Fashion’s a funny thing.
It’s understandable that haircuts and trouser bottoms and patterns date, and what seemed really smart to you once, now sits embarrassingly at the back of a cupboard because you’re too ashamed even to take it to the charity shop. But it’s odder that something as basic as a colour can date. There aren’t that many colours, or there are infinite colours depending on how you look at it, but either way how can something that seemed so agreeable to you once, suddenly (and it often is sudden) become so jarringly dated?
One explanation is association – maybe you fell in love with the purple colour of Eric Clapton’s loon pants when he was in Cream (no, I didn’t since you ask) so painted your bedroom walls that colour. Your parents have kept it like that ever since you left home 40 odd years ago and they wonder why you stopped visiting them.
But that doesn’t explain my one-time infatuation with Sahara Beige. To me, Sahara Beige is the colour of the early 1970’s. I first noticed it on a new Ford Cortina Mark III, and it was love at first sight. And this certainly wasn’t association. The Mark III was an execrable car (though I admit to quite liking the look of a red, vinyl roofed GXL for a couple of weeks after launch) and did not showcase a colour positively in my eyes, but there was something about the warm, rich creaminess of Ford Sahara Beige that chimed with my end-of-teens self.
So much so that, when I bought a knackered, blue Bedford Utilabrake in 1974, I bodged up the rusty wheelarches and sprayed the whole thing …. Sahara Beige. In hindsight I should have spent the money on the engine. But it didn’t just stop there. At college I designed both a standard lamp and an electric toaster and what colour did I paint them? Sahara Beige. I remember a pair of shoes I saw in the window of a Bally shoeshop. They weren’t actually a style I particularly liked, but I bought them because, even if they didn’t have the Ford seal they were, more-or-less, Sahara Beige.
In hindsight there were worse colours to champion back then. Brown, for instance. And, if you must move in the world of the Beige, I’d still contend that Sahara Beige is royalty. But, times move on and, by 1976, I was experimenting with other colours. My degree project was painted lime green. I had left Sahara Beige behind me.
But as a postscript, although I was unaware at the time, I’d point out that this, to me, quintessentially Seventies colour had its roots firmly in mid Sixties America. Back then it took a while for things to cross the Atlantic so, by the time my eyes were wide in admiration at this grand new hue, in the USA, a 1966 Sahara Beige Mustang was probably looking a bit tired.