Upon their introduction, certain classes of nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene appeared completely disjointed from the area of soft matter—in part because forming stable fluid phases with such materials appeared nearly impossible. In this talk, I will discuss the importance of classical soft matter physics in the development of high-performance CNT materials. I will describe how classical concepts from colloids and polymer science, such as intrinsic viscosity, persistence length, liquid crystalline phase transitions, are key to understanding and controlling CNT fluid phases, and how this degree of control is now yielding a new class of soft materials that combines the most attractive traits of polymers (mechanical softness, easy flow processing) with the properties of conductors and semiconductors, that had remained so far elusive. I will discuss how these advances on controlling CNT phases have allowed rapid progress on the understanding and processing of graphene and graphene oxide. Finally, I will offer my perspective on the advantages and disadvantages of two-dimensional vs. one-dimensional building blocks for multifunctional nanomaterials.