Evening Standard - ES Magazine


As the festive shopping season gets into full swing, Susie Lau has a little request to make: please don’t let it be a beige Christmas

- @susiebubbl­e

In the late hours of the night (or the wee hours of the morning; who really knows when one blurs into the other during the fog of newborn life), while the sprog is glugging away on the boob, you’ll invariably find me gigglescro­lling through the Instagram/TikTok account of @officialsa­dbeige. Run by Hayley DeRoche, an American librarian and both a mother and foster parent, Official Sad Beige acerbicall­y pokes fun at the crafted façades of mum influencer­s and specifical­ly the proliferat­ion of a ‘sad beige’ lifestyle aesthetic that permeates an alarming amount of children’s toys, room decor and clothing today.

She wages war against the sort of tasteful wooden toys that cool parents like to think represent a Zen state of play, free from plastic, colour and, well, actual fun. Likewise, a #SadBeige kids room so beloved of the ’gram is denounced as unstimulat­ing, impractica­l for cleaning and basically a way for parents to militantly mute their homes of loud colour, and thus loud children. With my first child, I, too, succumbed to the lure of the #SadBeige interiors trap, with the misguided thought that she would somehow be a calm baby if she were cossetted by blankets of beige. What foolishnes­s.

I especially chortle hard when watching her series of videos, titled ‘Werner Herzog’s Sad Beige Clothes for Sad Beige Children’. DeRoche is spot-on when she dons a fake German accent to crucify ‘artisanal’ childrensw­ear catalogues and lookbooks featuring poor kiddos, who appear anything but happy to be wearing faux farmer slash chimney sweeper outfits in Depression-era shades of oatmeal, prison grey and Victorian workhouse ecru. My daughter, Nico, automatica­lly eschewed these stylistic notions aged three by heading instinctiv­ely towards rails of fuchsia, purple and lurid sequinned things.

There’s been no shortage of #SadBeige gifts that have kindly come my way since the birth of my son. Newborn gifts in white and cream serve the purpose of being gender neutral and thus can easily be passed on. They look lovely draped around freshly painted nurseries and the sort of houses that always have fresh flowers in vases. Sadly, the well-meaning, tasteful magnolia blanket and hand-crocheted cardigan sit among piles of poo-stained onesies in our house of riotously overstuffe­d rooms.

My love of Official Sad Beige’s sharp wit is of course connected to my deep-seated suspicion of Marie Kondo-ed minimalism and the idea that neutral aesthetics promote this sterile surface of immaculate perfection. The point behind DeRoche’s satire is pretty obvious — that life is messy, loud and, with kids, it’s even more so. That a taupe cot won’t get you eight hours of unbroken sleep. That an oatmeal coat isn’t going to make a child eat their porridge in small, neat spoonfuls. That playing with wooden toys in Montessori fashion is for those who have the time to build chateau-level forts regularly out of cardboard boxes. And let’s face it, however much we tell ourselves a child can amuse themselves with a cardboard box, they’re not going to turn their noses up at a bumper crate of Duplo, are they?

’Tis the season of Christmas shopping and kids stuff will be high on people’s gift lists. I’m very much on an anti-SadBeige tip for all children concerned. There’ll be neon plastic. There will be battery-operated things that make incessantl­y annoying noises. Embrace the slime and glitter. Anything but beige.

“The well-meaning, tasteful magnolia blanket sits among piles of poo-stained onesies in our house of riotously overstuffe­d rooms”

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