Popular Colors Through the Decades (1920s – 2020s)

Year 1900 number on an orange background

Each decade brings new trends and popular products. In many cases, the colors of a hobby or event are what catch people’s attention, and those popular colors may change each year.

So, what colors are associated with each decade? How do those colors represent different time periods?

How Have Colors Evolved Over Time?

Colors of each decade

Over the years, colors have become more prominent in people’s lives. Creating items with vibrant colors, whether it’s clothes, furniture, or movies, wasn’t as easy in the past as it is today. So, modern decades seem to have a wider and brighter selection of popular colors than the early 1900s did.

Today, nearly every item sold comes in a variety of colors. Phones come in every color of the rainbow and you can use any color you want in interior design. With colors so easily accessible, they’ve become a key way to showcase someone’s personality. Colors started out as something simple that people enjoyed looking at, but today, they hold more meaning than ever.

Most Popular Colors From Each Decade

Below are examples of colors that were popular in each decade.


Art Deco 1920s pattern
  • Antique Gold
  • Champagne
  • Mustard Yellow
  • Emperor Jade
  • Ultramarine
  • Cadmium Red
  • Silver

These years focused on luxury and wealth, so gold and colors that pair well with it were common. Dark yellows, tans, deep reds, navy blues, and jade greens were commonly seen in clothing and posters of this era. Art Deco was a common art style of this period, which focused on luxurious colors like gold and silver.

The color selections of the 1920s were much simpler than they are today. The ’20s focused on dark colors, neutrals, and primary colors. People during this time liked to use colors that were bold and mature.


1930s color pattern
  • Poppy
  • Canary Yellow
  • Pastel Blue
  • Egyptian Blue
  • Pastel Green
  • Jade Green

The 1930s also focused on primary colors, but in more vibrant tints. Since the Great Depression stretched across this entire decade, people were eager to find joy in little things. So, a wave of family-friendly, technicolor films, such as The Wizard of Oz, came out during this period.

Films focused on a variety of vibrant blues, reds, yellows, and greens. Those rich colors also appeared in posters, toys, and games at the time. The colors helped keep some magic alive during a difficult period in the United States.


Patriotic sign 1940s colors
  • Khaki
  • Clay
  • Chili Red
  • Military Blue
  • Air Force Blue
  • Dark Yellow

The 1940s returned to deep primary colors and neutral tones because those were common colors in propaganda posters and movie advertisements. The bold primary colors used beside muted military colors were seen as patriotic and uplifting during this time. Many of the popular colors in this decade were colors commonly worn by people in the military.

Popular colors in the 1940s were meant to be bold without being too overwhelming. Many people preferred to wear simple colors that didn’t stand out much, and most interior colors were easy on the eyes.


Woman 1950s attire
  • Poodle Skirt
  • Lemon Yellow
  • Serene Blue
  • Pistachio
  • Salmon
  • Latte

This is the first year where popular colors changed drastically. Many people steered away from dark and neutral colors and focused on pastel colors instead. Whether it was clothing, advertising, or interior design, many companies focused on light, playful colors that were unlike anything from prior decades.

World War II’s ending is likely one of the reasons for this drastic change. Life became calmer for many people, so they fell in love with colors that mimicked those feelings. The pastel colors were pleasing to look at while still being exciting and different.


1960s color patterns
  • Tangerine
  • Lime
  • Pink Punch
  • Sun Yellow
  • Baby Blue

The 1960s stopped using pastel colors and focused on hues that were deeper, but still colorful. People adored vibrant colors because they symbolized peace, love, and self-expression. Pink, blue, yellow, green, and orange were all common colors during this era. These colorful hues were often paired with geometric shapes and black-and-white patterns.

However, this decade also slowly transitioned into a preference for earth tones. Even though people adored colorful clothes and art, they began to prefer darker and more neutral room designs, including colors like orange, green, gold, and brown.


1970s neutral colors
  • Harvest Gold
  • Rust
  • Tomato
  • Avocado
  • Teak
  • Soft Beige

Bright colors were less trendy in the 1970s. Instead, many people preferred earth tones and mellow color schemes. Colors like gold, red, orange, and green were common. These colors helped people feel relaxed, and the colors weren’t used for self-expression as much.

However, there were plenty of people who still sought out vibrant hues. By the end of the decade, people were starting to favor the brightest colors possible because so many new colors were being used on-screen.


1980s neon color style
  • Neon Pink
  • Neon Purple
  • Aqua
  • Olympic Blue
  • Pac-Man Yellow
  • Scarlet

By the time the 1980s hit, neon colors were in style, which was a drastic change from the earth tones of the ’70s. Video games, toys, and movies evolved drastically during this period, and they often portrayed vibrant colors. Advertising and logos also adopted a loud color scheme. Pink, purple, blue, and yellow were the most common neon colors of the time.

Since colorful designs were so prevalent in the ’80s, neon-colored clothing was trendy. Men and women alike favored neon colors because they were new and different. The colors were commonly associated with joy and fun, and they helped people express themselves and catch the attention of others.


1990s color patterns
  • Jazzberry Jam
  • Dull Pink
  • Burnt Orange
  • Honey
  • Peacock
  • Imperial Purple

During the 1990s, people still enjoyed colorful patterns, but neons slowly went out of style. Instead, people preferred darker versions of colors, such as dark pink, yellow, red, orange, blue, and purple. Almost any colors were welcome in this decade, but they were usually shades of hues rather than vibrant ones.

People were less interested in overly colorful hobbies, and instead, they started to embrace new trends like alternative rock and laid-back clothing designs. Even popular shows and video games adapted a more toned-down color scheme to cater to the trends. The color scheme of the ’90s can be described as colorful, yet relaxing.


2000s color attire
  • Tan
  • Gingerbread
  • Powder Blue
  • Medium Sea Green
  • Light Pink
  • Orange
  • Sunshine

After the ’90s, people began to embrace a variety of colors. Some favored the vibrant colors used in modern technology while others preferred soft, neutral tones. It was a decade where everyone was happy to express themselves in unique ways, so the popular color schemes weren’t as consistent as in past decades.

When it came to clothes and home decor, many people preferred to keep it simple, including colors like light blue, beige, blue-green, and pale pink. However, toys, movies, and advertisements still welcomed lots of bright colors like pink, orange, and green.


Colorful 2010s phone cases
  • Millennial Pink
  • Fern
  • Azure
  • Copper
  • Metallic Gold
  • Cloud Gray

Trends during the 2010s returned to simpler colors. Most people preferred combining colorful hues with neutral tones. Pink, green, and blue were popular, but so were gray, gold, and copper. Like the early 2000s, the 2010s had a variety of popular hues because people love to express themselves in unique ways, so one color scheme doesn’t fit all.

When it came to decorating, that’s where the neutral colors stood out. In this decade, people couldn’t resist rustic wood surfaces or smooth stone designs. Yet, when it came to fashion and hobbies, many people still embraced the excitement of brighter colors. In many homes, you could find a perfect balance between eye-popping colors and calming neutral tones.


2020s modern blue room design
  • Hale Navy
  • Faded Denim
  • Mantis Green
  • Coffee Brown
  • Russet
  • Coral Pink
  • Flame Scarlet

Like the 2000s and 2010s, the 2020s are starting out with a variety of popular colors. When choosing colored products, many people lean toward colors that stand out, such as red, blue, pink, and green. After all, nearly every item you can purchase comes in several color options, so many people are choosing colors based on their personalities and preferences rather than what’s trendy.

Even though bright colors are still in style in most areas, interior design is the opposite. It’s common for people to choose to decorate with calming colors, especially earth tones, in the present day. A big part of this is that people were forced to spend more time at home. Thus, they’ve favored relaxing colors to design with to help ease their worries about the world.

However, the 2020s are just getting started, so these popular colors may shift as trends change.

What Colors Will the Future Hold?

Woman holding 2023 numbers on Viva Magenta tone background

We can never know for certain what colors will be popular in the future, but some color-focused companies like Pantone are good at predicting upcoming color trends. That’s why you might notice stores stocking up on products that use Pantone’s Color of the Year.

However, as colors evolve, so do our preferences. Throughout each decade, a wider variety of colors are used because everyone uses different colors to express themselves. So, in future decades, it’s likely that there will be long lists of popular colors because there are too many trending colors to choose from. The only way to know for sure is to wait and see what the future holds.

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