Why pink for girls and blue for boys?
I don’t know about you, but I have noticed that there is a definite “thing” with women of a certain age, I would say 60+, and their obsession with the colours pink and blue. I cannot remember a single older lady who, on seeing my daughter tucked up in her smart navy pram, with cream coloured blanket and probably floral blue patterned outfit, neutral coloured cardigan, or even multi-coloured top, correctly identifying that she was in fact female. Since the recent move towards gender neutral clothing and accessories, we’ve probably all had that uncomfortable chat
“oh he’s so sweet, how old is he?”
responding with a muttered “She’s 6 months”
then, “oh, enjoy him, he’s not going to be little for long.”
And having to walk away feeling pretty furious and confused in equal parts, while also wondering why you care what this stranger thinks??!!
Well, interestingly, it’s probably not these womens’ fault. Somewhere in the middle of the 20th century, the gender colour stereotype thing set in, right when these well-meaning old ladies were children themselves. Even more interestingly, it turns out that for 100 years, from the 1850’s, pink was actually viewed as a strong colour for boys colour, while blue was delicate and dainty and perfect for little girls! Before that, they all wore white, because it was easy to wash!
After the second world war, the trends for women, inspired by the feminine shapes of Christian Dior and the New Look, florals, and pinks became the trend for women. However, during the 1960s, when women’s liberation became an important movement, and women felt that they didn’t want to be identified by their gender, colour became more gender neutral for adults and children too.
It wasn’t until relatively recently, in the mid 1980’s that pink for girls and blue for boys actually became a thing, interestingly around the time of gender testing in unborn babies. Merchandisers spotted potential marketing opportunity when parents could prepare for the arrival of their new babies before they were born, and quickly went all out on filling shops with “boy” and “girl” clothing, bedding, accessories, toys. When I look back at photos of me as a baby, there was very little pink. Mainly brown and orange (in the late 1970s), not exactly a cute look and I did wonder why my parents hadn’t gone down the pink route as I grew up, so maybe this explains it...
Anyway, it really all comes back to marketing, it seems. Boo!! And maybe, now, it feels like we are going through a new era when we are keen not to gender stereotype? So it’s worth remembering that there are plenty of other colours to choose from, and the pink for girls and blue for boys is not set in stone or any long term tradition that we should all stick to. But of course each to their own!
- Joanna Dunn