BROWN, THE NEW BLACKOregonian, The (Portland, OR) - Sunday, September 14, 1997Author: VIVIAN McINERNY of the Oregonian Staff
Summary: No longer considered drab, brown has been re-christened `mocha,' `suede' and `tobacco' and is the new must-have color for fall
After seasons of displaying more black than nuns in mourning, the fashion industry has finally embraced a new color: brown.
What, you expected canary yellow?
Despite its fickle reputation, the fashion industry approaches change with caution.
So, stepping out from the shadow of blackness, fashionable types find themselves basking in brown.
Just don't expect to hear that dull description of the shade.
Brown is just too blah.
Clever copy writers have dreamed up all sorts of colorful euphemisms, including chocolate, iced coffee, tobacco, suede, stone and even spaniel.
A brown by any other name would sell as sweet.
Look at the cosmetic counters.
Revlon's new Stone Edge line offers brown beautifiers with names such as ranch mink, taupe star and iced mocha. Maybelline's Velvet Crush display features images of supermodel Kristy Turlington sporting brown velvet and pitching mocha polish and creamy cocoa lip liner. Only the Estee Lauder company calls a spade a spade -- or in this case, a brown a brown -- with its Upside Brown line.
This craze for brown reaches from head (brunette, of course) to toe (coffee-colored nail polish) and all that body space in between.
Just about every clothing company imaginable offers brown this season, from the real-life lines available at K-Mart, Target and Fred Meyer to the fairy tale togs of designer runways such as Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren. Indeed, brown seems to lend respectability to clothing.
Consider leather pants. In black, they smack of bikers and aging rock stars. (How does that Steve Tyler keep his thighs so thin?) In brown, the same pants look positively country clubbish. So give up the hog wheels for high heels and a twin set.
Plush and touchable fall fabrics like velvet, velour, boucle and even corduroy take on an almost aristocratic air in brown. Accented with bright green or red, they look sharp. Layered with beige, taupe, gray or black (yikes, not again!), they look ultra urbane.
Brown makes a big bag look right. After several years of carrying teensy tiny purses to prove their low-maintenance status, women are shouldering big, soft, deep, bags that say: ``I'm carrying the kitchen sink. What of it?'' In black, the bags might look a little too ``traveling salesman.'' Bright gym bag colors won't do. Too many sweaty sit-up connotations. And as for pastels? Bless those baby bottoms, but few women want to lug about a changing-table-on-a-strap contraption if they don't have to. Now they can brown-bag it.
In the 1700s ``brown talk'' referred to society's most sophisticated manner of speech. In 1990s' ``fashion speak,'' brunettes are the new blondes and brown is the new black. P.S. 12/2010 I've been going to the archives of Multnomah County Library to look up some old articles -- the public library archives go back further than The Oregonian's -- and found this. Thought it was interesting because blank-is-the-new-black sounds so cliche and here's proof that it's been around at least 14 years.