“They disappear like magic and become a fluid extension of her legs, as in a sketch, elongating the silhouette.”
– Christian Louboutin, shoe god
The nude shoe. It’s a shoe in a color that comes as close as possible to blending in with your skin tone, and it’s been a hot trend for so many years that the fashion world is saying it’s a classic here to stay. From the castles of Great Britain to the streets of America , you can walk or click into virtually any shoe store and find a pair that works for you- unless you are a darker person of color.
For at least four seasons now, lighter skinned people have had easy access to an overwhelming selection of shoes in colors specifically designed to neutrally complement their skin, and they can often find such shoes in the section named “nude.” The same can’t be said for people who look like me, which has consistently frustrated my shoe shopping endeavors. The trend of labeling one color group “nude”, as if nude is not a relative color, also frustrates my brain- “nude” literally means “naked” or “skin colored” so applying it only to light beige-ish colors implies that the color of my skin isn’t actually a normal skin color. This just one of example the normalization of white skin across the fashion and personal care industries (and even the coloring crayon industry- the Crayola color we now know as “peach” used to be named “flesh.”) It also exemplifies the erasure of people of color (and black women in particular) even though we make up over one third of America’s consumer base. And the normalization of whiteness in fashion seems to be a particularly easy form of white supremacy to internalize and excuse- below you can see a black woman in the comment section of an article about nude shoes trying to use the dictionary to prove that “nude” really does just mean beige because that is the color family of white people’s skin:
Now, can darker folks still flawlessly rock tan or beige foot gear? Absolutely. But it’s just that- wearing a tan or beige shoe as a color because it looks good with your outfit, not wearing it as a nude. And there are brown shoes out there, obviously, but very few that are designed to blend in with the shades of brown than humans actually come in.
So what can we darker folks do when we want a barely-there look on our feet that makes a colorful ensemble pop? When black, navy, or white just look too harsh? When we want to invest in a pair of shoes that literally goes with everything? When we want to “elongate our silhouettes?”
We can hope that shoe designers follow the lead of Louboutin and start designing nude collections with us in mind. But in the meantime, I have scoured the web for you, my friends, and I’ve got some suggestions!