gray as your foundation (through coats and blazers, for instance) and tie in bursts of Illuminating, through a pair of heeled mules or a fluffy shearling bag. Or, swaddle a steely gray dress in a yellow coat to send a message that you're ready for all the good things that 2021 has to offer.

To shop a few outfit formulas that will infuse both hues into your wardrobe with ease, read on:

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How To Wear Pantone's 2021 Colors Of The Year: Yellow Clutch & Gray Blazer

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To wear Ultimate Gray like a Fashion Week influencer, invest in a faithful gray blazer — like Gauge81's which is half-off right now. Then, tie in a pillow clutch in Illuminating (hint: Mansur Gavriel makes a chic one with a crossbody strap, offering multiple styling options).

How To Wear Pantone's 2021 Colors Of The Year: Gray Sweatshirt & Yellow Heeled Sandals

This look will give you a reason to shake out all of your 2020 loungewear once you finally miss it, while also inviting a few fun, fresh silhouettes — like a pair of bright yellow heels. Take it the extra mile with a pair of like-toned leather shorts like Ghanem's.

How To Wear Pantone's 2021 Colors Of The Year: Gray Coat & Yellow Culottes

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For those who tend to stick with muted tones, here's a minimalist way to color block for winter: try a pair of cheerful culottes, then layer a gray wool coat over it all and finish with white knee-high boots.

How To Wear Pantone's 2021 Colors Of The Year: Yellow Coat & Gray Shoulder Bag

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If you're ready to fully commit to Illuminating, consider investing in a statement coat that's doused in the hue. Tie in a slate gray handbag like Balenciaga's for a well-rounded look.

How To Wear Pantone's 2021 Colors Of The Year: Yellow Slip Skirt & Colorful Gray Sneakers

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Last but not least, you'll want to consider the color combo when sneaker shopping — which Cariuma just made simple as Pantone's official footwear partner. Shop the 2021-readied shoe in a neutral gray, and pair it with a yellow slip skirt like ATM Anthony Thomas Melillo's.