Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pink and Blue

South Korean Artist JeongMee Yoon's The Pink and Blue Projects
One day last week, when brainstorming ideas about gender and color, the question arose : "Why pink and blue?" We have heard the saying so many times it becomes ingrained. Pink is for girls and blue is for boys. But where did that idea come from and when?

 According to Smithsonian Magazines Jeanne Maglaty, "Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I—and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out." Because "pink was once a color associated with masculinity, considered to be a watered down red and held the power associated with that color".  When gendered color for babies started,  the roles were switched. . The Mary Sue, a blog on girl geek culture, found this gem that appeared in the June 1918 issue of Earnshaw's Infants’ Department, a trade publication:
“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 color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

Today's pink/blue assignments were not solidified until the 1940s when , and it could easily have gone the other way. Childerns clothes started out far more gender and color neutral. Jo B. Paoletti, a historian at the University of Maryland and author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From the Boys in America has studied the history of childern's clothing for 30 years.
"It’s really a story of what happened to neutral clothing. For centuries... children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6. [It was] a matter of practicality—you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached"
Color Prefrances via KISSmetrics

But perhaps ironically when asked women almost never chose pink as their favorite color. This graphic was made using data from a study done in 2003. It compared the color preferences for various demographic using 232 people from 22 countries. The graphs are strikingly similar with one exception: 23% of women chose purple as their favorite color. If instead of using the tired pink and blue distinction we went with each genders color preferences boys would still be wearing blue and girls would be wearing blue with purple socks.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio


  1. Great article! I'd heard something similar before, but didn't know the real history - thanks for sharing, gonna link to it on my FB business page :)

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