Why do passports only come in one of four colours?
Passports come in a range of colours, but most of them are quite bland.
Dark blue, deep red, bottle green, black.
Why not hot pink, electric blue or lime green? Why do they only come in one of four colours? Or, as Alex Ledsom asks in her article for Forbes, why doesn’t it show the flag on the front?
Passports are fairly standardised, yes, but in actual fact there is no specified size requirement, neither is there any legal requirement for passports having to be one of four sombre shades – red, blue, black or green.
There are some exceptions to this limited colour gamut. Switzerland's passport is scarlet and Canada uses white for temporary travel documents.
And, if you put them all side by side, you can actually see variations in hue and tone.
Image source: Passport Index
And, sure, the coat of arms, herald or shield differentiates them.
But, the only legal requirements for passports are that they must be made of a bendable material, they need to be machine readable in temperatures ranging from -10°C to 50°C and at humidity levels ranging from 5 per cent to 95 per cent.
So why the boring colours?
Well, according to The Telegraph, it’s ‘because they look more official than a lime green or fiery orange’.
Politics also plays into it. All EU passports are burgundy. The British passport was too, but since Brexit, it’s now dark blue.
Australia’s colour way is shared by most ‘new world’ countries, such as the US, Canada and South American countries.
The US passport has had multiple colour ways in the past, starting from red, to green, to the now blue.
And many Islamic countries like green passports, as it was rumoured to be the prophet Muhammed's favourite colour.
Business Insider has a much more ‘business-like’ explanation for the limited passport colours.
It says that because only a few companies in the world are allowed to make passports, it’s a highly controlled process, so using the same colour is obvious and specific card stock satisfies practical and legal requirements.
Where passports really set themselves apart is on the inside, with elaborate watermarks and hidden features that protect them against fraud and counterfeiting.
Under UV or black light, a Norwegian passport displays a graphic representation of the Northern Lights. Australia’s shows five kangaroos when tilted at a certain angle and the Canadian passport displays national treasures such as maple leaves, historical buildings, historical figures, fireworks and the Niagara Falls.
Flip through a Finnish passport and you’ll see an animated moose. While the Indonesian passport features different illustrations on each page, such as the Komodo dragon, the Rafflesia flower, a shadow puppet, and giant Betawi effigies.
While passports may be boring on the outside, as any traveller will tell you, it’s what’s inside that counts. And the most beautiful thing you can have inside a passport is a wide range of entry stamps.
How many passports do you have or have you seen? Which is your favourite?
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