People of Color


Pantone sounds like an Italian pastry that tastes like stale bread with raisins in it, but, in fact, it’s a commercial ink company, most well known for its standardized color reproduction system, tragically known as the Pantone Matching System, or PMS.

Before PMS, a designer would specify something like “I want the background to be carmine,” and the production company would note that on the art and the printer would crank the project out and then everybody would be mad at each other because the background turned out to be nothing like the artist wanted or the client had signed off on and the production company would say the artist was a bitch who didn’t know carmine from cranberry and the printer would make crude remarks about everybody’s sexual proclivities.

With PMS, instead of specifying something like “carmine” and hoping everyone would understand what you meant, everybody has a PMS fan deck, which is a huge stack of color swatches and, instead of “carmine,” you specify 17-2230 TPX and everyone gets what they want.  Most importantly, the system includes a formula for creating that specific shade of ink so the printer can get the fucking color right, for once, for christ’s sake.   Printers still make crude remarks about everybody’s sexual proclivities, but there’s no help for that.

All that’s fine, but what effects everyone is a sideline Pantone stumbled into a few years ago, declaring the Color of the Year.  Pantone is very pissy about insisting it’s not the actual, individual color, it’s “a conversation about ascending color trends that are an integral part of how a culture expresses the attitudes and emotions of the times” and blahblahblah.  But what everybody actually pays attention to is the color and the palette Pantone rolls out.

That’s important because the world of designers agreeing to work with that is how Forever 21 and H&M and Macy’s all come up with the same color sweaters each season despite them all coming from different slave labor sweatshops.  And that’s important because when Little Miss Teen USA goes shopping for a sweater, she wants one that will go with all the other disposable fashion she already has snagged.

So each year I, along with all the other design nerds, wait for Pantone’s announcement and each year, I roll my eyes at the pretentious, new-agey description and then eye the new color.  I liked the 2011 color, Honeysuckle, so much I used it in the reno of my New Orleans house.


This year, for the first time, they rolled out two colors.  And what colors they are, too!


That’s right chickens, it’s the return of dusty rose and baby  blue, shades that defined the 1980s and which have lived on in every cheap dollar store since then.  The Golden Girls would be thrilled.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the official bullshit:

A softer take on color for 2016: For the first time, the blending of two shades – Rose Quartz and Serenity are chosen as the PANTONE Color of the Year
As consumers seek mindfulness and well-being as an antidote to modern day stresses, welcoming colors that psychologically fulfill our yearning for reassurance and security are becoming more prominent. Joined together, Rose Quartz and Serenity demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace.

Like I said, blahblahblah.  So take heart bitches, Nancy Reagan is dead, but her color palette lives on.

About mrpeenee

A former bon vivant and terror of a number of New Orleans bars in the mad, gay 1980s, I'm now quietly retired and widowed in San Francisco. I have a crooked nose due to an unfortunate Frisbee accident.

22 responses »

  1. Oh, God. We’re vaguely thinking about where to live next, and so I spend a fair amount of time Zillowing tidy little condos in various resort destinations (Palm Springs is looking good at the moment). About half the places we can afford were decorated one era before dusty rose and baby blue (and are therefore harvest gold and avocado), and a very few more recently (all Restoration Hardward caramel and tile backsplashes), but the rest might as well have taken their inspiration from the sweaters worn by the schoolgirls on The Facts of Life.

    As for menswear, I’m starting to despair of finding sweaters in any colors at all – gray, charcoal, and mud seem to rule the world. When it comes to the ’80s, why is that Alexander Julian jewel tones never seem to make a comeback?


    • O honey, not Palm Springs. It would be a return to the Sandlands without the domestiche. They used to have fabulous consignment stores stuffed with all this mid-century fabulosity that Bubbie brought with her and then her heirs were trying to unload, but once Jonathan Adler snapped up all the good pieces, they all pretty much dried up.

      And I adored Alexander Julian’s work. I had a plaid shirt of his from 30 years ago I still miss.


      • Well, then, where? We want hot, dry (yet bibulous), and with creature comforts like decent restaurants, congenial establishments for Confirmed Bachelors, and the occasional museum/orchestra/cabaret outing. And we’re going to be in moderately reduced circumstances – Golden Handcuffs’ pension starts early, but it’s economy-plus at best. Suggestions welcome!


      • “Creature comforts” are thin on the ground in Palm Springs. The restaurants are uniformally dreadful; the establishments for Confirmed Bachelors may be congenial, bit the bachelors are creaky old Marys and there is an air about all of them of having been stuck on the same cruise ship for too long. The big “cultural” draw is an ongoing cabaret-ish review featuring the world’s oldest showgirls. Literally. The highpoint of the show is when one of them goes down into a split and everyone holds their breath to see if she’ll make it back up.

        They do have a very luxurious geriatric hospital.

        I’d say L.A. I know, it sounds surprising, but the weather is fabulous (especially in comparison to what this last winter in D.C. sounds like) culturally and homo adequate, and I plan on being dead before all the water runs out. We could practically be neighbors.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve got a jumper bought from Debenhams in a lovely shade of Arsenic!

    It’s the same with paint companies, have a gander at Farrow and Ball’s paint chart, Mouse’s Back, (I ask you) Smoked Trout,*tuts* Mole’s Breath *rolls eyes skywards* and here’s one Nancy’s Blushes. Mental patients the lot of em. I’ve never seen a pink honeysuckle before, the one I have in my garden is a shade of Charlotte’s Locks and it gets covered in green fly, I would call that shade Nipple Pink with a wink.


    • I always wanted to be the guy who came up with the names for paint colors. I was pretty fond of Twig and Mummy and String, which were all essentially off-white, but I drew the lineat Sleeping Beauty.

      I actually used Mouse Back in the New Orleans house. It was a nice taupe, but god almighty, Farrow and Ball is expensive. You might as well coat your walls with liquid heroin.


    • I too was initially baffled when “Honeysuckle” turned out to be pink, but then I found out there really is a pink honeysuckle, I still like the old timey creamy white ones best. And the Honeysuckle paint was a very nice rougey red.


  3. I designed business cards for a friend a few years ago. The logo was supposed to be PMS 364, but I mistakenly specified PMS 346 at the print shop. Very embarrassing. And yes, the printer did allude to my sexual proclivities.


    • They always do. And in my experience, they don’t really have a lot of room to talk. As for the wrong ink, a good designer needs to have a line of bullshit always ready to explain why that was what the client really wanted, he just didn’t know it.


  4. I’ve just ordered new cabinets for our kitchen in Farrow and Ball “radicchio”. The cabinet maker can’t pronounce that. When he was reading back the order he got to the paint colour all he could articulate about it was “what you said.”

    I practically wear nothing but pink. Just saying.


    • You know professional painters are suspicious of anything not off-white.

      A quick look at the F&B site convinces me you’re fabulous. Radicchio looks like a beautiful color, especially on woodwork. In fact, it seems to have lot in common with the honeysuckle I was writing about above.

      Let us all know how it turns out.


  5. Long live the kinder and gentlier versions of mauve and teal. The irony is that I recall being enchanted when I first walked into an upscale restaurant in dusty old San Antonio Texas in the 80s and first encountered a pale shade of brownish pink with seafoam accents in the decor. Mauve (Maude) had arrived. It then seemed fresh and spirited. But after 30 years of exposure I can’t summon a positive thought about stale raisin bread or anything closely recalling that color combination.


  6. We watch the release of the colors each year with interest as it does affect our business. These two throwbacks appeared, and all I can see is the puffy, poly-soft “track suit” that my mom (who never set foot near anything approaching a track, field, gym, or arena) and her girlfriends sported as casual wear.


  7. Came over from Infomaniac to say:

    Happy Birthday,
    Feliz cumpleaños,
    Joyeux Anniversaire, Mr Peenee!!!


    Good health, good luck, & good fortune to you! Cheers & Best wishes for many more years of good food, good company, & good times!!!

    Laissez les bons temps rouler!!!


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