If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a trend—or more so a style—going around that has been deemed “sad beige parenting”. In what have now become viral videos, TikToker Hayley DeRouche (or “That Sad Beige Lady”) comically mocks the marketing of “sad beige children”—you know, kids dressed in muted tones like bungalow brown, dusty sand, heathered gray or palest of lemon.
Both her TikTok (@sadbeige) and Instagram (@officalsadbeige) accounts are full of satirical videos that pinpoint how muted tones are seemingly taking over childhoods—from safari-themed nurseries to minimalist playrooms that are quite the Montessori dream.
“Welcome to Werner Herzog’s new line of children’s clothing. Sad beige clothes, for sad beige children. In such colors as porridge, paper bag, and mystery spice at Penzeys that, like, smells really good but you can’t quite pinpoint what it is.”
I can’t even lie—I personally feel attacked here Because as I’m looking around my son’s room and through his closet—it is indeed plagued with beige.
Related: Say buh-bye to beige this holiday season, because TikTok says ‘minimalist Christmas’ is out
There’s no doubt that natural tones are taking over, well… practically everything child-related. According to 2022 data from Etsy, beige is in trend as searches for the specific color palette rose 67% over the previous 12 months. Baby gear, clothes, toys and decor have all succumbed to the beige phenomenon.
But while many may think millennial parents are furnishing their homes (and their entire lives) in neutral colors in order to feed into a minimalist and Instagram-worthy lifestyle, perhaps there are simpler reasons some are choosing a beige color palette over brighter and bolder ones.
Again, I can’t lie—DeRouche’s videos have indeed gotten a laugh out of me. Even as I’ve recently come to realize that I may just be considered a “sad beige parent” by default, I still find her satire spot quite comical. But it has also made me think deeper into other people’s reactions and takes on the rise of the beige phenomenon.
I’m quite certain that parents are strategically being influenced and marketed to—there’s no doubt about that. Social media is redefining modern motherhood, and feeds are specifically curated to make the beige aesthetic appealing (and more in demand) to many modern mamas who want “in” on the type of lifestyles that overflow their Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest feeds.
But personally, I’m not “forcing” the beige aesthetic onto my kid in order to have Instagram-worthy photos where I capture every moment he plays with some wooden blocks peacefully in a corner of his spotless room while dressed in a taupe-colored organic set. Quite frankly, I’d never even be able to capture a photo like that because those moments never exist in my household .
My son isn’t some somber “sad beige baby” whose life is dreary and dreadful.
But this style preference didn’t come from me wanting to strip my son of the bright colors that many associate with childhood fun. My reasons for beige are far more simple.
For example, I started shopping for my baby before finding out the gender. Not having to focus on whether an item was specifically for a boy or girl was so much easier on me. The option for gender-neutral clothing, nursery decor and so on alleviated a lot of stress.
And I pretty much just stuck to the gender-neutral theme from there.
- Because they make hand-me-downs easier, especially for someone who plans on having more kids. I don’t have to worry about re-purchasing all the baby essentials should it be that my next child is a different gender.
- Because in my personal opinion, it makes it so much easier to find nice boy clothes. If you’re a boy mom, I’m sure you understand the hassle of finding clothes for your little men. Sad to say, but boy’s clothing just doesn’t have as much diversity as girl’s clothing. The typical dinosaur, construction and superhero designs sometimes just makes you groan in frustration in the middle of a Target aisle. But I have no problem finding gender-neutral clothes that don’t automatically feed into the idea that blue is for boys and pink is for girls.
- Because it’s calming. I had my baby mid-pandemic, so most of our time was spent holed up in the house. As a mama who was battling some serious postpartum anxiety and emotions, I needed the spaces that my child and I spent our time in to be soothing and serene. And the soft, natural-toned colors have done just that. As my son gets older and those spaces become more of his own, I’ve been revamping them to accommodate his wants and needs—which he’s beginning have the ability to express. So if the time comes when he prefers a “Bluey” bed set over the oat ones he now has, he can certainly have them.
So what I’m saying is this: The “sad beige parenting” trend doesn’t have to really be seen as parents creating fun-less environments for “sad beige children.” Maybe some parents (cough cough, *me*) are just trying to be more mindful. I’m sure someone reading this may think there’s nothing mindful about colors that don’t hide ketchup stains as well as patterns and superhero characters do. But it’s just my personal preference. And while it doesn’t have to be appealing to everyone, it works for my son, my family and our home.
This personal style choice doesn’t make me less of a parent. My son isn’t some somber “sad beige baby” whose life is dreary and dreadful. In no way am I trying to “banish the fun” from his life. In fact, our house is scattered with a bunch of his vibrant, primary-colored toys. His closet includes some clothes decorated with airplanes and stripes. One of his favorite blankets is brightly patterned with rocket ships and stars.
But no matter what colors fill our home, this remains true: It is not absent of fun-filled, cherishable moments, and it is not vacant of the deepest love.
A version of this story was originally published on Dec. 1, 2022. It has been updated.