I subscribe to the The New York Times
Sunday edition. Contrary to many on "the right," I find it a delightful read for the most part. On a Sunday morning, armed with a cup of coffee, I sit at a little coffee shop across from the beach and quickly flip through to my favorite starting point -- the Magazine
. William Safire's On Language column
is always somewhat interesting, and today is no exception. He writes:
Thus, "brown is the new black," as used above, meant the culture of people with the brown skin color of South Asians is now as popular, or even "hotter," than that of the culture of black-skinned people -- in the estimation of with-it whites, especially in Britain.
Now to the fashion origin of the new black. Start with the universally accepted notion that black is basic. Hems may rise and fall (or do both asymmetrically), and feather boas may come into vogue or go out, but black -- optically destitute of any color -- just keeps rolling along. When its fashion dominance lasts too long, however, and the whole couture world looks as if it is on its way to a funeral, something new is desired. In 1983, Suzy Menkes, then of The Times of London, wrote, "Charcoal gray is used everywhere as the new black with occasional splashes of red and green." A year later, Nina Hyde of The Washington Post quoted the textile and color specialist Elaine Flowers: "There is a tremendous range to the color brown. It is the new black."
Reached in Paris, where she now holds sway as a columnist for The International Herald Tribune, Menkes says: "I didn't realize that I set off this neophiliac fashion trend! I think of the seminal moment as Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, known, like all Japanese designers, for her black shrouds, announcing, 'Red is the new black,' probably in the mid-1990's. Since then, it has become a fashion cliche." (I cannot let neophiliac go by: it is a useful word coined in 1942 for "one who believes that every change is an improvement.")
Friends, at this point, just let me point out that in So Cal, I've heard the new black
used to refer to the new group to be persecuted (Mexicans, Asians, gays, ex-boy band members, etc.), so I found Safire's explanation of the term refreshing. Also, his brief comment on neophiliac
provides another excuse to bash the many webbed libertarians who are fond of praising the "progress" and "innovations" of mankind and ask absurd questions like, "Are you in favor of stability or change?"