Friday, April 2, 2010

Oxblood























Mary posted something nostalgic about Easter dresses on Facebook, which got me thinking about the clothes I loved as a child. I remember a fabulous black velevet dress with pearl buttons, and a pair of white go-go boots that probably did not make me look as much like Goldie Hawn as I liked to think. And I had a truly awesome leprechaun suit my mother made. (I grew up in Erin, Tennessee, and on St. Patrick's Day the kiddies were all forced to dress up as leprechauns. I think they may still do this. It's sort of a cult.) What I remember most fondly, though, were the Mary Janes I had when I was about 6. They had a little heel and the perfect round toe. The strap was not too skinny and not too wide. And they were oxblood, just about the color of Giuliano de Medici's cloak in the Botticelli above.

Oxblood--isn't that just the most alluring word? Gruesome, sensuous and silly, all at once. I loved the color from the moment I saw the shoes, but I loved it even more after I learned its name. Oxblood is a wonderful word to say out loud--it starts deep in your throat with an exhalation like a sigh, and ends with the tip of your tongue teasing your front teeth. It's a word that comes to a climax.

Sad to say, oxblood seems to have almost completely disappeared as a fashion color, especially for women. You can still buy preppy oxblood loafers, and there are some truly hideous Doc Martens on the market that call themselves oxblood, though they're really just plain ol' dark red. A true oxblood must be a red that is graced with a discernible amount of earthy brown.

I can't say a feel a need for another pair of oxblood Mary Janes, but I'm craving the color, thinking of mulled wine, oxblood lilies, and lots of other things that are out of keeping with the season, since oxblood doesn't seem to be part of nature's spring palette. I'm craving the word, too, which is a problem because it's not one that drops easily into everyday conversation. There's a band called Oxblood, and of course there's the notorious Oxblood Ruffin, who I assume gave himself that moniker. I know I'm not alone in my lexical devotion. Nor in my color fixation. Even though oxblood might not be everyone's cup of tea, so to speak, color fetishes seem to be pretty common. Lots of us, apparently, find color erotic.

And for some of us, including me, color obsession gets all tangled up with perfume addiction. In my own catalog of correspondences, oxblood is the color of Rochas Mystere and Creed Royal Delight. I think I need to go dig out those bottles...

Portrait of Giuliano de Medici, Sandro Botticelli, c.1475

8 comments:

jmcleod76 said...

I think the color may make a comeback. My wife recently picked up a pair of oxblood Dansko clogs. She'd wanted the bright red patent leather ones, but they don't come in her size (She wears a womens' 12, but usually has to settle for a men's 10. Very frustrating for a femme who likes shoes. I have the opposite problem. I have pretty small feet, but hate wearing anything remotely girly. I have a hell of a time finding cute men's shoes below size 8). I, personally, prefer the oxblood ones to the ones she wanted. It's a very rich and, to me, soothing color.

I actually had an oxblood pair of Doc Martens back in the mid 90s. These were really oxblood, with little veins of dark brown running through them and gradations of red. I loved those things. My ex gave them to a friend of hers one night -the friend broke one of her high heels. Instead of giving her a pair of her own shoes (we wore the same size) my ex decided it would be a good idea to give away a pair of shoes I'd saved up for a long time to buy. I never saw them again. But I don't still think about it, or anything ;o)

BitterGrace said...

Your ex gave away your shoes?! That's just so wrong. A favorite sweater, even a pair of jeans--okay. But never shoes.

I'm going to go check out those clogs online...

jmcleod76 said...

I believe they call it "Cordova," but lots of reviewers and resellers call it oxblood.

Julie H. Rose said...

Odd, I was just talking about childhood shoes, Mary Janes in particular, with someone the other day. I had white go-go boots, too. and have a strong visual memory of standing on the edge of a swimming pool with the pointy toes slightly over the edge, the blue framing them beautifully. Would have mad a great photo. Why I was wearing these poolside is beyond me.

I'd say oxblood is a true fetish color.

Alyssa said...

Oh man, I thought I was the only one obsessed with this word/color! They do call it "Cordova" and, more prosaically, cordovan, and I remember thinking that must be the polite, prissy version of the color name, the name for polite company. I first learned the word "oxblood" in connection with men's wingtips, and I've wanted a pair ever since. Maybe it's time...

Thanks for another great post, M!

chayaruchama said...

Wonderful word, and color.

Only "pretty girls" got to wear anything but black shoes, according to the mater familias ;-)

No red shoes of any kind; I used to identify w/ the HC Andersen story, and imagined I'd have my feet chopped off for even daring to wish for them ;D

LuLu said...

NICE COLOR

BitterGrace said...

Who knew there was a secret subculture of oxblood lovers? We need to make it our mission to restore the color and the word to its rightful place of prominence...