Fall has arrived. That means Mother Nature has one last blast of color in store for us before the winter whitewash begins. The same can be said for our clothing. Spring, summer and fall clothing are as colorful as the world around us, but winter clothing tends to be drab. As I’ve thumbed through catalogs filled with fall and winter clothing, I noticed that some of the descriptions of the colors of those clothes can be helpful and some are utterly useless. Sure, I can see the color on the page of the catalog or on the website, but I want to know if the red is more like a cherry or a cranberry. Is the purple more like a plum or an eggplant? That’s when I look to the name of the color to help me narrow down the exact hue.
Anyone familiar with buying paint or cosmetics knows that there are some wacky names for colors. Descriptions of clothing used to be more straightforward. Over the past year, I’ve taken note of some of the unusual color names I’ve come across for clothing.
The Culinary Collection
The grocery store is clearly an inspiration for the people selecting names for many colors. There is a smorgasbord of food names used to describe the color of clothing. Of all the color names I came across, these seemed to be the most helpful in trying to determine an exact shade of a color. Most of the names in this collection fall into one of these 5 sub-categories: fruits and vegetables, condiments, grains, ice cream and beverages. You can wake up in the morning and dress yourself in oatmeal, raisin and coffee. Not getting enough vegetables in your diet; wear pumpkin, beet and okra. You can don a shiraz shirt and head to happy hour. Have a craving for something sweet? No problem. Just wear pistachio cream or butterscotch.
The Natural Collection
These colors inspired by the world around us are descriptive, but ambiguous. Fresh air and sea breeze are seemingly similar in concept, yet vastly different in color. Other than brown smog, air doesn’t really have a color. If you feel like you need a vacation, dress yourself with a destination in mind. If you’ve planned your wardrobe well, there’s no need to ever leave your closet. You can spend a day at the beach by wearing sand, palm and Caribbean colored clothing. If you prefer a walk in a garden, dress yourself in hydrangea, rose and bark. (I’m pretty sure they meant tree – not dog.)
The Insult Collection
Feeling blue? Maybe it’s the color you’re wearing that is affecting your mood. The names of these colors don’t do much to improve the wearer’s self-esteem.
Lush – Clothing items with this name were wine colored, not the lush green of a jungle. This makes me believe that the marketers were hoping to appeal to heavy drinkers. Go ahead; spill your red wine on this shirt. It will blend right in.
Drab – Hopefully this appeals to a person who prefers a subdued color palette, not a description of their overall personality.
Traffic cone – When I’m stuck in traffic, I have plenty of time to contemplate how lovely I would look wearing something the same shade of neon orange as the cones obstructing my lane.
Elephant –Who wouldn’t feel like a million bucks when they’re wearing clothing that reminds them of a huge, wrinkled creature? Elephants are intelligent and graceful for their size, but they can pull off the gray wrinkles much better than humans can.
The Logophile Collection
These color names are helpful descriptors, if you can decipher them. This collection appeals to those with a sense of fashion and a big vocabulary. Colors like cerulean, vermillion, ochre and jonquil all fall into this category. The most challenging color I came across was vicuña. I had no idea what that was. Thanks to Google, I now know that a vicuña is a South American animal similar to a llama. I guess if you’re willing to wear elephant, why not wear vicuña?
The WTF Collection
Clearly, the marketing people who selected these color names were absolutely out of ideas or high on something. These words do nothing to suggest a particular color.
Flag –This isn’t helpful. Which country’s flag are they referring to? This leaves too much room for interpretation.
Horizon – What time of day should I look at the horizon to get an idea of the color of the clothing?
Heritage – I don’t even know where to begin with how useless this word is as a description for a color.
Pebble – Why stop with pebble? Why not gravel, dust, dirt, grout? The possibilities for this generic color are endless.
Nomad – Tan is such a bland color. Calling it nomad is so much more exotic.
Midnight affair – This shade of teal must be the official color of adulterers.
Plum kitten – I’ve had cats in my life since I was 3 years old. Never once have I seen a plum kitten. Purple is my favorite color. Believe me, if cats came in that color, I’d have gotten one.
Not getting a clear description of the clothing I’d like to buy has me seeing red. Well, maybe it’s not red, maybe it’s cranberry or ketchup or summer sunset.
What strange color names have you come across?