The neutral shade shows mass market appeal in troubled times, experts say
Even the Golden Arches are going gray.
McDonald’s new employee uniforms rolling out this month are 50 shades darker than you’d expect from the cheery red-and-yellow burger chain. The monochromatic t-shirts, polos, slacks and smocks styled by American fashion designer Waraire Boswell, who’s dressed Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, seem more suited to a “Star Wars” villain or “Hunger Games” tribute than someone handing out Happy Meals. And social media isn’t lovin’ it.
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The company revealed in a press release that the new collection was supposedly tailored to feedback from staffers and customers. Plus, designer Boswell once worked at a California Mickey D’s. “As a former McDonald’s crew member myself, I understand the design and functionality needs of the next generation of McDonald’s uniforms, and I was personally inspired to design a look and feel that gives restaurant employees a greater level of confidence,” he said.
McDonald’s is just the latest brand embracing the graying trend. Ford revealed last week that the shade has surpassed white and silver to become the most popular color of its cars in Europe.
“Even we’re surprised at how popular it’s become,” said Julie Francis, Ford’s colour and material design manager in a statement. “Gray is a great untapped color, offering new ways to be cool and different in the modern age, and that makes it exciting and something people are prepared to pay extra for.” As a result, Ford has rolled out eight different gray hues for customers overseas.
Gray is also celebrity designer Jason Wu’s favorite color, so he’s tasked the Pantone Color Institute to help him develop a new shade exclusive to him and his upcoming collection. It’s a haute color in furniture, with RICKI Research recently reporting that 69% of woodworking designers believe gray is the fastest growing color trend in cabinets.
Even supermodel Cara Delevingne dyed her hair a granny-gray platinum last month, joining a line of sexy young stars like Rihanna, Ryan Lochte and Lady Gaga who’ve flirted with being silver foxes.
So why is everyone going gray? Turns out, the color is comforting in these divisive times.
“There’s a feeling of stability and balance to gray, because it doesn’t take sides. It’s both black and white,” color expert and consultant Kate Smith told Moneyish. “So when we’re not feeling certain about the economy or politics, gray becomes more attractive to us because we’re subconsciously reaching for something solid, and gray reminds us of stone or concrete.
“Gray looks good when we’re uncertain about other areas of our lives,” she added. Plus, the versatile tone manages to appear both young and futuristic, as well as aged and distinguished.
And when it comes to fashion, celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch told Moneyish that gray tones make a chic alternative to the nudes and neutrals we’ve been wearing for years. “Charcoal has become the new black, but it’s less intense. It’s slimming and plays well with other colors, but it’s lighter and less serious,” he said. “Some grays have more green, and some have more blue, and there’s so much you can do.
“Don’t let the movie fool you,” he added. “There are more than 50 shades of gray.”
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