Are we all opting to turn gray?

Of the sweaters in my men’s DIY knitwear collection, the current favorite among men and women is gray—with brightly colored sleeves. I have wondered if the interest lies in the bright color or in the conservative neutral. So I looked around to see what I could learn about the color gray. It was rather surprising.

Until the 20th Century, gray was not used in fashion. That’s when the French coined the expression grisette (derived from gris or gray) referring to working girls that were meant to be invisible and wore drab gray dresses. At that time, if someone died to whom you were not close, let’s say a member of the royal family, you mourned in gray not black. And since the beginning of the century, it has been used consistently by London’s Saville Row tailors for bespoke men’s wear.

In 1950’s menswear, gray became a symbol of conformity—remember Gregory Peck in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit? Subsequently it provided an escape from the garish fashions of the ‘80s and then became essential for the minimalists of the 90s, like Calvin Klein. It was later declared the new black, which seemed to strike a moment of panic among die-hard urban fashion divas who were fully invested in black.

The current decade has seen Fifty Shades of Gray became the top selling book, widespread use of every version of gray in interior design, and even a nail polish trend with shades from Chanel and Dior.

Two years ago, Vogue declared gray a huge multi-year trend. In fact, women of all ages began craving gray hair and those without it were coloring their locks in shades ranging from silver to charcoal. Check this out:

In Britain, The Guardian explained how gray became the color of the decade. In fashion, it outperforms blacks and whites since they fade and begin looking shabby after a few washes. It looks great regardless of skin tone, and complements the widest range of colors. For interiors it provides an ideal backdrop for many different styles. In today’s digital era, where a limitless number of trends tends to splinter appeal to the masses, what color has had the biggest acceptance among the widest audience? You guessed it, gray.

Colorists declare that shades of gray—slate, battleship, charcoal, flinty, dove, smoky, gunmetal, graphite, pewter, carbon, mercury, cement, steel, nickel—connote sophistication, glamour, allure, and represent quiet confidence. And since it is the color of granite, from a psychological point of view, gray represents stability.

Well, if gray is the color of the decade, I’m glad I can do my part to help this quiet color get the attention it deserves. And in turn, I’m grateful my gray men’s sweater knitting kit is getting attention too.

Have you knitted anything in gray lately? If so, please share.

P.S. A tip for remembering the difference between grey and gray. Grey is most common in England (e for England) and gray in America (a for America).