Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In The Pink

By now I'm sure you've heard of the ridiculous "controversy" in which conservatives are outraged (Outraged!!!) over some J. Crew lady painting her son's toenails pink, because goodness knows there's nothing more important to worry about than gender-specific color assignments. Perhaps you're wondering, as I have many times, where this "pink is for girls, blue is for boys" thing comes from.

Enter Jo B. Paoletti of the University of Maryland, who has studied this concept extensively and will be publishing a book on the subject this year. The Smithsonian Magazine has a fascinating preview of Paoletti's work, including a fab slide show, which shows that the pink/blue divide is much more recent than you may think:

The march toward gender-specific clothes was neither linear nor rapid. 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.

For example, a Ladies’ Home Journal article 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.”

Basically, it turns out the Baby Boomers are to blame, as always.

I'm certainly going to get this book when it comes out, as this is obviously an interesting topic to me. I've also always been puzzled by the whole concept of seasonal clothing colors, a set of sartorial "rules" I've always enthusiastically rejected.

Up top: just in case you want to show solidarity with the boy with pink toenails, you can purchase these shoes from Keds! They're available in men's sizes!


HRH King Friday XIII, Ret. said...

Oh for the love of Dr. Frankenfurter! The J. Crew ad is just a mother and her young son horsing around and having a good time! Why is it that the people who preach family unity always find a way to make silly childhood fun about sex and politics?? Persoanlly I think its because they had very, very depressing childhoods.

samael7 said...

I blame it on Life. You know. That game, Life by Milton Bradley, I think.

Hee hee, "pink is a decisive color." What the hell does that even mean!! Hee hee!

Butch Pansy said...

I'm a veteran pattern mixer. For this year's fashion statement I've decided it's sock-garters with Bermuda shorts! Black silk socks, of course, and brown wing-tips for a more casual look than businesslike black provides. A Brooks Brothers Madras bow-tie completes the look!

Toriko said...

Children are interested in what Mommy and Daddy do. If Mommy is painting her nails, the child will want to join in, same with if Daddy is fixing the car. It is natural, and how they learn.

Now fix the freaking economy you bastards

MrsTarquinBiscuitbarrel said...

Well, when Meg March Brooke gave birth to her twins in "Little Women" (1868), doting Aunt Amy announced that she'd put a blue ribbon on the boy and a pink one on the girl, "French fashion."

So we can go back to blaming the French for their Freedom Babywear, and let the Baby Boomers off the hook for once.