Pink is for Boys, Blue is for Girls

My little guy already has a lot of pink in his life, thanks to having an older sister. Pink blankets and toys are one thing (well, two, actually), but I hadn’t been daring enough to dress him in any pink clothes until I found these shirts:


Tons of stores are selling pink shirts for boys and men this spring. Maybe it’s part of the eighties style revival, like turquoise pants and day-glo, and I say, “hooray for color!”

I’ve been so bored with blue, black, grey, and red. It’s sad to someone like me when a slightly different shade of green or orange is cause for excitement.

I was telling another mom about how excited I was to find pastel shirts, and how I’ve been telling the kids that certain colors don’t have to be for boys or girls, and this mom told me something that blew my mind:

“Up until about 100 years ago, pink was a boy color. Red was a man’s color, and since pink is a lighter shade of red, they considered it a good color for boys.”


My first thought was, “Well, if they could turn Marlboro cigarettes from a women’s brand to the symbol of manly, rugged, masculine, masculinity, then they could do the same switcheroo to pink.”


Source: via Kylie on Pinterest

My second thought was, “Hmm. I should research that.”

Ahem, research,  as in Google and Wikipedia.

This is what I found on Wikipedia:

An article in the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department in June 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 color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”[18] From then until the 1940s, pink was considered appropriate for boys because being related to red it was the more masculine and decided color, while blue was considered appropriate for girls because it was the more delicate and dainty color, or related to the Virgin Mary.[19][20][21] Since the 1940s, the societal norm was inverted; pink became considered appropriate for girls and blue appropriate for boys, a practice that has continued into the 21st century.[22]

A cursory search around the internet found that most articles on the subject quote the same information as the Wikipedia article. I’d have to do real research to find out if it’s all true.

Dang! That’s not going to happen.

One thing I read was that babies and children were dressed in white dresses until the end of the 19th century. My guess is that dresses made changing diapers easier, and that white was common because colorful cloth wasn’t widely available, and that people just cared about having clothes that sorta fit for the many, many children they had.

They had better things to concern themselves with than fashion.

You know, like, survival.

At some point though, survival became less of an issue, a leisure class began to develop, there was more money to spend, and the art of selling things to people that they don’t need became big business.

Hey, I watch Mad Men. I know of what I speak, er, write.

So, how are color trends started?

Years ago, I’d read something about how “they” decide what the colors are going to be each season, and then all the fabrics get dyed those colors, and designers use those colors, magazines feature those colors, and ultimately, everybody (well, at least teenagers) wears the same trendy things.

A little more cursory digging on the internet led me to the Pantone website. You know those big decks of color samples used by graphic designers? Those are from Pantone.

Pantone issues a Fashion Color Report each season. Basically, they find out what colors the top designers are using and then they issue a report that pretty much dictates what colors all the lesser designers will use. And that’s why the clothes we buy at places like Target and Old Navy and Macy’s all look suspiciously similar:

Each season, Pantone surveys the designers of New York Fashion Week and beyond to collect feedback on prominent collection colors, color inspiration and color philosophy. This information is used to create the PANTONE Fashion Color Report, which serves as a reference tool throughout the year for fashion enthusiasts, reporters and retailers.

Read more:

I couldn’t find any evidence in the report that they had chosen pink for boys this season, though they did include “Granita” for men, a color most of us would call burgundy. There was plenty of pink for the girls, though.

In fact, the report interviewed 24 “fashion influencers” about their favorite childhood clothing and how they see that style being reinvented for 2012.

Sigh…Pink is still for girls

Based on the interviews, I’m pretty confident to report that pink for girls is still on-trend. As in, “Girls, thou shalt wear pink.”

The interviews included remarks from the following luminary, Barbie:

“One might say I was born in heels. But the first pair that swept me off my feet was an absolute perfect shade of Pink — PANTONE 219 to be exact. For spring 2012, I am thinking about how fab Pink espadrilles will look in my Dream House closet. This doll’s feet don’t feel complete without heels!”

The Reign of Pink
The Reign of Pink

So what about you? Will you dress your little guy in pink this season?

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6 thoughts on “Pink is for Boys, Blue is for Girls

  1. I really wanted to have a boy so I could be a rebel and let him dress in whatever he wanted and play with whatever he wanted. From an energetic perspective pink represents joy. Where I lived last one of our neighbors had a child the same age as my daughter. He had long curly hair and declared that his favorite color was pink.
    His parents gave him the courage to express himself aesthetically and to stand up for his preferences if people told him there was something wrong with that. He was a very rough player and there was nothing “girly” about him, but pink was his favorite color. At the time my daughter wasn’t that into pink but now she’s totally obsessed with it.
    I wonder if her little friend influenced her… I remember not being into pink when I was a child, and before I had my daughter I was pretty dead-set against it, now I have to roll with it…I have discovered some old Easter pictures from the 80’s wth my cousins in pink shirts and plaid shorts with pink and other colors in them…

    1. I love this! Thank you for your comment. I was never into pink. My favorite color has always been some shade of blue (the shade has changed from baby blue to periwinkle to cobalt to robin’s egg), but I’ve learned to love pink now that I have a very pink-oriented daughter. (However, lately, she is saying her favorite colors are turquoise and sea-foam!). I wonder what my toddler will think of pink when he gets old enough to realize that many people consider pink a girl-only color, considering that he’s been playing with tons of pink toys his whole life. He’s very much a typical boy, too. His favorite things are to play with a ball and to rough house. My now-husband wore a pink polo shirt the first time he met my friends from college. I thought that was a brave choice showing he’s comfortable enough in his masculinity to wear any color he wants.

  2. Hi there Kamellia! This is Jo Hadley, owner of Handsome in Pink. Thanks so much for reading my blog ( and finding our online store, It was fun to read your blog too! I’m so glad to hear there are more opportunities for people to buy pink and purple clothes for their little guys. It seems it’s always button down preppy though and not play clothes. That’s why I started my business! My son needed soft, cotton, PINK t-shirts with a masculine touch.

    And I remember my own surprise at learning pink was intended for boys as recently as the 20th century. But then again, I remember boys wearing pink in the 70’s and 80’s when I was growing up. There just wasn’t the extreme division of the sexes by color that defines our current times. All kids, for example, played with legos— now they have special pink/purple pastel legos for girls with sexier lego people. It becomes even more frustrating and noticeable when we become parents and have to shop for toys and clothes for our kids.

    Thanks again for taking on this issue! Be in touch!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jo! Yes, I noticed the same thing: the pink shirts are all polos or button-down Oxford shirts. Very preppy. It’s as if pink can’t be rugged.

      I love your store and will be surely placing an order soon!!

      Thanks for pointing out the issues with the legos. I was pretty surprised by that too. On the one hand, I like pink, so it’s fun to have it in the mix. On the other hand, I think it’s a problem when:
      1. girls’ toys are pink;
      2. only girls play with the pink toys;
      3. the only toys girls will play with are pink; and
      4. other variations on the theme of: girls=pink, pink=girls.

      On a couple of related notes:
      My toddler has started to play with my six-year old daughter’s train set, which she was really into around the ages of three and four. Now that he’s interested, she’s suddenly interested again. They were scuffling over the trains, and I suggested she split them up so they could both have some. She left him the pink and purple engines and took the red and green ones for herself!

      My stepson, the little trendsetter, has been wearing pink soccer socks, AND he’s been wearing socks that are different colors: one pink/one red, or one blue/one black. My other stepson wore a pink knit hat all last winter, and once practically got kicked out of practice for it by his coach. These are boys who declared, “Pink! It’s just what I feared!” when we set up the new family room in the basement when we merged our two households.

      Just doing our part for color freedom 🙂

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