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We’ve all been wrong about brown

A colour to reflect the mood

Solid, reliable, dependable and resilient. Four words that can be used to describe just about nothing right now. Apart from…brown.

The aforementioned adjectives are the psychological attributes of the colour brown. They have never been more appropriate, so it might be time to start considering it as a key colour in your wardrobe.

Descriptions of the colour brown are often prefixed with adjectives such as dull, drab and dirty, or even the colour of your dad’s socks. So why is every piece of clothing I’ve bought in the last month brown?

Fashion psychologist and founder of Fashion is Psychology, Shakaila Forbes-Bell says that your colour choice can have an effect on your mood. “Brown often contains long wavelength colours like red and yellow, it can serve to heighten the senses and evoke feelings of warmth,” which makes sense physically as we go into winter and emotionally as being stuck at home takes its toll.

You may think this is a complicated colour to get right but there’s a specific type of brown I’m talking about. Not that wishy washy brown that’s verging on beige, but a deep, rich, chocolatey brown and there’s a reason we are all reaching for it. “As humans, we tend to mimic our surroundings as a way of adapting. The popularity of the colour brown could be our way of adapting to the fall season and becoming more grounded in our environment,” says Forbes-Bell.

The high street is dominated by winter tones, with brown being a stand out, but as always this is a result of a trickle down from the high end designers and their A/W collections.

“I think brown is a colour that will always be around. It’s a soothing shade and especially in the time we’re living in, I think designers are bringing brown into their collections to make people feel calm rather than using flashy and loud colours,” says stylist, Dani Behan.

The Budapest based label, Nanushka, often works from a modern, muted colour palette. This season, brown is featured throughout the collection in every form – satin trousers, vegan leather shirts, wool overcoats, jumpsuits, bags and even scrunchies.

Christopher Kane has also been all about the brown, playing with texture pairings such as lace and satin and knit and sequins. His use of colours in the AW/20 collection felt like a homage to autumn.

three people wearing brown clothes

Image courtesy of @christopherkane via Instagram

“Whether it’s used in clothing or as an accessory, it suits every kind of piece. Brown also goes well with many other colours, so sign me up,” says Eda Onay, founder of  Fashion Wonderer, a curated fashion Instagram account.

But why now for the rise of brown?

“I think people are paying attention to sustainability and so subconsciously forest tones have become quite desirable. It’s a durable colour that doesn’t necessarily have a short life span in your wardrobe,” says Christian Kye, founder of eponymous clothing label.

Kye acknowledges that brown is having a bit of a moment in the fashion industry. He therefore wanted to show this through his latest collection. “It was nice for us to be able to find something that reflects the essence of brown but then it’s got a bit of an alternative edge,” he says, talking of the smokey gold, velvet set that was released earlier this month. “It’s not as casual as a lot of pieces from other sustainable brands, and still has that edge,” says Kye.

person wearing smokey gold velvet set

Christian Kye smokey gold velvet set. Image courtesy of

As Onay remarks, the pandemic has put a lot of things into perspective, obviously some being more important than others. But fashion has its role and relevance within everyone’s lives: “We automatically felt like we should invest in pieces more wisely, and since brown is a timeless colour it became popular and I’m so happy about it.”

Look how things have changed; it was only seven years ago when Pantone 448 C, ‘drab dark brown’ was voted the ugliest colour and was subsequently chosen to be the colour of all cigarette packaging. A clever play to help ward people off smoking.

But we can’t go giving 2020 all the credit for inventing brown as a fashion statement. The 1970s surely deserve that crown. “I think brown will always be around, it’s a colour that is timeless and sensible. My particular favourite use of browns was in the 70s,” says Behan.

Back in the 70s no one would bat an eyelid if you were to have a brown hued sofa, on a brown carpet with brown wallpaper. Right now, the wall colour is more likely to be sage green, but it is very possible your jumper could be brown.

One of brown’s most significant characteristics seems to be its ability to age well, in the way that bell bottom trousers did not. “Before all the corona madness, interest in minimalist style had increased and one of the essential colors for this type of style is brown. So as hype for minimalism mounted we’ve started to see more brown in stores,” says Onay.

person in a brown dress

Image courtesy of @fashionwonderer via Instagram

As well as being in the spotlight this year for its accessories, Bottega Veneta has also been championing brown. Creative director Daniel Lee’s fall ready-to-wear collection consisted of three main colours – black, lime green and yes, brown. The textures differed from leather and sequins to a shearling jacket with the colour description of ‘hot chocolate’. “Whether it’s a leather accessory or clothing, it just looks so classy and high quality,” say Onay.

Texture is also important when it comes to styling brown. Head to toe in brown nylon might not have the statement effect you’re after. “The textures I love at the moment are wools, suit fabrics and cottons,” says Behan

It can be a difficult colour to style correctly as you don’t want it to look dull. Kye says: “I don’t like mixing too many other colours with it, just make sure you accessorise with gold jewellery or pearls and stay within the forest tones when you’re wearing brown and let the outfit flow.”

It’s a colour for everyone and by the sounds of it will feel like a warm and reliable hug. But go and buy something brown for yourself to test that theory.

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