Color numbers

I was trying to write an entry about SKUs (because some people think the style number and SKU are the same thing) but then I got bogged down into an endless spiral of searching for standard color numbers. Way back when, companies used a standard series of numbers to indicate color (which was a part of the SKU). By no means was the color number related to Pantone or other coloring systems, it was just an in-house reference to the primary color of the style. For example, using 001 for Black is still pretty universal, grey was 002, red was 011, white was 081, blue was 076, brown was 021. Do any of you have a more complete listing of these basic color reference numbers? If so, please add those to comments. Thanks.

[post amended]
Maybe I should have been a bit more specific. Evidently, the apparel industry system was based on the NBS/ISCC protocols, the colors of which you can see here. I was asking if someone had the basic stock list of colors as companies rarely use this gamut of numbers to distinguish basic colors. It’s a list of ten basic colors and numbers. The numbering system was not intended for color matching (ala Pantone) just basic color classes to stick on line sheets. Nothing fancy, this color numbering system falls in the category of tacit knowledge. Any old time sales rep will know them as well as they know their own name.

Get New Posts by Email


  1. christy fisher says:

    Here are a few links to send you in a colorful journey. The first has a card/number from the TCCA (textile color card association):
    This has various card/numbers:
    Here is an article of interest from Textile World (BTW, I love that site):
    …and here is another from the Color forecasting association:

  2. christy fisher says:

    This may not post since I am doing two in a row, but I will try:
    Most numbers I deal with from my suppliers have the color number written after a slash like:
    ..rather than trying to “incorporate” the color number into the actual item number (1200101, etc)

  3. Apparel Angel says:

    In the company that I work for, we use Black-001, White-100, Red-200, Yellow-400, and Blue-600, Brown-900. Color variations within the main 6 colors are given codes depending on their main color family, like Pink-299, Purple-699. The problem is that we are running out of color codes. We use Panotone color standards, but everytime Pantone has a variation on a color we’ve already assigned a code to, we issue a new code, and color name.

  4. Andrea Petrini says:

    Hello all,

    Please forgive me as I know this question has probably been asked a million times, but referring to COLOR within a style number, does one change the style number based on color or fabric even if object is the same pattern? i.e. i have a box in black with red buttons (let’s say style #49001) and also want to offer the box in taupe with orange buttons. Does this then become #49002? or a number referenced as offered above my Apparel Angel?

  5. Kathleen says:

    A style number refers to a make or model; it is not a SKU which is what color changes require (at retail). A style can have any number of colorways. If the pattern is identical, the style number doesn’t change.

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.