Avocado: The “It” Color of the 60s

Nov 16, 2014 | 11:43 AM

I’m still reeling. Merton invited me over to see his new kitchen wallpaper and I swear to God, he chose the exact wallpaper my grandmother had in her kitchen; the exact wallpaper my sisters and I swore we would tear off if we could, it was so hideous. We literally joked that it looked like the garden threw up on her walls.

vomit paperWhy, Merton. Why??????

“It’s the very definition of chic,” Merton said, nonplussed by my chagrin. “You, Isabel, of all people, should know that avocado was the it color of the ’60s.”

“Is that what people are calling puce these days?” I replied.

But I had to concede, he had a point. Puce green, avocado green, swamp green– call it what you will– we all know what green we’re talking about when we talk about that particular shade that was so ubiquitous in the designs of ’60s. From telephones to record albums, that green was everywhere!


green record for Petula


What was going on? Did the entire world just lose their collective mind for a decade and a half? I say “a half” because that shade was so beloved it practically became the American national color in the 70s, especially if you judge by the shag carpet my grandmother put throughout her entire Vernon, New Jersey two-story ranch house in 1974.

green shag rug

As soon as I got home from that shocking visit to Merton’s, I called my brilliant graphic designer friend, Cricket, and asked for her thoughts on the matter. Cricket is an expert on vintage color palettes and wrote her entire PhD dissertation on the healing powers of the color saffron, so I knew I could trust her analysis.

Cricket says that by 1964, with JFK 6 feet under and instability rising in Asia, the world was tired of the perky, mint green that virtually symbolized the ’50s.

mint green phone

Cricket explained that once Kennedy was assassinated, the country had “trust issues” which lead to a deep need for authenticity; that need for authenticity translated into an embrace of tones found throughout nature, which included shades like the avocado green in question.

“But it’s hideous!” I cried.

“Perhaps to you,” Cricket said, “but not to the masses of the ’60s and ’70s. After such massive betrayal— you have to remember, darling, all sorts of people were being assassinated back then! The masses wanted to see things that felt they could trust at face value. Look at the faces our culture embraced at that time.”

Lauren-Hutton-618933Lauren Hutton

babsBarbra Streisand

“You also have to remember that everyone was dropping acid back then, too,” Cricket reminded me. “So what you may call vomit green may have looked like emeralds from heaven to someone tripping.” She sent me a few psychedelic posters from the era and got on with her day.

jimi hendrix jefferson airplane green psych

Alone in my apartment, I sat with my hand on the phone in a deep funk. I totally get the whole, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” notion; and I also get that beauty is about unique characteristics— like the jolie laide gals shown above who will always have a place in the worlds’ eye. But isn’t there any consensus at all on what actually is ugly?

I would argue that there is! We all look back on fashions of past decades and rebuke ourselves for our obsessions.

Portrait of Anne Wortley, Later Lady Morton c.1620 by British School 17th century 1600-1699Better have a kleenex handy with that neckline!
Portrait of William Style of Langley 1636 by British School 17th century 1600-1699Gentlemen, anyone for doilies, pantaloons and go go boots?
Marie_Antoinette_AdultThey found a half-eaten ham sandwich in her wig right before the guillotine. Such a practical girl.
bathing costumes of the 20s
Epic camel-toe back in the swimsuits of the 20s!
girdleAnd we think “Spanx” are binding?
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
No, he didn’t. (Oh, yes he did!)

Clearly, fashion reflects our psychological need at the cultural moment. It evolves because we are constantly evolving.

Phew! I get it! So… Now that I have a new-found appreciation for avocado green, I have the perfect gift for Merton for the holidays! It was given to me by my grandmother and I’ve kept it in storage ever since.



I hope Merton loves it in a way I simply can’t. Hopefully, he will sit there on his throne and pontificate about the next shade from the past will become chic again. Turquoise anyone?





4 thoughts on “Avocado: The “It” Color of the 60s”

  1. Ross Penny     Reply

    Green is a good color. Grass parks trees. A money color. One of the heart chakra colors.

  2. Mary Alice     Reply

    My Grandmother described Puce as the color of a mouse’s fart!

  3. Mary Pat Hyland     Reply

    Avocado & Yellow Ochre… the bongo beat color anthem of Sixties interior designers… practically radioactive!

  4. Tymmas     Reply

    Puce is nowhere near green, it’s actually a brownish purple.

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