No, Donald Trump didn’t descent from Loompaland, but one look at his unmistakably orange complexion, and you’d be forgiven for thinking so.
Puzzled citizens have questioned the origins of the Republican presidential candidate’s orange skin tone: Is it a Jersey Shore spray tan? The work of a cancer-causing tanning bed? The after-effects of chemical peels? A beta-carotene addiction? (Perhaps if he squeezed a few carrots between taco bowls.) Some have speculated what he would look like without the rumored fake tan.
We may never know the cause of Trump’s sui generis skin tone–just as we may never know his firm policy stances–but we can deduce the nearest color, and what it means, thanks to the expert eye of the color company Pantone and its standards manuals. It’s difficult to boil him down to just one color, but if you blended together all his hues, you would probably get Pantone 16-1449: the aptly named Gold Flame.
To arrive at that, we invited Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, to run a color analysis of a few photographs of Mr. Trump that our photo editor supplied.
Unfortunately, working off images is an imperfect process since lighting and post-production can impact the color; in a perfect world the best option would be holding color chips directly against Trump’s wrinkly mug under controlled lighting conditions. Additionally, everyone’s hair and skin is composed of many colors–it’s never a single hue.
So analyzing our photographs, Pantone found that Trump’s skin has a number of hues on a gradient ranging from brown-toned orange to golden yellow: Burnt Orange, Desert Sun, Golden Orange, Autumn Blaze, Orange Rust, and Burnt Ochre. “What struck me with [some pictures] is if you look to places on his hair and on his face, they’re the same color,” Pressman says.
If Pressman weren’t matching Pantone swatches to portraits, she would pick Gold Flame as Trump’s signature color. “If you ground up all the colors [I matched to his portraits] and blended it all together, it might come to a color like that,” she says. The color suggests “sturdiness, strength, and endurance,” she says, in addition to “vibrancy and gregariousness.”
Argument 1: Trump is orange because it matches his brash personality
All colors connote certain feelings–blue is universally understood as calm and yellow represents levity. To Pressman, the color orange is about vibrancy.
“The nature of orange as a color can depend on the undertone,” she says. “But if we look straight at orange and think of the freckle-faced kid with the bright orange hair, the carrot top, you think of that color orange as being friendly, extroverted, passionate, outgoing, and very sociable. It’s also fickle, gregarious, and vibrant. As you know, when it comes to hair, I think people who grow up with that color hair naturally stand out because it’s much less common.”
So far, the relationship between Trump and the underlying psychology of the color orange holds water. He’s certainly gregarious, extroverted, and fickle.
Argument 2: Trump is orange because he wants to make things happen
Color is one of the most useful tools in branding as it shapes a consumer’s perception of a product or company. Green and blue can make consumers think a corporation is more environmentally friendly and ethical, for instance.
“Orange is one of those colors that really stimulates your salivary glands, so it’s a great color to use for orange soda and any orange-flavored products,” Pressman says. “By the same token, it could stimulate your appetite. So are those things related? Sure. But if I saw someone walking down the street wearing a bright orange shirt, I wouldn’t say, ‘Oh my god, I’m starving.’ So It would stimulate activity because it’s an action-oriented shade, but it may stimulate different things based on the application.”
Perhaps there’s a subconscious tactic in Trump’s orange glow: It riles people up.
What about Trump’s gilded coif?
“This one I had the most fun with,” Pressman says. “There’s three shades that can speak to his hair. Here you have Desert Sun. Then I had Golden Orange and thought, like all else Donald Trump touches, his hair has gold weaved in because he’s all about gold. In many cultures it speaks to status and prestige, but in the case of Donald Trump it could point to being over the top. And then Autumn Blaze because he has this fiery temperament. No surprise that’s the closest color match to Donald Trump. It’s hot, it’s energized, it’s animated, it’s expansive. At the same time it can speak to being raucous and boisterous, garish or flamboyant, frivolous and offensive.”
Gold Flame, Autumn Blaze, Desert Sun: These colors all look so . . . nice. Personally, if I had to identify Trump’s spirit color, I would pick Pantone 448C, a putrid, fecal, olive-brown—the hue some have deemed to be the ugliest on the planet.
[Cover Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]