The colour should call to mind the cheers of those cel­e­brat­ing a pa­tri­otic vic­tory This most pa­tri­otic of hues has racy, but sur­pris­ingly transatlantic, ori­gins

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Style Colour -

Had he not been quite so wealthy, James Gor­don Ben­nett, the Amer­i­can pub­lisher of the New York Her­ald, would likely have been called a bounder. He left Amer­ica rather hur­riedly in 1877 af­ter a scan­dal – he mis­took the grand pi­ano at his fi­ancée’s fam­ily home for a uri­nal. He some­times tore around the coun­try­side in a coac­hand-four in the nude and once burned a fat roll of money be­cause it was ru­in­ing the cut of his trousers. Nev­er­the­less, it is he we have to thank – in­di­rectly – for one of the most clas­sic and pa­tri­otic colours ever cre­ated. He founded the Gor­don Ben­nett Cup, which pit­ted na­tions against each other in an­nual au­to­mo­bile races. Be­fore 1902, Bri­tain didn’t have its own na­tional rac­ing colour. It didn’t even have much of a rac­ing tra­di­tion to speak of – the speed limit was 12mph. In 1902, how­ever, a Bri­tish car un­ex­pect­edly won, mean­ing that Bri­tain would host the Cup the fol­low­ing year. To by­pass speed reg­u­la­tions in the UK, the race was held in Ire­land, and in ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the venue, the olive green of the orig­i­nal win­ning car was dark­ened to a deep sham­rock shade. This colour was known there­after as Bri­tish Rac­ing Green.

There is no stan­dard hue of Bri­tish Rac­ing Green: man­u­fac­tur­ers have al­ways mixed their own ver­sions, rang­ing from the paler, yel­lower Napiers to the rich jun­gle of the Jaguars. To­day, how­ever, the colour is gen­er­ally ac­cepted to be some­where be­tween Brunswick green and for­est hues. And it is re­ally the con­text that makes it: Bri­tish Rac­ing Green should call to mind the smell of sun-baked car leather, the throaty ca­coph­ony of en­gines and the cheers of those cel­e­brat­ing a pa­tri­otic vic­tory. It was, af­ter all, the mem­o­rable liv­ery of the Bri­tish Bent­leys that sped to so many suc­cesses in the Le Mans races in the 1920s and 30s.

If you yearn to bring this colour in from the garage, now is a won­der­ful time to do so. ‘Mor­ris Green’ from the V&A’S ‘Clas­sic’ paint col­lec­tion is the dark­est in­car­na­tion of the shade; ‘Hunter Dunn’ by the Paint & Pa­per Li­brary, is richer and warmer. If you would pre­fer more drama, con­sider a high-gloss fin­ish that will re­flect the light like a car bon­net. For those look­ing for a milder up­date, Fer­moie has two fab­rics (‘L-061’ and ‘L-057’) in this colour­way, while Pol­ish com­pany 366 Con­cept has re-imag­ined its ‘Fox Easy Chair’ by H Lim in ‘Bot­tle Green’. It’s not quite in the tak­ing-life-on-two-wheels spirit – but even James Gor­don Ben­nett en­joyed re­lax­ing in style oc­ca­sion­ally.

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