Pantone Color of the Year: Ultra Violet
|Risley Cline / Photo by Hannah Rexinger|
Purple has always been shrouded in mystery. Early in history, purple dye had to be “milked” from snails in a process kept secret except to the few in the industry and only practiced at the outskirts of town. Each snail yielded only one precious drop of the white liquid that would turn to yellow, then green, then finally purple. Apart from killing thousands of the poor snails (it took 250,000 of them to make one ounce of dye), the fabrics being dyed also had to be steeped in urine.
Despite the awful smell (reportedly of rotting shellfish and garlic), purple was highly regarded all over the world and was perhaps the first rule of fashion coded into actual law. In places ranging from Japan to Republican Rome, there were strict laws encoding a hierarchy surrounding purple, and only the very highest in society were allowed to wear the color, like warriors, nobles and senators. After Caesar became emperor, purple was even limited to just Roman emperors, and Nero once threw a woman out of a recital and demanded she hand over her purple dress. The "fashion police" may be a figure of speech today, but the price for a fashion faux pas is certainly less than that in the Roman empire.
Although purple today may not be relegated only to royalty, made from mysterious snails or worth its weight in gold like the original Tyrian purple, colors such as ultraviolet still carry an air of mystery and mysticism - whether being popular colors used in meditation or being associated with creative visionaries like Prince.
Pantone says that they wished to convey these associations with purple, and their website says “Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future” and that it “suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now.”
No matter what you associate ultraviolet with, I’m sure we can all celebrate purple’s history of capturing the human imagination, as well as the fact that we plebeians can afford it and are allowed by law to flaunt it in public! Whether you like the message that the world could use a bit of “visionary thinking” in 2018, or just like the hue, now’s the time to parade your purple in public!