52 Comments

  1. Huh. I was born after 1962 (but not much after) and I think I remember flesh colored crayons.
    The explanations I can come up with:
    1) I had off-brand crayons manufactured by someone other than Crayola that made flesh colored crayons.
    2) The crayons I had were just that old. They would have had to been close to 10 years old, but that is possible.
    3) Never make a list with fewer than 3 items

  2. BTW, in defense of the comic: She doesn’t ask what Crayola calls this color. She asks what Brad (or Bwad) calls it.

  3. Bwad probably never handled a crayon with that name either. He’s about the same age as my kids, and it wouldn’t occur to them to call it “flesh” if it didn’t say that on the wrapper.

  4. It’s plausible that someone would call it “flesh” colored even if it didn’t say that on the label. It’s an intuitive (if Eurocentric) description of the crayon that kids would be most likely to use to draw Caucasians. And it’s apparently intuitive enough that multiple people, for whatever reason, remember it as “flesh” even after Crayola changed the name.

  5. I was born in 1962 and you can add me to those who remembers crayons listed as “flesh”. I also thought I remembered them making the change. Maybe it’s the Mandela effect. OTOH, there seems to have been some sort of kerfuffle in 1989, but I can’t access the articles being cited, so who knows what that was about.

  6. I definitely remember the name being used in the late 60s and/or early 70s. Even if the crayons in our own house were all purchased several years after the official change, the (large) collections (some of them in buckets) in various classrooms were of indeterminate age, and some of them certainly looked as if they were more than a decade old.

  7. Two separate Mandela references. Only here.

    In non-defense of the comic, Winter, even given the awkward way the Bwat asked the question, why would Bwad call it that? Passed down from his parents? Who might have heard it from THEIR parents? Multiple generations of deGroots, none of whom ever looked at the label?

  8. I don’t know when the flesh color was retired but it *has* been retired. I vaguely remember the flesh color too but…. well, actually what I think i remember is a reference to hearing that the flesh color had been renamed “peach”… i think that may be what we all remember. There was lots of references to “flesh” crayons and references to the change that we assumed it occured in our coloring time.

    And there’s one thing about a comic making an unoriginal joke (Wee Pals made the joke about “Flesh-colored Bandages” back in 1970) but to make a point that was made and *universally recognized* well over forty years ago and the *entire world* agrees with the change is more than unoriginal.

  9. My theory, which belongs to me: Greg Evans, who was born in 1947, suggested the comic to his daughter, who now writes the strip (he still draws it). Once it was drawn, one of them realized that Crayola had changed the name of the color since Greg was a kid. So they decided to mitigate the problem by changing “What’s the name of this color?” to “What do you call this color?” Awkward, as B.A, points out, but technically accurate as Winter points out.

  10. B.A.: “the awkward way the Bwat asked the question”

    “What do you call this?” sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

    B.A.: “why would Bwad call it that?”

    For the reason I gave in my previous comment?

  11. It’s hard to imagine that there might be anyone who thinks of the color as “flesh” who hasn’t considered the implications, and really hard to imagine anyone would think there are readers who hadn’t considered the implications…. but apparently the cartoonist thinks such readers may exist.

  12. So is no one bothered by the strip’s handling of her speech impediment? If she was an Asian character, would “Bwad” be acceptable in a comic?

  13. Flesh-colored crayons seem to be deeply engrained in American culture. Here is an article by an African American writer who remembers encountering and rejecting a “Flesh” Crayola crayon when he was about 5 or 6.

    In another article he mentions that he was born in 1976. When he was 5 or 6, it was 20 years after the alleged obsolescence of that color.

    I remember Flesh-colored crayons, but by 1962 — at age 10 — I had probably outgrown crayons.

  14. woozy: “It did not require any recognition of the civil rights movement.”

    It was just one suggestion, but it was made during the civil rights movement, by someone involved in the civil rights movement, using terminology and arguments from the civil rights movement. It’s quite possible that if not for the civil rights movement, the argument would not have been made, or would have been dismissed.

    woozy: “It’s hard to imagine that there might be anyone who thinks of the color as “flesh” who hasn’t considered the implications,….”

    Not only is it easy for me to imagine this, it’s hard for me to understand that you can’t imagine it. There are lots of Americans who basically think as “white” as “normal” and don’t put a lot of introspection into this.

    Bill: That phrasing sounds more likely, but the both phrasings sound reasonable to me.

  15. “but it was made during the civil rights movement”

    1962 was fairly early in the Civil Rights Movement wasn’t it. At that time the civil rights would have be considered fringe, wouldn’t it. For the most part I think most corporations would have been leery of making any changes solely for the purposes of civil rights. Maybe.

    “it’s hard for me to understand that you can’t imagine it.”

    But the issue of “flesh” colored crayons has been discusssed so *MANY* times in the last 60 years. And as we have verified they haven’t *actually* existed for 58 years, that frankly the only time I have *ever* heard of anyone mention “flesh” crayons has been to talk about how insensitive they are…. that isn’t to say that talking about flesh tones in band-aids or stockings and the color “nude” aren’t don’t without thought to how insensitive that is. But flesh crayons has certainly penetrated, hasn’t it.

  16. “And of course this makes the comic absolutely pointless.”

    Isn’t that pretty much the mission statement of LUANN?

    (And to answer another question, I don’t recall Shannon mispronouncing any words other than “Bwad” for “Brad.” How old is she supposed to be? I guess, “old enough to be considered lovably cute by her creators, though loathed by many of its readers”?)

    Comics Curmudgeon, which I believe has a fair amount of reader overlap with this site (including me) also kicked around the “flesh color” nonsense in this strip on the day it appeared — search at

    https://joshreads.com/2020/09/ten-hut/#above-comments

    for keyword flesh if interested.

  17. @ 1958fury – In addition to the crayon color, that story arc in Bloom County also played upon the “skin” colored bandage (on Oliver’s forehead).

  18. 1962 was fairly early in the Civil Rights Movement wasn’t it.

    Not really. Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court case that nominally outlawed school desegregation, was decided in 1954. Rosa Parks’ arrest and the resulting Montgomery Bus Boycott was in 1955. Eisenhower sent the National Guard to desegregate schools in Little Rock in 1957.

    ML King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech was just a year later, in 1963.

  19. I had also come across the crayon blog posted above. What struck me was the FLESH colored crayon had been batted around for years prior to its renaming. For a brief time it was even called “Pink Beige”. So it seemed like it wouldn’t have been a difficult change to rename it to Peach.

    I’m only a touch past 50, but I could have sworn I had seen a FLESH crayon or two, maybe not. Perhaps I only became aware of them later.

    FWIW, there are various hobby paints labeled “Skin Tone” for model figures.

  20. In the area where I grew up (I started school in 1960), we wouldn’t have thought anything of it because “flesh” and “Caucasian” were absolutely synonymous. I’ve since discussed this with people I went through public school with, and we all agree it’s a wonder we didn’t all grow up racist.

  21. I wonder how much backlog of “flesh” crayons Crayola had in 1962 and whether they took a while to filter out to market. And whether other crayon companies continued to use the word for longer.

  22. I remember “Flesh” crayons. I was 9 in 1962, so it’s entirely possible I had one in my yearly 64-color box.

    Interesting that they kept “Indian Red” until 1999, except that it was named after the pigment from India, not the skin color of Native American people. Like “burnt umber” or “Prussian blue”. Since called “chestnut”.

  23. I’m not supposed to say “I hate Luann”, but I certainly don’t care for this strip, for two specific reasons. As Bill pointed out at the beginning of this post, the basic premise is completely anachronistic and non-existent. In addition, I don’t care for the meaningless resolution in the last frame. In what sense is “uncoloring” supposed to be “preferable”, or seen as a solution to anything?
    If a cartoonist wants to compose satire about fundamental questions of racism, I prefer it when there is a definite stance (not to mention a little more humor), such as in this example (from 1988):

  24. But I also found this, stating they were renamed before the 80s. Not sure if the website is wrong, or if somehow it took a LONG while for old stock to be sold. https://pencilseh.weebly.com/blog/laurentien-pencil-crayons. I’m inclined to disbelieve the website as I remember at some point in my elementary school years (aka, the 80s), new packages had the “peach” pencil crayon, but still had “Indian Red”. I actually wish they still made this brand, as the crayola ones my kids have break far more easily.

  25. At the risk of sounding like an “All Lives Matter” person, whose unspoken philosophy I deplore, can we agree that flesh-colored crayons, like flesh-colored band-aids, matched the color of nobody’s flesh, ever?

  26. According to Wikipedia, Shannon was 3 in her first appearance, and is currently 6. I took one for the team & read some other strips with her in them, and there was no “W for R” swap in any of the ones I saw (although there is one where she says “blowed up” instead of “blew up,” the only instance I can recall of her having childish speech).

    I definitely remember “flesh” crayons, despite having been born a couple years after the name change. I think Powers has it right, that it took a while for all the back stock to be used/sold. It’s not like crayons will go bad if left on the shelf too long, so stock rotation probably wasn’t a priority in the stores.

    On a vaguely related topic, I was buying wig caps a couple years ago, and the clerk said they had them in two colors: black and flesh. We ended up having a nice conversation about how “flesh” isn’t really a single color, but a wide range of different shades, and got the giggles over the fact that the “flesh” caps (which we agreed should be called “beige”) didn’t match either of our skin tones in the slightest.

  27. Thanks to Susan for doing some research that I was to lazy to do. I was reacting just to her apparent age in this strip (as drawn, plus from the rest of her dialog). If she had that kind of a speech impediment at that age, and nobody had bothered to get her into therapy by then, that would represent some serious parental incompetence.

  28. Funny. I thought her entire point was childish speach and it was very common but I see other than “Bwad” she doesn’t do any. I assumed she did it a lot in the earlier strips, but if she didnt, she didn’t. On the other hand, I hardly think “Bwad” is *that* annoying. Also I’m not sure I’d call a difficulty in pronouncing hard Rs a *serious* speech impediment.

  29. In a three year old I would accept the “w” for “r” replacement without comment. It just seemed out of place for a first grade kid, especially since she has no apparent trouble pronouncing “friend” or “wrong“.
    P.S. One (barely) possible explanation (which I am not going to look up) is that “Bwad” might be intended as a “preserved” nickname, dating back to when she could not pronounce her “R”s. This is exactly how “Edwin Aldrin” became known as “Buzz“: his sister could not pronounce the “r” or “th” in “brother”, so it sounded like “buzzer”.

  30. P.S. @ Mark H. – I’ve been reading the “Real, Classy, & Compleat Bloom County“: Ten weeks after Oliver’s encounter with the “flesh” Band-Aid and crayon (Jan. 4th & 5th, 1989), Breathed published a follow-up (on 14-Mar-89):

  31. Do you recall a movie with a title including the phrase “… the Indian” where that was a reference to a model of motorcycle?

  32. @ Olivier – That’s perfectly correct, but as Mark H. reported above, Crayola got rid of the adjective in 1999, probably because they wanted to avoid the sort of problems that the “Washington Football Team” is currently experiencing.
    P.S. @ Mitch4 – In Michael (“Bully”) Herbig’s extraordinarily irreverant, decidedly politically incorrect, and hilariously funny western parody “Der Schuh des Manitu“, the role of the Shoshone chieftain “Listiger Lurch” (“cunning amphibian”) was played by Irshad Panjatan, an Indian actor (born in Hyderabad).

  33. I was conflating two different movies. The irrelevant one was “The Indian Runner” https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102116/reference

    The relevant one was “The World’s Fastest Indian” https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0412080/reference , where the word is indeed a reference to a brand of motorcycle. IMDb summary: The story of New Zealander Burt Munro, who spent years rebuilding a 1920 Indian motorcycle, which helped him set the land speed world record at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967.

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