Is brown the new black? In 2021 it certainly feels like it.
The colour, which has long been unloved (the playwright Lee Blessing famously said: “Oh come on! Nobody’s favourite colour is brown!”), is trending in all its shades – from chocolate to caramel and beyond.
This week Angelina Jolie was revealed as the cover star of British Vogue’s March issue, dressed in office-chic, in shades of almond brown, peanut and tortilla by Max Mara, Ralph Lauren and Sablyn. While searches for The North Face Puffer – one of the most coveted items of clothing of the last few months – in brown has increased by a massive 1,950%. On the autumn/winter 2021 menswear catwalks of Jil Sander and Hermes the colour played a significant part, while fashion houses Jacquemus and Bottega Veneta also featured the colour in their spring/summer 2021 collections. Simple searches for the colour “brown” have increased by 350% (between July and December) on resale platform Depop.
The colour, which is already predicted to be a favourite in interiors (Ideal Home magazine named the “Brown Bunny” shade a key homes trend, praising its ability to “reduce anxiety”), has been worn by Adut Akech, Alexa Chung and Bella Hadid, who have worn many items, including teddy coats, leather trousers and suede boots featuring tan, terracotta and mocha variations of the colour.
Experts are linking its popularity to lockdown and our reconnection to the great outdoors. “During 2020, we noted an uptick in natural, restorative tones as consumers flocked to the great outdoors,” says Johanna Thomas, head of colour at Coloro, a tone consultancy. “Whether hiking, walking or camping, consumers were seeking comfort in grounding and authentic hues.”
It’s something confirmed by Holly Tenser, Ready to Wear buying manager at fashion boutique Browns. “Classic demure neutrals have continued to perform over the last two seasons,” she says. “Shades of brown offer a fresh alternative to black and white essentials.”
Perhaps, inevitability, the extended Kardashian-Jenner clan has been responsible for pushing the brown agenda. Kendall Jenner was notably photographed wearing the North Face puffer (in brown, natch). And Travis Scott (rapper and Kylie Jenner’s ex) dressed for Halloween in a brown Batman outfit; it was just a continuation of his love of the colour, which was articulated through brown emojis on Instagrams, a collection of Lamborghini Urus in the colour and his capsule collection with McDonald’s featuring the shade, which some have named “roach” brown. While Kanye West (Kim Kardashian’s ex) featured the colour in his Yeezy fashion line (most notably in Yeezy season one in 2015), Kim Kardashian’s latest SKIMS collection of loungewear also put the colour centre stage.