October is Apple Appreciation Month, so a few weeks ago we ran a round appreciating every single part of the apple. Even the icky ones. We covered the educational acronym STEM, the Nissan Leaf, and an animation studio called C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures. If that wasn’t clever enough, we even bobbed into the waters of Crayola’s old Flesh color. Let’s learn a bit more.
In 1998, Crayola released a limited-edition box of crayons to commemorate its 40th anniversary. The special set included all 64 of the colors that were originally released in 1958 – with one modification. In the original release, the light pinkish-peach color was called “Flesh,” but in 1962 it was renamed “Peach.”
When one dissatisfied customer wrote to the Crayola website to ask why “Peach” was included in the 40th anniversary set instead of “Flesh,” the company responded that it “felt it would be insensitive to include [Flesh] in the commemorative box.” They’re not wrong – although it was insensitive to label that shade “Flesh” in the first place.
According to the Huffington Post, in the early 1960s, a social researcher noticed that young kids used the “Flesh” crayons to draw people — white people — while “teasing darker skinned classmates who didn’t match the crayon.” That unnamed researcher let Crayola know what they’d witnessed and the company eventually changed the crayon’s name. (On a related note, kids are freaking assholes.)
By the 1990s, Crayola execs finally seemed to notice that even “Peach” was pretty restrictive when it came to being representative, and the company released its first Multicultural Collection, which was designed to be more inclusive. And in early 2020, the company improved upon those efforts by releasing its “Colors of the World” set, which represents 40 different skin tones.
“With the world growing more diverse than ever before, Crayola hopes our new Colors of the World crayons will increase representation and foster a greater sense of belonging and acceptance,” Crayola CEO Rich Wuerthele said in a statement. “We want the new Colors of the World crayons to advance inclusion within creativity and impact how kids express themselves.”
Forbes reports that Mimi Dixon, Crayola’s manager of brand equity and activation, was the driving force behind the Colors of the World collection (which now includes markers, colored pencils, construction paper, and coloring books).
“When you have a child that says ‘I can now color myself,’ or ‘I can now look at a paper or a drawing, and I can see myself,’ that was really important to me out of the whole entire product because that’s what I wasn’t able to do growing up was find a color,” she told the outlet. “We were always trying to mix colors, and that doesn’t work too well. So to be able just to take one crayon, it seems very simple, but to make that difference for kids today was invaluable.”
Featured image courtesy of: Kurt Baty, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0