Is it just me, or do you, on any given day, also find yourself wearing all-black everything? I hate to break it to you if you don’t, but you’re probably not the majority here. In fact, long having transcended the territory of a traditional outfit choice, all-black has now risen to the ranks of a uniform of sorts, a generally flattering hue associated with all things sleek, edgy, and elegant.
But as chic as this rather overly-romanticized notion of an ensemble so completely devoid of color sounds, a perfectly executed all-black look isn’t always the easiest to achieve. And much to your dismay, the line between channeling your inner femme fatale or morphing into a giant walking blob of darkness is dangerously thin (I speak from experience). Or perhaps, you’re feeling fatigued by a seemingly endless supply of all-black everything around you, much like how Kylie Jenner’s big white couch has come to occupy significant social media real estate as of late.
Either way, if you’re looking to mix things up, boy, do I have just the thing for you! Introducing navy – the new black!
An Illustrious Past
Well, not so much a “new black” as a “lesser black that’s been around for a couple of centuries, but hey, that’s just semantics.
Interestingly, the application of navy blue dates much further into the past, in civilizations as far apart as the Mayans in Central America and the Mings in China, even though the official history of navy only begins in 1748. Initially dubbed marine blue, the uniforms of the British Royal Navy were updated that year with a distinctive shade sourced from colonial indigo plantations across the expansive English empire. The color eventually caught on, was soon adopted by navies worldwide, and continues to possess nautical connotations today. And because of its military past, navy is still perceived as a hue relating to discipline and authority (geeky-me of elementary school, in a uniform comprising starched white shirts and navy trousers, would certainly attest to that).
Thus, we find ourselves in the present day, where navy manages to strike a balance not many colors can – professional, yet casual; dark as a winter’s night (to put it poetically), but also cheery as a summer morning. And this has cemented its status as a popular neutral in recent times, pairing well with everything from earthy shades to jewel tones to black too (be gone, fashion police)!
Or at least, that’s true as far as ready-to-wear is concerned.
Does Black Still Reign Supreme?
Unless you’ve vowed to exclusively wear black all the time (in hindsight, an understandable sentiment), chances are, you do have a couple of go-to navy pieces in your closet. But are they purses? Unlikely.
In fact, on a general level, shoppers also seem to gravitate to a far lesser degree towards navy bags than their more popular Gothic counterparts (although black is perhaps the most popular handbag hue there is, and therefore, not entirely a fair comparison). But then again, if a black bag can seamlessly transition into most wardrobes, by that token, navy should, too, right?
Well, opinions seem to differ on the subject. Although navy purses balance most color schemes, matching navy handbags with shoes, accessories, or clothing seems almost unanimously discouraged. Hence, while an all-black outfit could be the definition of chic, the thought of an all-navy outfit sends shivers down my spine.
It is, however, navy leather accessories that seem to suffer from a bad rap, since the color’s saturation, depending on the types and grades of hides used, can vary disproportionately. Compared to black, which is often deemed a safe, neutral choice, navy purses might appear wildly different and, at times, rather inexpensive and/or poorly done in real life. Add to that its reputation as a lesser substitute for black, and it’s not difficult to see why brands and buyers alike have traditionally steered clear of the shade.
Deserving of a Second Chance?
The strength of navy, however, lies in its origins – a nautical-inspired, summery shade perfect for a day at the beach (even if you don’t live anywhere near one; fashion is all about make-believe, after all).
In fact, when it comes to dark, non-black neutrals, navy has very little competition (except burgundy, which is generally presumed to be a more fall-appropriate colorway). And as we charge into the hottest months of the year, black, despite all its versatility and appeal, simply start to feel rather basic and even uncharacteristically dark. Navy, on the other hand, with its at-once dressy yet laid-back vibe, would complement flowy pastel sundresses and denim, too (and it’s one of the few shades where you can safely dismiss all worries about color transfers – win-win indeed!)
Bonus? If you happen to ascribe to the subversive fairy-core trend (yes, that’s a thing), navy purses might just be your best friend! And, of course, navy itself encompasses several other hues, from indigo and cobalt on the brighter side to midnight and ink on the darker end of the spectrum; you only have to take your pick!
So, now that you have the lowdown on navy, would you consider it a true neutral? TPFer HesitantShopper certainly seems to think so: “It’s a massive neutral, less common than black, less worrisome than lighter colors, and suits year-round.” I, for one, personally believe it’s never too late to whip up a preppy, sailor-inspired outfit that brings all your summer fantasies to life (and it doesn’t hurt to have your own yacht, either!)