Orange has come a long way from Howard Johnson roofs and A&W drive-ins of the 1970s — so far, in fact, that global color authority Pantone has anointed the reddish-orange Tangerine Tango the color of 2012.
Pantone's annual picks, which both reflect and influence the latest consumer product design, seep into everything from high fashion to plumbing fixtures. This year's fresh-squeezed star is already popping up in women's and men's pieces from Marc by Marc Jacobs, retro florals from Dolce & Gabbana and rain boots by Ilyse Jacobsen. It peeks from a Paul Smith men's jacket lining and winks from Eyebobs reading glasses. In the home, it heats up the kitchen and bath as an accent (knobs) or scene-stealer (cabinets).
With its choice, Pantone tries to nail the cultural psyche and satisfy a longing.
"When you say tangerine tango, it immediately elicits an elegant, sexy sort of dance," said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and co-author of "Pantone: The 20th Century in Color" (Chronicle, $40). "It has some sophistication, but at the same time it has energy. It's a color that symbolizes a need to recharge our batteries."
Tempering the aggressiveness of red are the yellow notes. "With orange there's always that undertone of friendliness and warmth," Eiseman said.
She has watched orange ascend since the '90s, when the Internet and global travel placed orange in a different light from its dubious 1970s heyday in America.
"People began to see how orange was used in other cultures and that orange is not just for cheap stuff," Eiseman said.
"There are always going to be people who will say, 'Sorry, I'm never going to use it.'" But the response to the pick in 2012 has been overwhelmingly positive, she said, "which is very different than it would have been 15 years ago. I felt the timing was right."
Those who question its wearability should note that the reddish tones make it more amenable to the complexion than a straightforward orange. That's one reason beauty emporium Sephora is creating a limited edition makeup line around Tangerine Tango, available in Sephora stores in March.
To temper the intensity of the color and add depth, choose clothing and accessories with texture — jewelry with faceted stones or fabrics with sheen or plushness rather than a flat finish, Eiseman said. "A print or a pattern is also a great way to do it."
In the home, Tangerine Tango can enliven any room, said Linda Jennings, president of Jennings & Co., an interiors trend specialist in Sarasota, Fla.
"The best way is to introduce just a small accent, like a knob on a bedside cabinet, pillows on a sofa, a fabulous serving bowl on the center of the dining room table, or soaps in the bathroom" Jennings said. "For those a bit more daring, experiment with painting one wall tangerine, or go bolder with an orange painted clawfoot tub in the bath or orange countertop in the kitchen. This year it's all about creating a point of drama."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun