Pdid we have fun with brown? This is undoubtedly the case for children, who readily associate it with a natural physical phenomenon that they find hilarious. Growing up, another term imposed itself: we then spoke rather of “brown”, but it was not fashionable for clothes, “brown shirts” being of sinister memory, since they referred to the uniform, adopted in 1925, by members of the German National Socialist Party.
Today, brown evokes a form of simplicity, like the color of the robes of Franciscan monks. In Roman society, it went so far as to designate the scum of Roman society. Pullati, associated term to qualify the lowest strata of the people, comes from pullus, “dark in color, blackish, brownish, dark”, in reference to the tint of their toga. In the Middle Ages, clothes for workers who got dirty were notably made from the remains of goat’s wool, hair spun with unbleached linen and brown hemp. What give a small idea of the color of the work.
But the wide palette of browns also offers a promise of adventure. The word “brown” comes from the German brown : the color of the bear’s coat. It is therefore often associated with skins, such as leather or suede, willingly worn by men who once embodied a certain ideal of virility: from the ultra-burnt aviator jacket of Steve McQueen in The great Escape (1963) to the brown-red V-neck sweater of Inspector Harry (1971), camped by Clint Eastwood. A masculinity that is now distant, linked to the 1960s and especially the 1970s, a decade during which earthy colors, from orange-brown to mustard, were everywhere…
In The colors of our memories (Seuil, 2010), the medieval historian Michel Pastoureau, a specialist in the symbolism of colors, reminds us that there is a “social morality” of these. He thus notes that, “for the industrial society of the XIXe century ending, the bright colors, those which attract the eye and capture the attention, are indecent colors”. In these times of global warming and declining biodiversity, the brown and sand tones of natural materials (but also flour and unrefined sugars or kraft bags for bulk, etc.) have imposed themselves against the colorful colors of plastic. and synthetic textiles. The carelessness of the fluo years seems far away. It’s time for sobriety, an argument sometimes used for publicity purposes by the very people who have encouraged the opposite for years. In this case, the expression “to be brown” may apply.