By: Karen Me
While the color “nude” definitively characterizes a shade matching the flesh of one’s skin, we often default the term to the specific light flesh color of a white person and dismiss representing the diverse variety of skin tones in our multiracial and multiethnic world. In the realm of fashion, this specifically manifests as casual microaggressions – brief, everyday exchanges that send defaming messages to individuals of certain identities – that range from too pale foundation to narrow options of lingerie, hosiery, and shoes for people of color.
The color nude then no longer becomes a color of empowerment but misrepresentation instead, as pale foundation yields uneven powder lines, lingerie looks discolored under light or see through shirts, and hosiery and shoes lend an odd look like Bratz’ dolls with differently toned feet.
These lived realities subtly iterate a marginalizing message of colorism (prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone). It does not simply convey a white standard of beauty, but psychologically erases the existence of other skin tones, and thus people of color themselves.
Now Nubian Skin Lingerie and Christian Louboutin directly challenge such this normalized form of thinking. Nubian Skin was recently created under the premise to diversify the color nude in hosiery and lingerie with their four options (cafe au lait, caramel, cinnamon, and berry).
Christian Louboutin released five nude hues for his shoes (Lea, Nats, Maya, Safki, and Ada), with hopes for even more varied expansion.
People of color no longer have to settle for clothing not designed for them. But if your skin color already matches the light shade of nude clothing companies usually default to, does this affect you?
The answer is YES, and here is the WHY. I’m going to speak from my personal experiences as an American born Taiwanese person.
Under colorism, I as an East Asian benefit from my lighter skin color. Have you ever noticed East Asian tourists walking around with umbrellas on a sunny day? That’s not simply a fashion statement, that’s the fashion of colorism. Avoiding the sun so you won’t become dark has been a constant rhetoric when I would visit my relatives in Taiwan. “Oh, you’re so dark! Too brown-skinned, take an umbrella.”
Aside from these comments, I grew up in the American culture of tanning. I used to perceive this contrast as simply ironic. East Asians pine for fair skin, while Americans obsess over tanning salons and oils. How strange that everyone seems to want something they do not have.
I’ve now realized how much more potent of a message this “irony,” or should I say, “privilege” is. The actuality is that dark skin in my cultural community equates to being a worker of the field and lower class. The pale skin of the elite readily signifies the luxurious ability to lounge inside all day. Unfortunately, this message of colorism transcends my ethnic and racial borders and exist in the Latinx community as well.
Mainstream white American culture has exoticized tanned skin; simply put, it is a privilege to be able to tan for the pleasing aesthetics of a temporary skin darkness and it not ramify any lived realities of marginalization. It is a shame we have commoditized an unappreciated part of identity for the sake of profit. It is not ironic, but racist, that our society values tanned skin more than naturally darker skin.
That is why Nubian Skin’s and Christian Louboutin’s recent expansion should affect you, because we are finally coloring nude the way it should have been colored all along.