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A Blog About Culture

Recognition, Situation, Identity, Reality

Here is a thought that crossed my mind as I was sitting in the typical northern Virginia traffic recently: Why are cars all solid colors? It is unusual to see a car painted even a custom color, or a two-tone (except wood paneled station wagons, I guess), or with any kind of pattern at all — even subtle ones. Why is that? We personalize everything. We buy covers for our phones. We decorate our homes. We wear clothing to express who we are. Why are our vehicles all the same?

What are your first reactions when you see a car like this? Who do you think drives this car?

What about this one?

My guess is that you have some pretty specific connotations about the owners of those vehicles.

The only kind of decorated vehicle I see regularly are commercial vehicles with signs, logos, or other forms of advertising on them. I think that has a lot to say about the acceptability of capitalistic motivations in our mainstream media/lives/world. Sometimes it’s done in interesting ways. I’ve seen a Lilly Pulitzer jeep driving around before — not sure if it was the official advertising one or just some ladies who were really into pastels… but either way, it points back to the brand.

Why is it okay to advertise our work and businesses on our vehicles, but expressing our personalities for the world to see isn’t really done? As I was looking up photos to use in this blog post, I did come across the blog of someone who was documenting painted cars in Key West. Maybe that’s something they do there, and maybe it just isn’t done here for whatever reason. Do other places in the US decorate vehicles?

Or, maybe people do express themselves using their cars. Perhaps the self that they want to portray is “normal” or “professional.” “Fitting in” means a lot to some people. It is easy to change your clothes based on whatever situation you’re going into, but it is pretty costly to change your car’s paint job frequently. A basic, solid color can fit into any setting… and I guess you could always slap on a bumper sticker for some personality.


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