Pink and Blue

Pink for Girls...blue for boys right?

Well not always...prior to the 20th century, specific colours don't seem to have been associated much with gender at all. Interestingly, in the early part of the 20th century, rumour has it pink was considered a boy's colour - perhaps because it's a paler version of the more aggressive, war-like red. Whether this is true or another urban myth that is doing the rounds, what is certain is that it wasn't until the 1950s that pink for girls and blue for boys were firmly established as cultural mores.

The following excerpts from early 20th century American magazines have been cited as evidence that the earlier pink/ blue gender association was the reverse of how we view it today.


There has been a greater diversity of opinion on the subject but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. 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 girls.

Ladies Home Journal, June, 1918.


If you like the colour note on the little one's garment, use pink for a boy and blue for a girl, if you are a follower of convention

Sunday Sentinal, March 29, 1914.

Hitler and Pink

Why this shift occurred is not entirely clear but the Nazis, apparently attempting a feminine association, used pink triangles to identify homosexuals in their concentration camps, thus indicating the shift to pink for girls had already begun in the 1930s. Now, of course, in Western cultures, pink is the representative colour of gay pride.

The pink triangles have led some theorists to suggest the shift to blue for boys was a reaction against that particular feminine association, despite the fact that in Catholic tradition in Germany, blue was apparently the colour most associated with the Virgin Mary....a symbol for many of motherhood and femininity. It's all very confusing.

In a satirical twist that would have made Hitler blush pink to his bootstraps, in 2010 an advertising agency for a clothing store in Palermo put up 18 foot high posters depicting Hitler in a pink Nazi uniform, with love heart emblems instead of swastikas. The campaign caused a storm of controversy in Italy, with protesters claiming it was highly offensive to portray images of one of the worst human rights offenders in human history in public spaces, irrespective of his satirical garb.

"Change your style...don't follow your leader" was the ad campaign's slogan
"Change your style...don't follow your leader" was the ad campaign's slogan
1950's Kitchens
1950's Kitchens
Pretty in Pink
Pretty in Pink

Post-war Pastels

Probably the most convincing reason for the growing blue/pink sex division is that advertisers recognised the marketing power of gender assigned colours.

Pink and blue became highly popular after the war leading to speculation that a post-war penchant for pastels could have been a reaction to the dull khakis and browns of WW2. Weary from years of sombreness, the population desired softer, more evocative tones and pink and blue became designer colours in the 50's . Woman, having been successfully out in the workforce in droves during wartime, were now sent back to home and kitchen to become housewives and mothers.

In the early stages of what was to be a nuclear family avalanche, consumers were bombarded by advertisers, through television, billboards and magazines with images of slick pink, blue and green wares....the fashion colour choices of the decade. Barbie, the Princess of Pink, was invented and images of girls and women in pink began to infiltrate the collective psyche.


Sexualization

A further explanation for the shift to pink for girls may be that pink was just perceived as'sexier'... thus for the purposes of sexualizing female images in the advertising glut that flooded the post-war media, pink better suited the demographic. After all, pink is the colour of lips, nipples, genitalia and blushing emotions.


~Blushing is the color of virtue.~

Diogenes


However did we manage before this colour division became clear...? All babies look alike in the sense that there are no clear external markers to denote gender (assuming they've got some clothes on). With the blue/pink gender guide if you're staring into a pram and you see something squirming around in a blue jumpsuit you can remark to the proud parent with reasonable confidence "ah what a delightful little boy!"


Pink Propaganda...1957

The Blue Boy
The Blue Boy
Litte Boy Blue...come blow your horn
Litte Boy Blue...come blow your horn
'The Old Guitarist" from Picasso's Blue Period
'The Old Guitarist" from Picasso's Blue Period

Blue has become the colour of moodiness, depicting more than a babies gender. It also denotes sadness, depression, calmness, softness, sultriness and a musical genre. In the latter case it seems the term "the blues" referred to the "blue devils" of melancholia. Early references to this can be found in George Colman's one-act farce Blue Devils written in 1798. Hart Wand's "Dallas Blues" was the first copyrighted blues composition but 'the blues' were probably sung about much earlier in the spirituals and field songs of Southern Black communities.


Associations of boys with blueness can be found much earlier than 1950; in the nursery rhyme Little Boy Blue, for example, and Gainsborough's famous Blue Boy.. Both titles gel with the modern colour gender meme. Although these colours were probably used incidentally, had they been called Little Boy Pink and Pink Boy, they would have conjured a different meaning, so strong is the cultural identification with gender. It's certainly possible that such well known works gave support to the blue for boys shift.


~Blue eyes say 'love me or I die'...black eyes say 'love me or I kill thee'.~

Spanish Proverb



One of nature's favourite colours
One of nature's favourite colours

Blue Moon

Photograph by Henry Pessar
Photograph by Henry Pessar

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Comments 22 comments

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

What a creative hub, Jane. Really enjoyed it and the videos. Curious - what gave you the idea for the pink vs blue subject?


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Oh thanks drbj. I saw someone on TV casually remark that pink used to be a boys colour and it surprised and intrigued me. I thought 'pink for girls' had always been the case. Now someone has since informed me that the pink for boys thing might be an urban myth so ...lol..I don't know. What is for certain though is that the 1950's is when the blue/pink gender division really took off in a big way.

Cheers


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

As you say blue tends to be associated with sadness and with hard times. Certainly being tough and taking it on the chin was considered a male trait and still is. Guys have been known to do stupid even suicidal things to impress women. Hemingway once wrote about these young Spanish guys who ate broken glass to show how tough they were. I have never come across a group of women that daft.The Blues began as music associated with African American culture. Maybe that's the origins of blue for boys. Sadness and being able to take whatever life dishes out. Mind you women can be just as tough in this respect but it hasn't always been culturally recognized. On the other hand, you have Picasso's sad and tearful women in blue.

Certainly Great Britain was considered in the 19th and early 20th Centuries to be a navy power above everything else and blue could have its origins as a more positive symbol of maleness in the navy uniform.

Pink as a symbol of femininity I have always associated with the very female vagina. Whether there is anything historic to back up this point of view I can't say.

Red has been the symbol of protest and revolution from the Italian red shirts to the red in the Nazi flag to the red in the communist flag.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Hey Rod...thankyou for those great comments. Good lord, I can't imagine why those Spaniards thought women would be impressed by a man who eats glass!! I would have thought it would be the reverse. Duh. Yes it's interesting too that blue has associations with political conservatism and red for progressives or revolutionaries as you say....(red for blood?)

Good point about the navy uniform.

There is confusing information out there though about the pink/blue divide. I just read that Hiler used used pink triangles not to denote femininity,as I wrote in the hub, but because pink was a male colour and indicted the wearers liked men. I don't know which is correct now.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Don't forget, Jane, that Spanish men think women are impressed by men who play with bulls and thus risk getting trampled or skewered by them.

Yes.I would say red for blood but also danger. Whether it is danger because of blood or something else I can't say.

Pink has been associated with male gayness. Possibly Hitler kicked it off from the reasons you have stated or more likely it was already there from the reasons you have started.

I would say pink does denote femininity and there is the notion that men who like men are in some way feminine.

Me? i am happy with the notion of pink for girls and blue for boys even if it may not always have been so, even if it is a matter of culture, the times in which we live and our own point of view.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Hahaha...I like the bullfight comment. Yes blue for boys and pink for girls does seem firmly entrenched now...except for those trendy metrosexual babies.

I like blue myself.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City

I think I'll shower my baby in green so he or she can make a lot of money to support me in retirement.

It's worth noting that in Chinese culture red is a color strongly associated with luck. Maybe that was a godsend for communism there.

We also have the famous "red-coats" of the British military centuries ago, which I seem to recall was intended to indicate the soldiers were so confident they were unafraid of being spotted from miles away (which the American colonists enjoyed), and also to cover any blood so that a soldier wouldn't be distracted.

And speaking of politics, nowadays in the US we have political maps in which states or districts that vote Democratic are colored blue and those that vote Republican are colored red. Hence the famous "red-state/ blue-state" distinction, which often points to cultural differences as well as political ideology between liberal Massachusetts and conservative Oklahoma, for example.

However, I recall hearing that decades ago the colors were reversed, and the Republican states were blue and the Democratic ones were red--because of the proximity to communism and socialism, of course. All very confusing.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Secularist, hi..for a moment I didn't recognize you...you've put on weight and gone blonde, but it suits you.

Yes I though about the redcoats..such hubris, lol...they might as well have sewn a bullseye on to the back of their jackets. That's interesting about the coloured states and the reversal. I would have thought the Republicans would balk at anything remotely communist associated. In Australia it's blue for conservatives, red for Labour and not surprisingly, green for Greens...oh and Grey for the Senior Citizen party...heh.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

It is funny you should mention the bullseye in conjunction with the British.

Check out WW2 planes such as the supermarine spitfire and you will find your bullseye right on the side of the British fighter plane. I believe they still have the bullseye design on their fighter planes. The coloring of the bullseye is red, white and blue or just red and blue. I guess they do like to poke their tongues out at the enemy those Brits.

Gray for the gray panthers you might say.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Lol..I see what you mean Rod...in-your-face British confidence. They're jaunty looking planes. I note the bullseye logo was also taken up by the Mods in the sixties.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

I do like the look of the supermarine spitfire with its bullseyes even though it was the British hurricane with its bullseyes that had more to do with their victory in the battle of Britain. Yes, the spitfires were jaunty planes.

Yes. Now that you mention it the Mods in the sixties did take up the bullseye logo. They were cheeky those Mods.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City

Ha, thanks for noticing Jane. You're so charming. Actually, this cute/ cuddly schtick is just a transparent attempt to get more chicks following me on Hub Pages (don't tell anybody).

I once heard a conservative give the theory that the liberal media, in trying to make liberalism appear more mainstream, started depicting the Democratic regions as blue so as to break that association with socialism, which is much more toxic here than in Europe or other regions. Makes as much sense as anything else, I guess. But judging by the recent Tea party movement and its offshoots, it doesn't seem to have worked very well.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Rod, yes I guess the mods were the first generation to take the p*ss out of the establishment sartorially.

Secularist, haha...well personally I thought your original photo was fairly chick-magentic, but what would I know?

I thought the liberal media was a myth...?


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City

Aw, thanks, you're sweet. Maybe for my next photo I'll pose with a cute dog and overnight double my following. Anything to avoid the difficult work of writing more creative, interesting hubs.

Actually, I do think the US media, with the exception of Fox News and most of talk radio, is pretty solidly left-of-center. It's all about what goes on between the lines. Fox News, on the other hand, is solidly rightist.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

I had to hit all of your buttons! Very nice! I liked both videos. I'm a big fan of BB King. This is all the above!

Of course, even as a baby, I've always dressed in camouflage green.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Hahaha...I love that camouflage comment. (and BB KIng is SO good)


alberich 6 years ago

Jane you are so creative, interesting and gifted. It is a joy the read your hubs and the abundant diversity of subjects. We never know your next move.

Keep on!!


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

alberich, it's lovely to get a comment like that. I really appreciate it.Thankyou.:)


TransScribbler 6 years ago

This is freaky! I have been researching this exact topic for a Hub, and then I find yours!

My favourite colour is purple, because being raised as a boy, I was not allowed to like pink.

Do you know about the controvesary caused by Princess Astrid of Belgium in the late 1920s? It seems that, expecting a male heir, HRH had had the cradle lined with pink cloth, as at that time, pink was boys & blue was for girls!

Great Hub! Thank you!


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Purple is a good compromise! No I hadn't heard about Astrid but I did know about the blue and pink reversal. It just goes to show how arbitrary these cultural gender things are.

I'll look forward to reading your hub!


Assassin Fred 5 years ago

Pink / Blue... whatever. wear what you want, and be cofident in what you wear. Great read, thanks for sharing!


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Assassin Fred, I couldn't agree more..it's all about what you feel comfortable in.

Cheers and thanks for reading.

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