PINK: A GENDERED COLOUR?
Pink is a colour with a complicated past but our relationship with it is always evolving and, in 2019, the pace of this change seemed faster than ever. In 1940s Europe and the US, pink was fully established as a ‘girls’ colour’. Prior to this, businesses and new parents weren’t sure which colour was more appropriate for either gender, and pink and blue were interchangeably seen as boys’ and girls’ colours. Eighty years later, in times of peak popularity for the controversial pink/blue baby ‘gender reveal’, pink’s position in the gender binary seems to be holding pretty strong… or does it? Recent years have witnessed the LGBTQ+ community embrace pink in all its wonderful hues, wearing it with pride and defining it as a colour of intrinsic power and beauty. Furthermore, menswear has increasingly adopted shades of pink, branching out from the barely-there pinks on formal shirts to hot pink t-shirts, pastel pink shoes, and salmon pink chino shorts.
PINK IN ART
Pink has been on quite a journey in western art. In the eighteenth-century, pastel colours - particularly pink - were loved by the ladies and gents of bourgeois society – queue endless oil-paintings of pale, glassy-eyed aristocrats in baby pink and blue finery. Pale pink tones were everywhere; originally popularised in France, they soon spread to the rest of Europe. These light shades symbolised wealth and sophistication, partly because of the nature of the colours themselves. Light colours are more easily stained and marked: to have crisp, immaculate clothing made from expensive fabrics not only indicated that the wearer was wealthy enough to own the garment, but that they lived a highly refined life. Pale pinks held court until the 1950s, when the fabulous Kay Thompson told us to ‘Think Pink’ in the 1957 musical Funny Face – a catchy expression of the decade’s hyper-femininity and consumer culture. This all changed in the 1960s, when pop art brought vivacious, brighter shades to the fore. Hot pink ruled for the likes of Andy Warhol – his 1967 piece, Marilyn 31, comes to mind – and equally bright, but slightly lighter neon shades also had their moment in the 90s. In 2020, pink seems to have come full circle: pale, pastel tones are key features of the millennial colour palette, so far in that there’s now a shade known as ‘millennial pink’. Pantone named ‘Rose Quartz’ joint colour of the year in 2016, encapsulating the soft, minimal aesthetic of the 2010s – decade of ‘woke’.
PINK AROUND THE WORLD
Strong associations with pink are primarily a European phenomenon. Asian countries, particularly China, historically had no strong feelings towards the colour, but influence from Europe led to pink being similarly associated with young girls and soft emotions. Lack of opinion towards pink around the world is thought to come down to it not fully being recognised as a colour in its own right, but rather as a shade of red.