Pink was not always the color for girls

Men, embrace your pink bathrooms — there’s historical precedent, it seems, to cast aside the silly notion that this is a color just for girls. Arcalus Bo recently sent me an article that indicates that prior to the turn of the 20th century and possibly through World War II, we gave little credence to the notion so entrenched today that “blue is for boys” and “pink is for girls.” The article in particular cites research from  Jo Paoletti of the University of Maryland. Her bio says she has spent 30+ years researching and writing about children’s clothing in America, with a focus on the development of gender differences. The University of Utah Press will publish her monograph, Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America, this year. In a nutshell, the story seems to be that it took a long time for gender differences related to clothing colors to become entrenched and that the pink/blue divide is really pretty recent. Even so, recall that evolutionary biologists now also are weighing in on the subject with some studies indicating that women gravitate toward reds and pinks as the result of natural selection reflecting their hunter/gatherer role. Links: The Straight Dope story about girls and boys and pink and blue, and Jo Paoletti’s blog on ethical fashion and conscious consumption. Image: A very lovely 1954 Kohler ad, woof woof.


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  1. Elizabeth Mary says

    Back in the 50’s when I was but a lass in high school, I recall that for some time the favorite outfit of the boys was a pink shirt and black pants. Shirt was often oxford cloth and the pants were cords. I thought it a wonderful “look”. And, they all wore it.

  2. vintage_vantage says

    I just moved into a “new” “cool-onial” and have a bright pink bathroom. Let’s just say it got painted first thing! (The walls were pink, not the fixtures. I would never ruin a true pink bathroom.) Pink is very vintage, but only in the right shades. (Let’s hope day-glow never comes back.)

  3. says

    Nothing wrong with day-glo. In fact, there were some fantastic looking tanktops with day-glo pink, orange, and yellow stripes I bought for my girlfriend at PacSun last year. Those styles are gone, but there are new ones that are just as fantastic and very ’70s retro.

    • pam kueber says

      haha, custardbydesign, you may be in the wrong place, i fear. I am the world’s #1 fan of pink bathrooms. see my sister site and search “avocado bathroom” here and you will find lots of avocado love. different strokes for different folks! 🙂

  4. says

    This reminds me of an encounter with an old woman from Austria, when my first daughter was a baby. We were outside at a yard sale (you always meet the most interesting people at yard sales!), I was holding my daughter, dressed head to toe in pink. The lady was cooing over her, but kept referring to her as “he” and “him”. Finally, my sister said something about her being a girl, and pointed out that, after all, she was all in pink. The woman looked quite surprised and said that in her country, pink was for boys, not for girls. We thought it was a pretty funny indicator of the difference between cultures.

    I have also heard that historically, pink was a color for little boys because it is a lighter version of red, which was considered a strong, masculine color. Funny how things change….

  5. MrsErinD says

    I just love pink, and all shades of it, but the warmer tone bubblegum pink of the 50s is my fave, you just don’t see quite that shade now.

    I decorate with lots of pink, but temper it with other colors, aqua, black etc. so that it doesn’t look like a little girls room in my home, just very 50s, and Hubby is okay with that, as long as I don’t totally overdo it and he has his turquoise blue too, he is okay with a pretty good bit of pink for which I am grateful, because I don’t know what I’d do in a room without at least a little pink!

    That’s what I love about midcentury style, they weren’t afraid of lots of color, and they weren’t afraid of pink!! The husbands weren’t like, oh I’m not a man because my kitchen cupboards are pink, lol!!! You saw lots of pink, especially in the 50s.

  6. Shane says

    I don’t have a problem with pink. Its just another color of the spectrum. And its just another color in that bathroom. Chances are if I tried to use those exact colors in my bathroom it would look like crap!

    Someone mentioned pink and black and anything Fifties can’t go wrong with that. One of my favorite cars is a ’56 Ford in those colors.

  7. Mrs. Pitcher says

    I posted on another thread, and I can’t find it. Speaking of pink bathrooms, we will be moving AGAIN (long story), and I will be giving up my aqua and yellow bathroom for TWO pink bathrooms! My husband and I are buying another mid-century house (again, long story) and this one is a time capsule. EVERYTHING is original, except the range. Can’t wait!

  8. says

    My grandparents had that exact sink and tub in their bathroom. It i too bad they took it out. I’m sure someone would love to have it.

  9. says

    My grandpa was born in 1916 and his clothes that were saved and passed down for babies to be photographed in were a soft (leaning in an orange direction) Pink. He said little boys wore pink all the time and short pants too no matter how cold it was. No wonder the men didn’t put up a fuss in the 50’s when their wives wanted a pink bathroom, it wouldn’t have seemed “girly” to them at all, childlike maybe but not girly at all.

  10. adam richards says

    Pink and black makes a great combination, it was the color scheme at our wedding (2008). Not to mention that it’s very popular these days, but it’s also very 50’s as well (the main reason we choose it for our colors).

  11. Martha says

    We toured the newly restored Ohio Statehouse in Columbus a few years ago. There’s quite a bit of pink in there (original colors), and the tour guide told us that at the time the statehouse was built, pink was considered a masculine color because it was related to red, which was related to bloodshed and warfare. Not exactly a pleasant thought, but that’s what they told us and could explain pink as a “manly” color..

  12. Frankie says

    WOW !!!! I’m so excited my husband and I have got just gotten a mid-century home …With a pink bathroom ….Great wood floors…but a lot of real wood paneling ….That I’m going to need you guys to help me with…
    LOVE This Site

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