The Political Incorrectness of the Filofax Patent Nude


I grew up in apartheid South Africa where you could understand  that maybe the white 15% unfairly put their stamp on naming the colour of underwear and plasters. The 85% majority who were of other colours did not have a say. So yes, colours such as ‘flesh’, ‘nude’, ‘naked’ and ‘invisible’ would have been for Caucasian skintones.

But now, returning to South Africa, twenty years after the first democratic election, the products (many of them made in South Africa), are still very pale and named according to white skin tones. Why are there no dark Band Aids? And why are the pale ones still called ‘nude’.  More people of colour have disposable wealth enough to buy wonderful underwear and luxurious eye shadows. Yet they seem to be aimed at the white market. This is so wrong!

Which brings me to the Filofax Patent Nude. I am assuming Filofax has advisors on product names and names of colours (as there are in other big companies such as IKEA and OPI) to see that a faux pas is not accidentally made. Why did this name slip through the net? Filofax fans are global – all nationalities, skintones, languages. These things are not just for whiteys. Why on earth use the name ‘Patent Nude’. Why not call it Latte or Light Camel? Why ‘Patent NUDE? Nude for whom exactly? Definitely not nude for many of the users of these products. One of them being my own daughter.

I am no fan of rampant political correctness. I guffawed when I heard that a municipality in the UK banned the word ‘brainstorm’ and renamed it ‘thought shower’. But the one above always bugs me. I see it every time I buy underwear, eye-shadow, foundation, plasters, stockings, thermal underwear. Why not just call it beige, or light/medium/dark? Or name it after other things?


So Filofax – if you would not call this nude:



Then don’t call this nude:



Or do what Urban Decay does and call them ALL nude!


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

18 thoughts

  1. I’m reading this too late but I wanted to comment any way to say that I completely agree with your post Janet. It has been bothering me, and have only spoken about this a few times with people. Particularly when it comes to the beauty and fashion industry. “Nude pumps” is a term that I’m beginning to really dislike :p. lol

  2. I LOVED that politic of Urban Decay, recognizing ALL those shades as nude.
    I’m white, but with my olive skin I often get mistaken for a Middle-Eastern, and those “nudes” are anything but my skin color. So, yeah, that’s not nude for whitey either – that’s nude for blonde goddesses.

    The problem is not really that Filofax used the “normal” terminology to name its product, but that in 2014 this is still considered an accepted terminology at all. They called it that because no one thought it was inappropriate at all, and this is what is wrong with it.

  3. Ok so maybe nude should be a spectrum rather than a color– I see that. But I still don’t think naming a binder a particular color is politically incorrect. As I said–each to his own.

  4. I see no political incorrectness in naming this Filofax ‘nude’. The name evokes a feeling to me and that is probably what Filofax intended. I don’t miss your point, but I think it’s a bit over the top. Each to his own.

    1. Susan, not only is this point NOT over the top, it is such an ongoing, pervasive issue in the fashion and cosmetics world that a few enterprising companies have sought to address it. Check out these 2 links:

  5. I am thrilled to see this post – I was just thinking about this issue a few days ago. Glad to see someone blogging about it!

  6. Thanks for sharing your POV. I instantly fell in love with this color regardless of the name. l’ve never considered myself prejudiced. I am caucasian. Maybe it didn’t occur to me at all that there’s more than one shade of nude. Perhaps the nude refers more to the absence of a color than skin tone.

  7. Thanks for writing this. I am mixed race and this constantly bugs me. I am often told that as I live in a majority white country (UK) that these terms are appropriate! But as you say there are so many wonderful words in the English language that can describe shades without offence.

Leave a Reply