Something about the word “nude” simply carries about this aura of taboo. Even the mere thought of that word can spark scandal. No, I’m not talking about the kind of nude you see at Black’s Beach-although that’s another epicenter of controversy-I’m referring to the color “nude.” In the beauty and fashion world, this hue is automatically and universally assumed to be this creamy beige, but when we really think about this word, does “nude” encompass a limited range of shades or does it represent the complexion of the one baring it all?
Over the years, this shade has been recreated in nearly every aesthetic. From the classic pair of nude heels, to the cutting edge nude lip trend, to the professional and feminine nude manicure, to the traditional hosiery item, this color has seen it all. However, if this color is to represent a woman’s tone of skin, then why have we limited “nude” to represent one aspect of an entire spectrum of shades?
In 1973, Fashion Fair Cosmetics expanded their line of foundation to include deeper shades of “nude,” with brands like NARS further adopting this practice. In 2013, upscale designer and shoe revolutionary Christian Louboutin released five new shades of “nude” in his line of highly coveted stilettos. And in 2014, the trailblazing company, Nubian Skin, proposed a more extensive line of “nude” undergarments. So what does this imply about fashion’s history?
The mere necessity to extend the definition of nude to encompass more shades indicates that it wasn’t only politics or economics that was guilty of discrimination or racialization. By restricting the color “nude” to define a particular shade, and thus a particular woman, it limits the opportunity for a variety of women to feel included into all things fashion and beauty. It’s a quiet reminder of difference, and a subtle response to diversity.
We all know how difficult it can be in finding the perfect shade of face powder, or pair of tights to wear to an interview. But when companies only provide a whooping five shades to choose from, all of which lie in relatively the same range, it can make that task that much more complex. So while there are new doors being opened in the realms of fashion by widening the variety of available shades, it’s time to rethink what nude really means. It’s time to make the color nude accessible to all women and overcome barriers of racial predispositions. Instead of manipulating this color to imitate a small section of tonality, let’s return to the original intent of what nude really means-a bold and colorblind expression of beauty and confidence.