Shades of beige


In the spectrum of failure, beige seems connotate a pigment almost less colourful than white.

India Knight’s piece “Sing – nice and softly – if you’re glad to be beige” (paywall) shines a complimentary spotlight on this unsung colour-fail…

  • “Disastrous news: John Lewis’s director of marketing said last week that the company was about to shake off its ‘fuddy-duddy’ image in order to broaden its appeal. This is a little like hearing that your mother is having a makeover and is especially keen to experiment with hotpants and hair extensions. It’s just not okay. It is actively upsetting. It is wrong. Just be grateful that the company has scotched reports that it is considering dumping its Never Knowingly Undersold slogan — a slogan that is as soothing as a cup of cocoa and has been in use since 1925. ‘We have been accused of being beige at times,’ Craig Inglis, the firm’s first director of marketing told Marketing Week magazine, ‘so we’re trying not to be.’  The general fear of beigeness gets right on my nerves. Beige is the woman who’s been your PA for 20 years and does her job brilliantly, and so what if she’s not going to win any awards for glamour. Beige is the sturdy car that’s faithfully taken your family on holiday for years without looking like a penis extension on wheels. Beige is cardigans and sensible flat shoes, so you stay warm and don’t develop bunions. Beige is St Delia of Smith, a vacuum cleaner that works, an ordinary house in gleaming order. It’s how most people live, and probably how most people are.  What do celebrities miss when they reach the stratospheric heights? Beigeness. A cup of tea and a plate of beans on toast, a sunny afternoon in a suburban garden, beige friends who won’t judge or bitch but ask you if you fancy a biscuit.  Beigeness is massively underrated. The general idea is that everything — people, clothes, shops, buildings — must permanently be the height of fashion, “modern”, young, like a middle-aged woman who can’t deal with turning 50 and starts borrowing her daughter’s clothes. Aside from feeling a bit sorry for her, I have no interest in that woman, nor in anything unbroken being supposedly fixed.”

On the Leadership/Management side of things here, I often find myself in defence of the importance of ‘Management’ as, like beige, it is often underrated in the face of the more dazzlingly colourful concept of ‘Leadership’. But with India’s eloquent recasting of beige in a new light, one can more positively say…

Leaders are bright, Managers are beige. Both together produce the richest picture.