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Spotted a new collocation for the word blue today, when looking for a pair of jeans – oil blue.

Admittedly, they are probably just being marketing-minded, inventing (?) such a color of jeans. However, what gives?

The color itself doesn't look blue to me: color. Isn't oil supposed to be black or yellowish? May it be that the denim is very smooth (like oil)?

Is there a cultural meaning associated with this word combination?

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An oil slick produces many different colors including some that are similar in hue to yours: 2.bp.blogspot.com/-Z5rqygK8YP8/ToDoGmeXMbI/AAAAAAAAAlQ/… –  Jim Mar 19 '13 at 7:11
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

As this website on auto repair says:

If you are seeing blue smoke from your exhaust this means that your car engine is burning oil.

That's why this color is a very grayish blue; it's a hue similar to the tint you might see in car exhaust if the engine is burning oil, or similar to the color of exhaust you might see in a 2-cycle engine, where oil is mixed with the fuel rather than being stored in a sump.

enter image description here Companies manufacturing paints, crayons, dyes, or fingernail polish are faced with the unenviable task of naming perhaps dozens of shades of the same base color, and they will often name some shades after everyday objects. Sometimes those names are simply reminiscent of the object they are named after, not exact matches. So banana yellow may not be the exact shade as a real banana, and denim blue might not precisely match your Levi's. In this case, this dull bluish green color had to be named something, and someone was evidently reminded of an oil slick or the blue tint of oil-laced exhaust.

enter image description here
Eggplant? Maybe not exactly, but close enough for a color palatte.

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Good answer, thank you very much! –  katspaugh Mar 19 '13 at 10:34
    
I like this answer best for its intuitive explanation. –  katspaugh Mar 19 '13 at 21:45
    
hmmm........... –  mplungjan Mar 19 '13 at 21:48
    
Sorry, @mplungjan :) –  katspaugh Mar 20 '13 at 12:39
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Here is oil blue as defined by Pantone

#638E8B

Pantone Oil Blue

Seems this colour may have been with us for a long time The Chemical News and Journal of Industrial Science vol 117, 1818

and seems to be recognisable in fashion

Levis Oil Blue

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That's really not a bad match to the question's colour swatch. –  St John of the Cross Mar 19 '13 at 9:57
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That confirms that oil blue is a set phrase. Still unclear on the semantics and etymology. –  katspaugh Mar 19 '13 at 10:31
    
So it seems, the term owes its origin to the chemical characteristics of the corresponding dye. Thanks for the factual answer! –  katspaugh Mar 19 '13 at 12:32
    
I could alas not confirm this - there is an Oil Blue A in Wikipedia but it shows the chemical formula and not the actual colour –  mplungjan Mar 19 '13 at 12:38
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This is an interesting puzzle. Two things are evident: there are shades of "oil blue" named because of their chemistry, and there is a shade of "oil blue" used in fashion. Whether the name carried over from the former to the latter, or whether the shared terminology is mere coincidence, that's harder to say. The Wikipedia page says the chemical can turn a "dirty green", but the pants look a bit brighter than what this company calls beach bum blu. –  J.R. Mar 19 '13 at 16:09
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