Getting into pink
PUBLISHED: 09:35 28 February 2018
Pink was once the preferred colour for baby boys. So how did it get so girly?
Who decided pink was for girls? There are aisles in toy stores that are so pink they hurt your eyes. Blush pink, baby pink, rose pink, fuchsia pink, shocking pink... girl children and Katie Price appear to claim possession of them all. And yet, pink is a very good colour on men and, increasingly, the colour features in men’s fashion.
It remains disproportionately feminine but the men’s clothes are catching up – and about time too.
When I looked for pictures on a fashion website, there was definitely more pink for men than there has been in the past.
I mention this because February 28 is Pink Day. It began in 2007 after a pair of Canadian students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, saw one of their fellow high school students being bullied for no other reason than that they were wearing a pink shirt. The two men decided to show support for the student and take a stand against bullying by getting everyone at their school to wear a pink shirt the next day. Thus Pink Day was created to stamp out bullying and spread understanding.
While grown men tend to regard the wearing of pink as an irrelevance among adults it seems that Western Society insists on imprinting colour consciousness on children from birth. Look at the cards you can send for the birth of babies. The blue ones are almost invariably for boys and the pink ones for girls.
Why? Beats me.
Then comes the onslaught of Barbie et al. It’s not exclusively about pinkness but there is a lot of pink for small girls and almost none for small boys and yet it is not in our DNA - not at all.
From the late 1800s male and female tinies were dressed in frilly white frocks. I imagine this was because baby clothes tended to be generic rather than gender specific. It was, apparently a gradual shift.
A piece penned by American Margaret Hartmann on jezebel.com looks at the history of pink and blue. “Pastel baby clothes were introduced in the mid-19th century, but... weren’t gender-specific at first.
An article in the American publication Ladies’ Home Journal article from 1918 said: ‘The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.’
But somewhere along the line it changes and in the 1940s manufacturers settled on pink for girls and blue for boys.
“Once parents could find out whether they were having a boy or a girl, they could outfit their nursery in the “appropriate” colour. Manufacturers pushed the fad too after realizing affluent parents would buy a whole new set of baby products once they found out Junior was expecting a little sister,” writes Hartmann, citing the work of Maryland historian Jo B. Paoletti.
As a grandmother, I can confirm my small grandsons are pink averse, mainly because the pink is confined to the racks of girls’ clothes. It is not a colour preference. Studies have shown that small children tend to be attracted to primary colours such as red.
In 2007, researchers at Newcastle University asked adults for their favourite colour and blue came out top for men and women although women, on average, rated the reddish shades more highly than the men did. This seems to be an acquired preference, however, as a study elsewhere (Namibia) did not find women more attracted to reddishness.
A 2014 article by Claudia Hammond on the BBC website reveals: “When one-year-old girls and boys were shown pairs of identical objects such as bracelets, pill boxes and picture frames, but with one object pink and another of a second colour, they were no more likely to choose pink than any other colour. But after the age of two the girls started to like pink and, by four, boys were determined in their rejection of pink.”
And yet, we respond positively to pink. Look at the Pink ‘Un football newspaper in Norwich – did anyone refuse to buy it because of its colour? Of Course not. Suffolk pink houses? Who isn’t drawn to this rural idyll? In 2002 researchers in Switzerland, keen to increase the response rate to surveys, found that printing questionnaires on coloured paper made no difference, unless the paper was pink, in which case 12% more people filled it in.
Reasons to wear pink (according to various websites)
Pink is masculine and sexy
It catches the eye
Because it’s only clothes, after all
If you happen to be a prisoner in Arizona, you will have to wear pink
It makes you more powerful because you know how to wear pink
It goes well with a lot of other colours
What’s all this about anyway – you don’t need a reason to wear pink whoever you are
You can make the colour look even better
Pink is the new... black... or maybe blue...
You washed your white shirts with a pink towel
Not having to conform to gender stereotypes gives you the freedom to express yourself
Because femininity is not weak or twee. It is strong and fierce... and who doesn’t want to be like that, eh guys?
In the 18th century, men were known to wear pink silk suits that had floral embroideries so history is on your side
Elvis Presley wore a pink jacket