July has been dominated by Barbie, and when I think about Barbie one of the first things that pops into my head is Pink, pretty much every picture on social media over the last few weeks has been dominated by pink, pink clothing, pink cars and of course the Barbie pink branding. But did you know that pink was once considered a masculine colour.
When we discuss menswear and its vibrant history, the conversation often circulates around the navy blues, earthy browns, blacks, whites, and occasionally, deep reds. However, one colour that has been a topic of debate, curiosity and resurgence is the colour pink. Once categorised as feminine, pink has threaded its way back into the modern man's wardrobe and it's intriguing to step back and appreciate how this journey unfolded.
Pink, in its earliest incarnations, wasn't linked to gender. Infants, regardless of sex, were often dressed in white due to the ease of bleaching when inevitably soiled. As colour began becoming more common in children's clothing around the 19th century, there wasn't a unanimous decision on what colours were appropriate for boys or girls. Intriguingly, it was in the late 19th and early 20th century that pink began its association with masculinity.
Why was pink, a shade now widely associated with femininity, once viewed as masculine? The explanation lies in the societal norms and associations of the time. Pink, a derivative of red, was seen as a 'watered-down' version of this strong and passionate colour. As red was associated with military uniforms and the heat of battle, pink was deemed appropriate for boys, representing youthful masculinity. Blue, on the other hand, was associated with the Virgin Mary, constancy, and faithfulness, making it an apt colour for girls.
The shift in the gender-colour association is believed to have taken place post World War II with the advent of new marketing strategies. As consumerism grew, manufacturers began advertising pink as a colour for girls and blue for boys, leading to the modern stereotyping of these colours. The exact reason for this switch is unclear, but it's believed that the marketing and retail industry played a significant role in this transformation.
Fast forward to the 21st century, fashion became more adventurous and boundary-pushing. A significant push in the resurgence of pink in menswear came with the millennial pink trend, which started around 2016. This muted, almost beige-pink became a staple in design, interior décor and, of course, fashion. High-end fashion houses and mainstream brands alike began incorporating pink into their menswear lines, marking a turn away from the rigid colour-gender associations of the past.
Pink, in all its shades, began appearing on the red carpet, on runway models and everyday clothing items. From pastel pink suits to deeper fuchsia ties, men started embracing pink as a colour that conveys confidence, style, and a certain level of sartorial fearlessness.
The history of the colour pink in menswear is a fascinating example of how fashion trends are deeply interconnected with societal norms and cultural shifts. As we continue to break down gender stereotypes in the 21st century, it's clear that colours, just like fashion, are open to interpretation and personal expression. Pink is back in the realm of menswear, more vibrant and versatile than ever, proving that it's not just a colour - it's a statement.