First, let’s talk color in the 1970s. The ‘70s were known for the prominence of earth tones with a few pops of brighter colors like orange and yellow here and there. Especially in interior design, brown seems to be the most prominent color in the 1970s palette, showing up in either wooden details or paint colors. Sherwin Williams’ own tour of colors of the ‘70s includes an avocado green, a slightly burnt orange tone, a very muted gold-beige, a cozy brown, a warm gray-beige, a sunny yellow, and an earthy brown-gold.
While the paint aisle at the hardware store might not be where your mind immediately goes when you think of trending colors in fashion, interior design trends do tend to have a lasting, tangible influence on the “look” of a decade due to their more permanent nature. After all, it’s a whole lot easier to purchase a new pair of jeans than it is to repaint your living room, meaning the colors we choose to decorate with can determine what the world around us looks like both now and 10 years later. So what colors are the experts suggesting our living rooms will be and why?
Groovy Colors in 2024
While not a carbon copy of the 1970s color scheme, the color palette released by Sherwin Williams for 2024 includes many tones reminiscent of the iconic colors of the 1970s. The “Palm Leaf” color serves as the avocado green in the palette, while “Antiquarian Brown” and “Half-Caff” cover the comfy brown tones present in the ‘70s interiors. Instead of a bright pop of orange, we see a soft coral tone and plenty of beige and sand tones to bring out the warm, organic feeling of the ‘70s palette. The collection also includes several refreshing blue and teal tones that call back to that cool pop present in many retro palettes.
A piece from Veranda predicts the upcoming color trends of 2024 as well, listing earthy greens as up-and-comers and describing them as having a calming quality. They also predict the bolder tones of yellow and orange to make a splash next year, and cite WGSN and Coloro’s decision to make Apricot Crush their color of the year in 2024 as one of the driving factors.
Beyond interior design, The Pattern Edit anticipates Nutshell, a warm brown tone, to be one of the trending colors in fashion for spring 2024. Brown for spring? That might actually be groundbreaking.
Okay, So Why Are the 1970s Returning?
Interestingly, it’s possible that the return to the color palette of the 1970s could be due to societal and economic influences as well as just the regular cycling of trends. We’ve already heard of the Hemline Index Theory, which claims that shorter hemlines indicate better economies while longer hemlines indicate struggling economies, so the concept of an economic influence on fashion and trends isn’t unheard of. As it turns out, many believe that the focus on natural, soothing earth tones in the ‘70s was the cultural response to the societal turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s. So what went down in the ‘70s that pushed people away from the loud, psychedelic colors of the 1960s and back to the basics?
The Skinny on the ‘70s
When people think of periods of economic turbulence in the United States, most think first of the Great Depression in the 1930s or even the 2008 Recession, but the ‘70s were another period in American history in which the economy was unstable. Though the economic crisis in the 1970s wasn’t as dramatic as that of the 1930s, it brought a new phenomenon called “Stagflation,” which is the appearance of slow economic growth, rising prices, and a high unemployment rate all at the same time. While people were worried about making ends meet, they were also worried about keeping gas in the car, as the Arab oil embargo in 1973 shot gas prices through the roof and created shortages that resulted in lines at the gas station that dragged on for several blocks.
The 1960s and 1970s were periods of significant change and continuous insecurity that left many Americans feeling exhausted.
The country wasn’t feeling too hot socially either, as the Vietnam War had split the country into two conflicting groups (those for the war and those against it), and then ended in 1975 without a clear U.S. victory. While the civil rights movement of the 1960s had helped to move the country in the direction of equal treatment of all citizens regardless of race or sex, it also marked a period of high emotion and lots of political frustration. Regarding politics, the Watergate scandal that took place between 1972 and 1974 made Americans feel that they could no longer trust their leadership. In short, the 1960s and 1970s were periods of significant change and continuous insecurity that left many Americans feeling exhausted.
That exhaustion may have pushed consumers to look for comfort in the areas of their lives they could control – like their homes and fashion choices – and they might have found that comfort in the cozy, natural, and welcoming colors that have now become iconic of the 1970s. As color specialist Nicole Pivorotto explains in an article from Architectural Digest, the colors of the ‘70s were “deeply comforting, which could be seen as a response to the recession, the oil crisis, and the end of the Vietnam War.”
So What Does This Mean About the 2020s?
You could argue that the modern return to this soothing palette could signify a broad societal feeling of exhaustion due to the uncertainties of the last few years. The state of the economy has been a hot topic in the last several months as Americans feel the effects of high inflation rates and rising gas prices. The question of whether we’re entering a recession (or are already in one) remains in the minds of many, and Covid continues to make headlines through 2023. The endless discussion of election interference and corruption in the government once again shakes Americans’ faith in the country’s leaders and sets the nation in a period of political unrest. When comparing the 1970s and 2020s, many economic and cultural similarities appear, and it’s easy to draw parallels regarding hardships then and now.
So maybe the trending colors for 2024 exemplify a longing for a return to normalcy. In the face of an already rocky decade, a reversion back to a more humble and restful color scheme could be coming. A pull away from bright Barbie pink and a push towards a snuggly teddy bear-brown could be a welcome respite in the minds of many, especially considering the nostalgia the ‘70s palette holds. If this palette is implemented in interior design, it’s possible that the 2020s could become the new 1970s.
With Covid ringing in 2020, endless election drama, inflation, and the economy teetering on the brink of recession, it’s possible that Americans are getting burnt out and are beginning to look for a return to the comforts of nature and familiarity. It remains to be seen how much of a total impact the resurgence of 1970s tones will have on the 2020s, and it’s possible the return of ‘70s trends could be nothing more than that – a trend. However, it’s also possible that a societal shift towards warm, organic colors could be on the horizon as a cultural reaction to the state of the world. Either way, you can justify the purchase of that fuzzy brown sweater you’ve been eyeing with the knowledge that it’ll keep you looking “dynamite” into the foreseeable future.
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