Orange isn’t always an easy sell. In a research project developed by Joe Hallock the colour fared badly, dominating as the least favourite shade for both men and women, gobbling up an impressive 30 per cent of the vote and beating both brown and purple into second and third place respectively.
The research also revealed that people tend to associate orange with inexpensive branding (orange came out at 26 per cent, the largest section for inexpensive colours). This is certainly borne out by its use for budget airline EasyJet and Penguin’s original paperback books.
There's even a story to explain away the obvious outlier of luxury brand Hermès and its orange branding; before the war, Hermès packages were wrapped in grainy beige paper that looked like pigskin. Due to the difficulties in obtaining supplies during the Occupation, Hermès started using orange, the only colour available. After the war, this unique and refined orange was definitively adopted in packaging, and later in signature leather pieces.
How much of orange’s popularity (or lack of) is due to susceptibility to the vagaries of fashion is hard to quantify. It would be interesting to see how orange would have fared in a poll undertaken in the late 70’s when this colour was at the height of its popularity. Pumpkin oranges in particular were ubiquitous during the late 70’s, when growth in interest in environmentalism, social unrest and the impact of Native Americans on counter culturalism all had their part to play in the popularity of this most reassuring and natural of colours. As we see cyclical patterns of colours once again embracing the 70’s aesthetic, it will be interesting to see if orange becomes a more mainstream choice.
Certainly, the signs are good for a reappraisal of the qualities of orange. Hermes describes it as a ‘Remarkable colour; a concentrate of modernity, energy and visibility.’ Orange has become a code for the company that is identifiable worldwide and has established the international reputation of ‘the orange box.’
Because, despite all the historical prejudice, there is much to love about orange; rich and earthy, reassuring and warm, with clear references to the environment, localism and a love of nature, it’s a colour with plenty going for it. Perhaps it is time for a little rethink on the value of orange. And if you have any doubts, just have a look at a Hermes box.
Image credits from top: Phllilip Jeffries | Hermès |Hooked on Walls | Zilenzio | & Tradition
For the latest colour forecasts and insight into the development of orange, part one of our SS 2021 forecast is out now.