My beloved daily driver was hit while parked on my street, so I’ve spent the past three weeks with a Buick Envision rental car instead. It had all the bells and whistles, only it was silver, and I kept losing it among all the other silver crossovers out there. What happened to painting your car a real color?
We used to mock beige as the ultimate sign that you’ve given up on life. It was the color so inoffensive, it became offensive in its own right. If you bought a car in beige, chances are you cared more about its resale value more than you cared to have fun with it, express yourself, or do anything unexpected or cool.
It was the color of “I really don’t want to stand out or anything,” where “stand out” is said with slight nose-crinkling disgust. It’s a vehicular veil of anonymity. A clear sign that you resigned yourself to be one of the herd. The 1990s and 2000s version of The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit would have easily been The Man In The Beige Toyota Camry.
Beige became synonymous with a whole subcategory of anonymous, bland cars. When Toyotas experienced unintended acceleration issues and other problems, we deemed it “Beige Bites Back.” Beige was no term of endearment—it was the “basic” of the mid-2010s. It also came with the stereotype that you cared so little about your anon-o-pod car that you probably weren’t all that interested in driving it well, either.
Now if you get cut off by someone not paying enough attention behind the wheel, chances are, it’s no longer a beige car. It’s silver. Apparently beige is now too daring of a color, so the cars-as-appliances set have gone to a paint job devoid of even a dull sandy sheen. And boy, is it everywhere.
Worse yet, the silver-painted anycars have even gotten duller. Toyota may have been shamed into making a more daring-looking Camry by all the backlash against the very concept of beige, but they’re doing so as sedans get passed over for taller-riding, bloatier, even less enjoyable crossovers. The scourge of beige has simply mutated into a silver crossover-inhabiting phenomenon.
Beige’s fall from grace is even a trend I’ve even noticed in homes whenever I tune in to kvetch about other people’s design decisions on TV. The neutral earth tones we got thoroughly sick of in the last decade are out, replaced by sharp, modern-looking pale greys for that truly benign sell-this-house look.
Greys feel like an upgrade over beige in a home where a wall is typically a backdrop, meant to be covered in art, furniture and other stuff you love that reflects who you are. Grey walls aren’t just meant to fade into the background. They are the background.
In other words, a wall is the opposite of a car, which is a standalone object. This makes the shift from beige to silver on cars all the more distressing. My Envision rental was completely anonymous, especially if other silver round things were parked nearby. I sometimes forgot where it was because there weren’t enough memorable bits about it to recall.
I’ve never experienced this issue even when I’ve gotten stuck with a Camry as a rental. The silver Envision just kind of faded away into the wall of silver cars. I was left poking at the remote to honk to see which colorless human-moving conveyance was mine.
Unfortunately, that’s what too many people desire in these cars: the ability to fade away into the scenery. Is this why little stick figure outlines and kids’ sports team stickers are so prevalent—so people can spot their cars?
Granted, as with all things, car color is a matter of taste. Low-slung Aston Martin and Jaguar coupes have always worn silver far better than they have any right to, for example. But a generic car or crossover just fades away into the wall of all the other silver crossovers.
Do me a favor: buy cars in your favorite car color. Buy a car you enjoy, and buy it in a real, non-silver, and preferably also non-beige color. If that’s a silver Aston, cool—don’t change just because other cars and their disinterested drivers suck. Own it, and you may revive the good name of the silver car.
But if it’s an otherwise unnoticeable crossover for your kids to spill Cheerios on, why not consider a nice blue or green that reminds you of a cool summer day at the beach? Maybe purple, if you’re daring and that’s your jam? My sanity will thank you the next time I get stuck driving a silver car.