Pink to Make the Boys Wink?
Or pink to make the boys cringe and never pick it up in fear of a serious downgrade in their masculinity?
The colour pink and femininity has not always been linked together, in fact it wasn’t until just before the start of the First World War when the colour pink was suddenly prescribed to baby girls and blue to baby boys. Over one hundred years later we’re still playing by those rules. Before then it was fair game, boys and girls were free to mix among colours freely. From then onwards these trends have stuck and today pink is still overwhelmingly associated with girls, femininity and love. Another trend that has manifested out of the pink-for-girls association is that many men adorning the colour pink are now in fear of somehow being seen as less masculine, less macho, less of a man.
It is sadly not only just within fashion that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. Within today’s modern society, even basic everyday items are being categorized for one gender or the other. This concept of gender, identity and colour within everyday life has been deeply explored in recent years by artist Grayson Perry, who explores the idea that certain motifs, colours and prints are for some reason, only for boys or only for girls. He uses the example of men and women’s razors, and the packaging and motifs on them. For example, women’s razors perform in the same way as men’s razors; at heart they are the same product. However women’s razors are always coloured pink and usual have some animated, pink, flowery imagery on the front to distinguish them from the male-marketed razor. A fascinating concept, that the colour and pattern of an object suddenly markets it and makes it the go to for one gender and not the other. Heaven forbid we had unisex items that worked for both genders and just came in white packaging!
Moving back to pink within the fashion industry and its link to masculinity, there are also trends now that have emerged within the past few years, where fashion conscious men are throwing the rule books into the fire, and are adopting pink garments and wearing them without thought, along with flowery prints, paisley prints and multicolored shirts, often favoured by 40 and 50-something men who are desperately trying to cling onto youth and a fashionable image. This idea that there is something bold and brave about wearing a pink shirt can almost be seen as laughable, after all it is only a shirt, or a pair of trousers, or jumper, or shorts, or whatever it may be. As we move towards a more equal, fluid, accepting society, it is now the norm to see males adopt traditionally feminine colours and patterns, and pull them off with an effortless style. Women are not ridiculed or conscious about what is acceptable when they wear the colour blue, so why should men feel that way when wearing pink?
Masculinity is such an important attribute to so many men, a shield almost, a protective barrier to the outside world that allows them to shrug things off and say “it’s alright, I’m a bloke!”. Without it, some feel naked, weak and vulnerable. Being “macho” is sometimes seen as being so important, that men are fearing some sort of emasculation in going to the doctors for example, or showing their emotions, crying, admitting depression, or even just wearing and liking the colour pink. Grayson Perry spoke of the strength of masculinity in his talk at the London Palladium in November 2016 during his “Typical Man in a Dress” show, and how he believes men just need to “chill out” as he described it, and relax. Letting go of this fear of emasculation will allow men to discover and enjoy a whole knew part to themselves and their personalities. Although sadly, some men will always care more about the connotations of what they wear over whether they simply like the garment or not, social movements are happening. Society is more accepting than ever, so wear a pink shirt, put your middle finger up to what is “for boys” or “for girls”, and enjoy it! After all, it’s only pink.