Featured: On the subject of Brown

On the subject of Brown

Avatar By Jonathan WC Mills
December 10, 2014
17 comments

Brown is anything but down to earth.

A color so ubiquitous it is often dismissed as a non-color: mud. A maligned hue that neverless offers an immense range of tones suggesting fall leaves, turned earth, raw wood, sandy rivers, dried tobacco, and excellent alcohols distilled from rye and corn.

For many years brown was generally viewed as the opposite of sexy. In the automotive world, particularly during the 1980s, brown was either utilitarian or completely ignored. It’s difficult to find a decent brown car from the ’80s and those that remain are anything but gorgeous. Personally, I think brown needs a better defense. Some of my favorite things are blessed enough to be colored this way: chocolate, coffee, tobacco, whiskey, and 1970s Porsche Turbos. But before we travel too far down that path, let’s examine the color’s scientific and cultural roots.

Based on the RGB color model, brown is created by combining the primary colors of my favorite holiday, Christmas; specifically red and green. As an English word it popped up a few years ago (in 1000 AD) and derived from the ancient Germanic ‘brunaz’. The color, as utilized by the hand of men was one of the very first in existence. Applied to rock walls in prehistoric times as umber (a much prettier word I might add). Sadly the abuse began early. As the adage reads, “familiarity breeds contempt” brown’s many years of use means that humans have been aware of the color for a very, very long time…the Romans called their own poor, ‘pullati’, translated to mean, “those dressed in brown”…contemptuous indeed. Even in modern times brown gets the short-stick, routinely labeled as America’s least favorite color.

This is a mistake. Brown is one of the best automotive hues and one that needs to be viewed through the lens of luxury, a true ascendence from its humble origins.

Lets start with the psychological underpinnings. Brown is the color of stability, structure, and support. All of which are positive aspects attributable to cars. In fact, how many automotive publications discuss the ‘increased structural rigidity’ of various models? Clearly these are great traits. But they hardly suggest a desire, a lust for attainment. Which is where we must dig a bit deeper into modern psychology to discover one of the most important aspects of the color, a word that is incredibly important when it comes to automobiles. You see brown is synonymous with one very important word: quality.

The definition of quality is multi-faceted to be sure, but the notion that a color of a car can evoke the feelings associated with quality is incredibly important. Brown is the color of the car of your dreams because it will not lose its essential ‘quality’. It is the right choice on a car you want to own for the long haul: the marriage not the fling. And in a world increasingly filled with colors meant to be inoffensive and boring it’s nice to stand out in the right way. Brown suggests you walk to the beat of your own, sophisticated drummer. To others, it encourages the notion that quality matters to you. At the same, its warmth and sensuousness indicate you are not made of cold steel but instead, a person of flesh and bone.

Brown, in today’s connected world of transient relationships, electronic devices, and endless versions of blue-gray, screams.

It screams taste.

Join the Conversation
Related

Leave a Reply

Ryan Weaver
Ryan Weaver

I know I’m a bit late to this one, but I have to add my two cents: I don’t think I catch more grief at the dealership I work at that for my feelings on brown. I love it. It is such a classy color, be it in a flat finish or metallic (Definitely not to be confused with ‘Champagne’ or any form gold). One of my favorite colors of all time for 3.2 Carreras is Mocha Brown. I think that Brown might be starting a bit of a comeback, however, as Porsche has “Mahogany Metallic” and Audi how offers… Read more »

paul yanacopoulos
paul yanacopoulos

career convertible works….

Ryan Corneliusen
Ryan Corneliusen

No one said the word “poop” in this article or in comments yet. Amazing. Brown is great for women who want their Careers convertibles to match their LV purses… or for old guys. Lol.

Ryan Corneliusen
Ryan Corneliusen

*Carerra, I meant, not “careers”. Auto correct.

Bart Mulder
Bart Mulder

Luci di Bosco !
Still would love my old 80’s Alfetta 2.0 Lusso back in that color. Hard to find.
As a sweet compensation my daily shed, Alfa 159 SW, is in this beautiful color.

geelongvic
geelongvic

I agree with Paul regarding the Porsche 928 Copper Brown Metallic that the chief word descriptor should be “Elegant”. Similarly this hue would be stunning on a Ferrari Lusso.

Samela
Samela

I was v specific about color when I got my first MBZ – my dream car at the time – a 1968 280SL. the broker said “i’ve got green, i’ve got cream…” and I said nope – Tobacco brown only. Now all of our MBZs are Tobacco/Cognac – my quintessential 70s combo.

When we found the 450SLC above it looked like it was copper. But some elbow grease revealed its Tobacco glory.

Ali G
Ali G

Tobacco

Renbry
Renbry

The Porsche 928 had a fun array of browns in the late 70’s. Names like Tobacco Brown Metallic or Mocha Brown mmmmmm!

Pictured is Copper Brown Metallic (pic from 928classics.com)

Renbry
Renbry

Pic attached

Ae Neuman
Ae Neuman

brown in not far removed from biege.
just say no !
:p

paul yanacopoulos
paul yanacopoulos

the German browns were too red or orange
the British browns were sad
The French did a nice bronz brown
The Italians made brown elegant…..

Cory Aders
Cory Aders

My ex’s first car was a ’76 Chevy Malibu Classic. It was a dark brown so faded and checked it came off as a tan powder when brushed with a finger. Then I opened the trunk. Root beer. Fizzing and deep. Untouched by the sun. The first brown car that I wanted to replicate that paint on something else…someday the right car will come along.

Christopher Wilmot
Christopher Wilmot

I’m really unsure of where the hatred of brown hues stems from. I’m currently building a E28 535i and I originally was thinking a Markesh Brown would be a classy color. Upon asking friends and family and showing them pictures, I was met with a unanimous vote of no. I can’t quite bring myself to settle for royal blue or black. Although brown with red leather is kind of odd…

What do you guys think?

Jono51
Jono51

My E28 is zobelbraun – this colour :

http://www.e30zone.net/e30zonewiki/index.php/Image:09.jpg

I didn’t like it at first, but it’s grown on me. I’ve had the car for 11 years now so I guess it must be true that it’s the right colour for the long haul:)

Paul Geudon
Paul Geudon

I like brown on a Porsche – ordered my Cayenne in Umber Metallic and loved it. Though had a limited market when it came to resale… A nice brown air-cooled 911E would be a welcome addition to my garage now too.

JsT Fartin
JsT Fartin

Perhaps the best application of executive brown is on the Citroen SM.