Sad Beige Kids' Clothes Aren't Going Anywhere
The stealth wealth trend comes for children.
Once you notice a sad beige child in the wild, you see them everywhere. I noticed one for the first time this summer on the beach, a girl of maybe six or seven, wearing dark cutoffs and a brown sweatshirt. Her clothing was so grown-up — no bright purple, no glitter, no rainbows — that she stood out immediately. She was walking in the sand on a cloudy day with her sad beige mom, also dressed in neutrals. They projected the specific kind of “tastefulness” associated with light gray interior paint, Loro Piana, and vases of decorative wheat: the kind of upper-crust aesthetic preferences that revolve around colorlessness.
The “sad beige” conceit has become part of the zeitgeist thanks to Hayley DeRoche, who under @sadbeige on TikTok and @officialsadbiege on Instagram makes comedy videos where, in the voice of German film director Werner Herzog, she hilariously narrates marketing images of colorless kids’ clothes and toys.
“Welcöme to Werner Herzog’s new line of childrün’s clothing. Säd beige clothes for säd beige childrün,” she says in one video over an image of a child in a flared two-piece set. “This one I call the velvet flair of dëspäïr. For she knows that sheep farming is a rough life, one that will bring many a callous to the hands and the heart.”
DeRoche, who works full-time as a public librarian, started posting the videos in September of 2021; she got the idea when looking for stacking cups to give as a baby gift. “They were all rainbow except for this one set that I found that was just different shades of pale, and it just looked so anemic,” she said. “What really made me laugh was the marketing for them, because the photos were these children staring so somberly at these stacking cups. You would think that they were pondering their mortality. There was no joy.” She decided Werner Herzog would be the perfect voice for “sad beige” children and made a video about the stacking cups, which went viral.
Two years later, DeRoche is still making the videos — and finding an abundance of sad beige marketing images on the internet as fodder. This may be because sad beige kids’ clothes are only becoming more and more popular, despite the controversy associated with the trend.
Zara’s website even has a whole section for kids neutrals. According to Edited, a company that tracks retail sales, “new neutral shades arriving online for kids across the US and UK have increased by 24 percent year-over-year, while black has risen 12 percent year-over-year.” Grays and browns are up 11 percent and 8 percent respectively year-over-year as well. Edited says that this mirrors the “cleansed palette” trending for fall adult clothes, which “signal[s] the end of dopamine dressing,” the TikTok trend of picking colorful clothing as a mood boost.
In other words, the stealth wealth trend is here to stay — and it’s coming for your children.