Boys in Pink Dresses
Why are we obsessed with dressing girls in pink and boys in blue? Vanessa Beddoe-Sandstrom discovers it hasn’t always been this way.
The history of pink and blue
There’s been an explosion of pink in my house. It arrived with the birth of my daughter three-months-ago, and my laundry now requires a dedicated pink load at least twice a week. Aging family photographs from the late 1970s reveal it wasn’t always this way. There I was, bright ginger hair against a sea of yellow, orange and bottle green corduroy. Not one article of pink clothing to be seen.
Baby photos from the late 1800s show that boys and girls alike wore frilly white dresses – probably for practical reasons – dresses allow for easy nappy changes, and white can easily be bleached. In fact, boys were only foisted into shorts and more masculine clothing around 6 or 7, also traditionally the time of their first haircut.
Pink for boys
Colour only entered the pallet for baby clothing in the early 20th century. However, a 1918 magazine article reveals that: “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." When nursery colours first came in, pink was assigned to boys because it represented strength and masculinity, blood and war. Blue was for girls because it was associated with faith, constancy and the Virgin Mary.
So when did it all change? In the 1940s manufacturers settled on pink for girls and blue for boys (some believe that this switch occurred because homosexuals were forced to wear pink triangles on their clothing in Nazi Germany), so the Baby Boomer generation were raised with wearing the two colours. Then along came the women's liberation movement, which led to unisex baby clothes becoming popular in the late '60s and '70s and the popularity of all things beige.
Pink and blue made a come back in the mid 1980s, with the development of prenatal testing. Once parents could find out whether they were having a boy or a girl, they could go all out decorating the nursery in advance. Manufacturers and marketers then quickly cottoned onto the fact that they could sell twice as much if they pushed the two colours – perish the thought of a little brother being carted around in his sister’s bright pink pram wearing a ‘Daddy’s Little Princess’ t-shirt.
But does it matter?
As the mother of two boys, I’d never given much thought to the implications of pink and blue, but the arrival of my little girl has made me question the whole princess and fairy phenomenon. Tutus aren’t conducive to racing around a playground and climbing trees and lace can tear and catch. Not to mention getting stains out of light pinks and pastels. While
I’m not going to banish pink altogether, I think I’ll keep the princess-wear for parties, and step up my search for the ultimate corduroy dungarees…
You must be signed in to comment. Sign in or Register