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thoughts on why kim kardashian and neon are made for each other

A deep dive into Kim’s recent pivot to neon.

by Matthew Whitehouse
23 August 2018, 7:15am

Image via Instagram

Where Picasso had his Blue Period, August of 2018 will forever be known as the summer in which Kim Kardashian went full-on neon.

We first became aware of the new trend when Kim stepped out in Miami last week, wearing what appeared to be a neon green wig to match her neon green Lamborghini. Since then the Jam (Turn It Up) hitmaker has been seen sporting a variety of increasingly acid coloured creations.

“Beach Babe! Kim Kardashian West Shows Off Her Curves in Miami While Wearing a Skimpy Neon Thong,” exclaimed People Magazine on Monday. “You Literally Could Not Miss Kim Kardashian in This Neon Pink Catsuit If You Tried,” howled Cosmopolitan the Friday before.

Kim’s most daring look came when she wore what the Daily Mail might refer to as "figure-hugging" latex number to the recent nuptials of 2 Chainz and Kesha Ward, a choice that might have piqued accusations of scene-stealing had her husband, Kanye West, not arrived at the ceremony looking, as one Twitter user so eloquently put it, “like yer da taking the bins out in yer maws slippers”.

So what, readers, does Kim’s recent and abrupt pivot to neon actually mean?

In fashion, neon has come to describe a variety of fluorescent tones that do-not-exist-in-nature: hot yellow, hot green, hot red, hot pink. While many have traced Kim’s own immersion back to the latter -- a Post-It pink Yeezy number worn to half-sister Kylie’s 21st birthday earlier this month -- keener observers will note that the hue has been a prominent feature of the Kardashian-West household for some time.

Kim rocked the look back in May when visiting Disneyland with children North and Saint, earning comparisons to a "crossing guard" in Harper's Bazaar. The colour too, was closely linked to that used on the cover of Kanye’s recent album, ye, in which the publicity-shy rapper wrote “I hate being Bi-Polar / its awesome [sic]" in stark, green lettering (a colour that’s since been seen everywhere from SZA's new hair to Blake Lively's Versace suit). Even the accompanying “Wyoming” merch came in various shades of day-glo pink and yellow.

Like, much of this sort of thing, neon is a trend we first spotted on the runway earlier this year. There was heaps of the stuff at Louis Vuitton, where Virgil Abloh’s debut show as men’s artistic director for spring/summer 19 saw neon blue coats and a phosphorescent rework of the LV weekend bag hit the runway. At Balenciaga autumn/winter 18, it popped up in Demna Gvasalia’s collaboration with the World Food Programme, modelled by Adut Akech in our recent Earthwise Issue cover story. Over at Prada, meanwhile, designer Miuccia spoke of giving women a uniform to “go out into the street and not be afraid”, her creations acting as a sort of high-vis for the #MeToo movement.

To really understand Kim’s new look, however, it pays to go back to the beginning. Neon, in all its chemical glory, was first extracted from the air by British scientists Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers at the end of the 1890s. The name -- taken from the Greek neos -- was intended to imply something new or strange, and the colourful tubes into which the gas was trapped, chilled, heated and excited, soon became synonymous with the nocturnal hedonism of America’s cities: strip clubs, liquor stores, the iridescent glow of sinful enticement.

In 2018, while you’ll still rarely see neon lights used to advertise something as wholesome as, say, a bake sale (“HOT XXX BUNS” anyone?), the medium has been largely stripped of its previous, garish connotations. What began as a signifier of crass commercialism, today appears in art works, in film, in high fashion. It’s become a brazen symbol of popular culture; an American icon with an ability to divide the nation like, well -- remind you of anyone, much?

Kim Kardashian
kanye west