In 2016 our family went on a long awaited vacation to Portugal… and since one can’t travel to Europe with a suitcase full of last year’s drab clothes, I took the opportunity to go shopping. I wandered through the mall looking for items that caught my eye, came home with an armful of bags and proceeded to proudly show my purchases to the family. When I finished dumping the contents of the bags on the kitchen table, my wife finally asked, “you spent an afternoon at the mall buying black t-shirts?” Yes. Yes I did. It was in that moment that my wardrobe went from drab to drabber. The lazy part of my brain had made a decision and the practical part had backed him up—jeans and a black tee was to be my new uniform, and six years later, it still is. I mean, I do stray, I’m not as dedicated as Steve Jobs who donned a black Issey Miyake turtleneck, Levi’s 501 jeans and a pair of New Balance 992 sneakers (aka the “dad shoe”) daily, but a bulk of my time is spent in uniform. (Incidentally, if someone is thinking about writing a bio of my life, “Ripped Jeans and a Black Tee” will make a great title… just saying).
So why would a person who considers himself creative and has spent most of his life trying to stand out in a crowd decide to blandly blend into the background? I can ask you the same question. I’ll guess that at least one of the cars in you driveway is either white, black, grey or shiny grey (aka silver); you’re appliances are likely white or stainless steel; your carpet is a shade of tan; and your walls are probably a shade of grey, beige or a combo of the two— greige, is now the best neutral colour ever. Your musical tastes may even fall into that neutral void, I mean Ed Sheeran is the most beige singer of our time, and someone is streaming his songs.
So why do we seem to crave boring? I can only assume its practicality. Neutral may fail the personality test, but it rarely goes out of style. My grey car will sell quicker than the yellow one, unless, of course, the car is a Corvette and the buyer happens to be a dude going through a mid-life crisis (cha-ching). Neutral walls allow us to decorate with bold colours (if we choose) and not have to repaint every time trends change, and a grey suit can be easily dressed up with a loud tie or an even louder pocket square.
It’s also possible that many of us would rather not stand out. Being safe and blending in is an easy way to navigate life—and there’s nothing wrong with that, just open Pinterest, it’s a sea of neutral. White cabinets, filled with white dishes that will eventually end up in your white dish washer before being returned to their home within the white cabinets. Stylish and safe—win-win
So, put on your black tee, get into your grey Honda Civic, go out for a tofu dinner, chase it with some vanilla ice cream and don’t forget where you parked—there will likely be a few more grey civics in that parking lot.