Quick quiz – can you name all of these Hermès leather colors?
Now that’s an unfair question; even I, as a longtime customer of Hermès, couldn’t have done that. There have been so many neutral colors over the years, often with similar or foreign-to-me names (what actually is Macassar? Well, actually it’s an ebony wood), that it’s very easy to get confused. Hermès has produced what seems to have been a million shades of brown.
But this is also a trick question – because they’re all the same color!
Yes, these are all swatches of one color, Noisette (Hazelnut), in various leathers, including regular leathers, several exotic leathers, and doblis (suede).
In fact, the same color can look completely different depending upon the leather of the bag. You often hear that certain leathers (such as swift) “take color very well”, by which is usually meant that the color is very saturated and consistent. However, Hermès customers are often not given the option to choose the leather of the bag they are buying, due not only to the limitations of what stock the boutique receives in its shipments, but also because most colors are just not offered in every leather. Some colors are only offered on one or two leathers, most often Epsom (a leather with a grained imprint) and Swift (which is completely smooth, and therefore will show color very differently from Epsom) and some colors, such as Rose Scheherazade, have only been offered in exotic leathers).
The range of shades of how a color can appear in various leathers may vary widely. This isn’t the case with many colors, but even a short-lived color, such as Alezan, can look completely different in every single option offered over just one or two seasons:
Would you know off the bat that these swatches of Alezan were all the same color? Of course not. The doblis shade looks like gold; the swift and togo shades could be mistaken for Etoupe; the matte alligator might be Fauve Barenia. And honestly, as taste in color is so subjective, the leather used can have a huge effect on the visual appeal of the shade.
Additionally, how a color/leather combo ages over time can affect the appearance of the color. Going back up to Noisette, you can see that one shade – the Shiny Alligator swatch – is much redder than the others. This may simply be due to the age of the bag and how it was stored and cared for.
Often this color disparity can have confusing results. The end of one given color’s range may be smack in the middle of a different color’s range and can result in very similar appearances for colors that are vastly different in other leathers:
That aged Noisette in Shiny Alligator could easily be mistaken for its neighbor Sanguine in the same leather, and it’s not that far off from Rouge de Coeur or even Rouge H in Alligator as well.
This is why longtime readers of the PurseForum will recall countless threads of people asking whether to purchase (or request) one color or another – it can be very confusing, especially when we often don’t get to see all the available colors in person – it’s also why I, personally, don’t sweat the choice of one particular color over another when the shades are that close (Rose Azalee or Rose Lipstick? Rouge Casaque or Rouge Grenat? My advice is always: if you can, go see it in person. Photos can be confusing, and one leather shows the color differently than another).
One further complication is that popular colors, which are offered over many different years or even perpetually, can have different dye lots which aren’t exactly the same. This is something I first noticed with the color Bleu Electrique; the original shade was very blue and vibrant, with later reissues being just a touch more dull and with a bit less purple to them.
I also noticed this with Rose Jaipur, which was originally a coral bordering on orange but over the years has acquired a bit more of a pink undertone to it.
One way to see how a color just varies over the years and with various leathers is with the color Rouge H.
This is a standing color which is almost always offered in a variety of leathers. At times it has had more of a cherry shade to it, sometimes a bit more orange, sometimes a touch more brown. Sometimes it’s even an actual red. It just depends on the dye lot and leather.
Have you noticed these differences? Do these variations change the desirability of a color? Or do you find that the variations don’t make much of a difference to you? For me, I’m in the latter camp: I’m fine with a range of similar shades as long as they don’t veer into territory which no longer works with my style or wardrobe, and I tend to request bags in those terms (for example, one could request “any pink darker than Rose Sakura and less orange than Rose Jaipur”, or “any green darker than menthe with no yellow or olive undertones”). I don’t obsess over one particular color unless there really is nothing similar (if anyone at Hermès reads this, please bring back Parme!) and I find that doing so tends to take a bit of the stress and guesswork away from my Sales Associate, and makes acquiring a bag just that much easier.