Pantone Colour of the Year 2020: Classic Blue

Every year, the Pantone Colour Institute selects their “Colour of the Year”: a colour that will go on to influence global trends across every industry, from fashion to interior design to product packaging. We’re here to give you an overview on everything there is to know about the Colour of the Year, from its history beginning in the year 2000 to how it can be incorporated in your style today!

When did Pantone Colour of the Year start?

Cerulean - the first Pantone Colour of the Year in 2000.

The tradition of picking a “colour of the year” started back in 2000, and two decades ago the colour of choice was Cerulean. A powdery blue shade which was the leading favourite shade of designers and consumers around the world at the time, this colour was chosen due to its connotations of tranquillity, calm and comfort – making it a fitting colour to introduce the new millennium.


A statement was released in 1999 to announce cerulean as the first Pantone Colour of the Year, referring to it as “Hue of the Future”.

Why does Pantone pick the Colour of the Year?

The Pantone Colour Institute is the unit within Pantone – an American colour coding company – that developed the “Colour of the Year” concept. From forecasting global colour trends to highlighting top seasonal runway colours, the actions of the Pantone Colour Institute have a major influence on multiple industries worldwide.

As the world’s leading authority on colour and colour trends, the Pantone Colour Institute created the tradition as an innovative concept for branding, marketing and creativity in general. From fashion to home décor to graphic design, the Colour of the Year offers direction to businesses and individuals everywhere when implementing their visual strategies.

How is the Pantone Colour of the Year chosen?

It’s a more comprehensive process than you might expect!

Colour experts at the Pantone Colour Institute conduct careful analyses of colour trends across the world, for example in the art, entertainment, travel and fashion industries. They also look at emerging technologies, materials and textures that might relate to colour in some way. Their overall goal is to identify new colour influences and trends on a global scale.

Beyond looking at trends, the deciding group must also consider another very important factor: how the Colour of the Year will connect with the “zeitgeist” of the upcoming year. In simpler terms, they look to find a colour that people everywhere will be able to relate to and draw inspiration from; a colour that reflects the global “mood” of a particular generation or period of time.

Pantone themselves have stated that colour “has always been an integral part of how a culture expresses the attitudes and emotions of the times”, citing the example of “The Earthy 70’s” (as the recession brought about more subdued colours) versus “The Vibrant 80’s” (when the economic upturn resulted in the return of bright colours).

Twice a year, a secret meeting is held in a European capital, hosted by Pantone. Representatives from colour standards groups from a variety of countries gather for two days of presentations and debates, after which they select the Colour of the Year for the following year. In other words, the colour for 2020 could be chosen nearly a year in advance!

What is the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2020, and why?

We are living in a time that requires trust and faith. It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by Pantone 19-4052 Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on. Imbued with deep resonance, Classic Blue provides an anchoring foundation. A boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky, Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expand our thinking; challenging us to think more deeply, increase our perspective and open the flow of communication.


– Leatrice, Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Colour Institute

Timeless and elegant, Classic Blue is a rich shade somewhere between cobalt, navy and royal blue. It seems clear that Pantone have gravitated towards a colour that is familiar and reassuring, rather than something more vibrant and daring (such as 2019’s Living Coral). At the same time, this shade of blue is bold and inspiring, frequently featuring in clothing and home décor.

Interestingly, we can draw a lot of parallels between the Colour of the Year for 2000 (Cerulean) and this year’s choice. From a psychological standpoint, both of these shades of blue share calming properties, and are often seen as timeless and relatable. When looking at the reasoning behind choosing each of these colours, it seems that both have had the purpose of offering comfort as the world enters a period of uncertainty, although this time we are seeing in a new decade rather than a millennium.

According to the Pantone Institute, the goal was to select a colour that would stand out to people while simultaneously offering a sense of calm and familiarity.

What has the Pantone Colour of the Year been in past years?

Since 2007, Pantone has produced official press releases for each Colour of the Year, usually with plenty of detail on why each colour was chosen. Take a look below for a snapshot of every Colour of the Year from 2000 to 2020…

Cerulean - the first Pantone Colour of the Year in 2000.
Fuchsia Rose - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2001.
True Red - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2002
Aqua Sky - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2003
Tigerlily - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2004
Blue Turquoise - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2005
Sand Dollar - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2006
Chili Pepper - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2007
Blue Iris - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2008
Mimosa - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2009
Turquoise - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2010
Honeysuckle - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2011
Tangerine Tango - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2012
Emerald - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2013
Radiant Orchid - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2014
Marsala - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2015
Rose Quartz & Serenity - the joint Pantone Colours of the Year for 2016
Greenery - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2017
Ultra Violet - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2018
Living Coral - the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2019

How celebrities are wearing Pantone’s 2020 Colour of the Year

Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Getty Images

Many celebrities got ahead of the trend, and could be seen wearing this cool blue hue even before the Pantone Colour of the Year announcement at the start of December.

Historically a favourite colour of the British royals, Meghan Markle (top left) was seen wearing classic blue at an engagement in early November. Meanwhile it has also proven popular on the red carpet, featuring as a key highlight in ensembles of actresses Emilia Clarke (top middle) and Shailene Woodley (top right).

And it’s not just the ladies: actors Paul Rudd (bottom left) and Cole Sprouse (bottom right) have been seen sporting some very dapper blue suits in classic blue tones.

Perhaps our favourite look is the coordinating effort of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian (bottom middle), both fully embracing the Colour of the Year in their outfits at the WSJ Magazine Awards.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

How to incorporate Classic Blue in your 2020 style

One of the best things about the 2020 Colour of the Year is its versatility: it’s a shade that will appeal to people of all ages and styles, and its timelessness means that it will work across all seasons. It’s also a colour that works for both men and women, as proven by the celeb looks above!

Our 3 top tips for incorporating Classic Blue in your outfits:

  1. For everyday style, combine classic blue accessories like jewellery, shoes and scarves with neutral-coloured clothing (think cream, beige and camel).The blue accents will really pop against these lighter shades, and turn quite a plain outfit into a statement look!
  2. When it comes to evening wear, classic blue can be teamed with metallic shades and textures to create a sharper, more eye-catching look. Smoky eye make up in shades of blue will really bring the colour to life, especially when coordinated with your outfit and jewellery.
  3. Avoid combining classic blue with earthy shades such as olive, brick red and rust; these are shades that definitely won’t complement one another.

Now let’s take a look at some of our favourite classic blue jewellery here at Joshua James…

Sapphire Jewellery

Loved by the royals, the classic blue sapphire is a regal gemstone that has remained a firm favourite throughout the years. Perfect for adding a hint of luxury to your look, we suggest shopping the full range of sapphire and other blue gemstone jewellery in our Precious collection to find your on-trend evening accessory. Discover sapphire, blue topaz and aquamarine jewellery here.

Joshua James Precious 9ct White Gold & Sapphire Open Circle Drop Earrings
Joshua James Precious white gold necklace with rectangle sapphire pendant and diamond embellishment above and below
Joshua James Precious 9ct White Gold with Sapphire & Diamond Art Deco Drop Pendant
Joshua James Precious ring with 3 oval-cut sapphires and 2 oval-cut diamonds set in white gold
Joshua James Precious 9ct White Gold with Sapphire & Diamond Vine Ring

Lapis Lazuli Jewellery

Lapis lazuli is a deep, celestial blue stone that has long been prized for its intensely beautiful colouring. It features quite heavily in men’s jewellery, for example in the collections of Fred Bennett, where you’ll see bracelets comprised of shining blue lapis beads. This can be the perfect option for bringing classic blue to your everyday style.

Fred Bennett Stainless Steel & Blue Leather w/ Lapis Beads Bracelet
Nomination Classic Lapis Charm
Thomas Sabo Lapis Lazuli & Obsidian Royal Blue Bracelet

Blue Swarovski Crystal Jewellery

In order to celebrate 125 years of stunning jewellery, Swarovski released a special Anniversary Collection which placed a heavy focus on the colour blue with pieces like the Louison Rhodium Plated & Blue Crystal Stud Earrings. This has also coincided quite nicely with the 2020 Colour of the Year (unsurprising considering Swarovski is constantly ahead of the trend with their newest collections).

You can also find a range of beautiful jewellery featuring blue Swarovski crystals in the Joshua James Radiance collection.

Joshua James Radiance Silver & Denim Blue Swarovski Crystal Drop Earrings
Swarovski Power Dark Blue Fabric & Crystal Bracelet
Swarovski Attract Rhodium Plated & Blue Crystal Round Necklace & Earrings Set

Watches with Classic Blue

For a classic look, a designer watch will always add an air of sophistication to your outfit. Shop Nordgreen watches that incorporate the Colour of the Year with sleek blue dials, or opt for something more playful with a customisable Nomination watch.

Nordgreen Native Gold & Black Vegan Leather Ladies Watch
Nomination Paris Classic Stainless Steel & Rectangular Blue Glitter Dial Watch
Nordgreen Native Gunmetal Mesh Ladies Watch

Blue Nomination Charms

From blue gemstone links to charms finished with bright blue enamel, there is a wide range of blue Nomination charms to choose from when creating your personalised bracelet. Add any of these to the Classic Blue Base Charm Bracelet (shown below) to really embrace the Colour of the Year trend!

Nomination Classic Gold & Agate Drusie Rock Crystal with Blue Leaf Oval Charm
Nomination Classic Blue Stainless Steel Base Charm Bracelet
Nomination Classic Blue Heart Shaped CZ Charm

What do you think? Have you fallen in love with the calming hues of Classic Blue, or did you prefer the vibrancy of 2019’s Living Coral? Make sure to check back at the end of the year when we reveal the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2021!

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