Brown's Back, Baby
Brown is worming itself back into our closets, and more importantly, our hearts. Proof? Pinterest Trends search data around "brown outfits" has seen immense growth over the last six months.
The fascinating complexity behind this little trend in fashion – and the broader design world – will make excellent (virtual) water cooler convo.
If you are skeptical, you aren’t alone. Across the globe, individuals consistently consider brown their least favorite color. You also probably have yet to meet someone who claims it is their favorite color – so few do. Poor, poor brown.
It turns out this isn’t exactly a new take on the seemingly blah color. Instead, the universal preference (or lack thereof) is rooted in centuries old history. Particularly, in fashion, brown represented the bottom rung. Brown pigments were easy to come by, cheap, and overly accessible. Ancient Rome’s plebeians were called “pullati” or “those dressed in brown.” As a result, brown clothing was often left for the poor. The wealthy instead turned to expensive dyes like scarlet to flaunt their status. They wouldn’t be caught dead in brown.
Throwing it back to the 4th century, England went as far as to make it law that "Keepers of Beasts, Threshers of Corn, and all Manner of People of Estate [...] that have not 40 Shillings of Goods" only wear russet (aka brown). The bourgeois’ greatest nightmare was rolling up on market day wearing the same color as a farmer.
We no longer think about brown through the lens of class, but boy, do we still dislike it. There are more emotive, symbolic reasons for this. Brown as a color is humbly inconspicuous. It is the color of dirt. Although a neutral color like black, white and gray, brown may carry too much baggage to hold the same representation in your wardrobe.
Despite all this, brown is still having a moment. But why now?
Perhaps all the things that make brown so blah are also the reason it is the perfect color for today’s world. Over the past year, COVID has slowed our lives and forced us to notice the world around us. Our priorities have shifted. We have fostered an affinity towards nature escapes that envelop us in hues of brown.
There is a refreshed appreciation for nature’s humble and dependable state. We actively seek warmth and normalcy. We are reaching for all the things brown represents… Brown is humble, dependable, warm, and a little boring. It is a reminder that normalcy and "eh" is good after a year that has been anything but.
JR. CREATIVE STRATEGIST
Heller E., Psychologie de la couleur' -effets et symboliques, (2009)
St Clair, Kassia, The Secret Lives of Colors, (2016)