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A few days before the announcement of its Color of the Year for 2021, US-based color authority Pantone began posting black-and-white photos on Instagram. Though many suspected the chosen color to be gray, some guessed it would be yellow because all the photos featured shadows, and there can only be shadow if there’s light. Both guesses were correct. On December 10, Pantone finally announced Ultimate Gray, a dependable gray, and Illuminating, a cheerful yellow, as 2021’s Colors of the Year.
This is the second time in over 20 years that Pantone has picked two Colors of the Year instead of one. The first time was in 2016 when Rose Quartz and Serenity were selected. While Rose Quartz and Serenity were meant to be merged into one another, for this year’s choices, Pantone emphasized that Ultimate Gray and Illuminating are two independent but complementary colors that express our conflicting moods. According to the Pantone Color Institute, gray symbolizes practicality, reliability, thoughtfulness and fortitude, while yellow represents hope, warmth, friendliness and innovation.
Pantone has made great choices for both symbolic and practical reasons. Gray is where we are now, and yellow is what we hope for – the light at the end of the tunnel. The selection portrays what we need and what we want in the foreseeable future.
Fashion-wise, the combo oozes utilitarian and gender-neutral vibes, which makes it exceptionally contemporary. I love both colors individually and as a team. I’m a huge fan of monochrome, unlike our Gen Z editor Dianne who loves yellow among other bright colors (see her reluctantly dress in head-to-toe black for one week in our We Tried IGTV episode). I find black-and-white attire pragmatic, safe and versatile. At the same time, I don’t mind enlivening my subdued repertoire with a breath of warm colors.
See below for ideas on how to incorporate the two colors – particularly the more vibrant yellow – into your daily life!
Gray and yellow can make a great statement when they appear individually in evening wear, but using both can be tricky since the color combination looks more casual than dressy. One way is to play with patterns. A gray-and-yellow plaid is perfect for coats and dresses. Rich and luxurious textures such as rib knit and faux leather also help amp up the level of sophistication.
Gray and yellow are meant for casual wear. Just think of all the cute cartoon characters that are in yellow: Pikachu, Minions, SpongeBob, The Simpsons… Why is yellow commonly used in cartoon character designs? It’s because the color is warm, friendly and exciting. Add a yellow accent, such as duck earrings, embroidered socks or a smiley beanie, to bring sunshine to your look!
Since both colors are very unisex, adapting them into menswear is easy as pie. This paneled plaid shirt, a constant YesStyle bestseller, flaunts the colors without trying too hard. If you live in a cold place, wrap up warm in these padded jackets. Complement the two colors with black and white for a fail-safe athleisure look.
Neither gray nor yellow is common in makeup, which makes them all the more exhilarating! A yellow graphic eyeliner screams youthfulness, fun and joy. For a subtler touch, how about a hint of yellow eye shadow at the inner corners of the eyes? Don’t forget, the metallic versions of gray and yellow are silver and gold, which are much more wearable and utterly festive – just in time for New Year’s!
Did you know that yellow triggers a serotonin release, which helps you feel good and boosts your well-being? No wonder I’m so in love with yellow food and flowers, not to mention all the skin care containing these ingredients. For soothing relief, there’s iUNIK’s Calendula Complete Cleansing Oil. For brightening benefits, try Secret Key’s Lemon Sparkling Peeling Gel. In need of some nourishment for dry skin? Get COSRX’s Full Fit Propolis Synergy Toner, I’m from’s Honey Mask or Benton’s Shea Butter and Coconut Hand Cream!
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