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Kids Room Designs

What Is ‘Sad Beige’ Parenting And How Did We Get Here?

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Some parents find a beige color palette soothing.

Some parents find a beige color palette soothing.

If you’ve been shopping for a baby shower gift over the past few years, you may have noticed that a certain color palette dominates rompers, wall hangings, and wooden toys.

This drab black and white that has taken a hold on children’s fashion and design was sharply dubbed “sad beige” by humor writer Hayley DeRoche, who describes the offerings of luxury children’s stores in the brooding voice of German filmmaker Werner Herzog on her TikTok account , That Sad Beige Lady. The videos DeRoche told HuffPost she shot mostly in her car on her lunch break from work as a librarian and have now garnered 12.5 million likes.

In a recent post, DeRoche/Herzog says matter-of-factly, “I call this the blank stare into the abyss where we all head, whether we dress in cashmere or scavenge.” The video ends with the reveal that the “babies’ sable cashmere polo” modeled by an unsmiling child is on sale for $95 at Banana Republic.

Even those unfamiliar with DeRoche’s satire and some of the companies she mocks might recognize the less-than-colorful trend in the nursery decor of celebrity babies, such as Kylie Jenner’s son.

In a video titled “To Our Son” that Jenner released on YouTube last March, the footage of the nursery is so monochromatic that at first you’d think it was filmed in black and white. Big sister Stormi, in her patternless beige pajamas, leads viewers on a tour of ‘the nursery’. We see her gently tapping the muted gray, beige and pink beads of a rainbow toy that shares a shelf with brown and white stuffed animals and natural wood blocks. The walls, the chair, the carpet, the soft wave created by the shadows of the bed slats: all shades of beige, grey, off-white.

Jenner’s nursery exudes both a minimalist calmness and a depth of richness unimaginable to most parents. Unsurprisingly, the accessories that best fit this scheme are also some of the most expensive.

Where does “sad beige” come from?

A few things may have fueled this muted turn in kids’ fashion. First, in a flight from the gender restrictions of aggressively marketed pink or blue, some people may have made their way to beige as a gender-neutral option. Shades with names like sand, oatmeal and ecru don’t scream masculine or feminine. They don’t scream at all, they quietly blend into the background of whatever off-white your walls may have been painted.

Second, nothing beats bringing a new human into the world to strengthen your ecological conscience. You don’t want endless clear plastic waste floating in the ocean, and you don’t want brightly colored plastic toys and accessories disrupting the peaceful atmosphere of your child’s nursery.

Finally, there is a connection with natural materials that are safe and non-toxic for babies. For example, unpainted wooden toys and unbleached, undyed cotton are usually shades of beige, so the color becomes shorthand for simplicity and health.

When the trend matches a company’s commitment to environmentally sustainable, ethical production, it fulfills this tacit promise and consumers can assume that higher costs reflect these standards. But, as DeRoche pointed out, just because a product is beige in color doesn’t mean it was ethically or sustainably sourced. Parents should do their research if they don’t want to fall prey to greenwashing.

What is the allure of a beige color palette?

The sad beige aesthetic has taken on meanings beyond genderless and non-toxic. It also stands for something: the authority and dominance of mature tastes.

Distressed beige appeals to parents, especially parents-to-be or new parents who are concerned about how a new child will disrupt the serene aesthetic of their home—and their lives.

Parents who identify with the sad beige trend “don’t want to compromise on aesthetics. They don’t want their home to be flooded with oceans of sequins or neon slime or polyester ball gowns,” explained Martha Alexander, a journalist and parent, in an interview with the BBC.

Besides not cramping their style, a room – or child – decked out in beige is the equivalent of an off-white wall. “I think this aesthetic is sometimes trendy, especially with influencers, because it can make products stand out,” said DeRoche.

“If your whole life is basically your stage, then your home should be that background, which is why I think we often see that neutral background with influencers. It’s really all about marketing,” DeRoche added.

It’s also not unreasonable to think about how your child will fit in with your appearance if you spend most of the day with that child.

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“Our kids are a reflection of our own personal style,” Krista Boehm, who runs online baby and kids clothing boutique Aspen + James, told HuffPost.

“White and beige are a trend in adult fashion, so when I carry my child strapped to my chest, I enjoy a look that works together, and she’s too small to care,” adds Boehm.

The company’s website, which features a lot of beige, lists “neutral colors,” which Boehm says match customer demand.

“We know that many moms use those specific keywords in online searches,” she explains.

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Parents who identify with the sad beige trend “don't want to compromise on aesthetics.

Parents who identify with the sad beige trend “don’t want to compromise on aesthetics.

Parents who identify with the sad beige trend “don’t want to compromise on aesthetics.

Mommy-and-me outfits are trending, and grown women are more likely to buy items in this family of colors to wear themselves.

Other benefits of beige, Boehm said, are that it goes with almost anything and can be passed on to children of any gender.

Why is mocking “sad beige” so much fun?

In addition to being witty and smart, DeRoche’s TikTok videos tap into another urge shared by many parents: Schadenfreude at the expense of newer parents.

We all start out with lofty goals for our parenting: color palettes we won’t touch and food additives they’ll never eat. Then reality hits, and before you know it, you’re knee-deep in Happy Meal boxes and bright pink tutus.

“When I was pregnant, I thought I was going to live in a Scandinavian utopia,” said Alexander, who admitted that she “almost immediately failed” to fulfill this vision.

“It all went downhill with the jumperoo,” she said.

DeRoche, the parent of an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old, describes her parenting palette as an “exploding circus,” adding that in her home “nothing is Instagram worthy.”

“I think it’s really easy to be a minimalist when you have a baby,” she said, “but it gets much harder when they’re really little people.”

While DeRoche says she has aesthetic preferences and has even expressed them in some of the art she has in her home, she has given up the illusion that she can control her environment or its inhabitants.

“Having an aesthetic, I think, is a valiant effort to maintain the illusion of control,” DeRoche said. “We all want to be in control of our parenting at all times. And it’s just a long, hard experience to be like, ‘Wow, I only have 10% control when I thought I’d have 100’ – it was very humbling as a person.

While she loves beige, Boehm knows that the days of dominating her child’s wardrobe are numbered.

“I fully expect my own 1-year-old daughter to be the one to dictate what she will wear one day,” she said, “and I will encourage and fully support her in developing her own style — colors and all.”

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