Every year, the Pantone Color Institute selects one from among its palette of more than 2,800 colors as the Color of the Year. It’s a shade that defines the season’s “smart” look and drives design and purchasing trends from house paints to fashion. This year Pantone broke with tradition by naming a duo of pink and sky blue as their 2016 Color(s) of the Year, challenging the idea of gender-fixed colors, according to a press release.
It was a smart choice in more ways than one: These very shades of pink and blue are the official colors of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society. They have been used to adorn official charter documents and academic regalia since the Society’s founding in 1776.
By some reports, the Phi Beta Kappa colors originally were selected for their rarity, being expensive to produce with the dyes of the time. Present-day gender considerations likely didn’t come into play, with pink being a commonly worn color by men and women alike in 18th century America.
Phi Beta Kappa’s official colors are mentioned in several early accounts, including a document from a newly established chapter’s meeting in Massachusetts on June 19, 1782:
“Voted, that all the members at the celebration of the Anniversary have their medals suspended with pink and sky blue ribband [sic]; that the treasurer procure a sufficient quantity of each for this purpose.”
Visit the Phi Beta Kappa store for the tasseled pink and blue honor cords.Published April 2016.