For many years now, we have all cohabitated in a blue-for-boys and pink-for-girls world. We see this rigid cultural color coordination everywhere – from baby clothes to cookies. However, as strange as it may seem, these roles were once reversed.
To dissect this radical concept, we have to go back to a time when colors were not associated with gender in the slightest. As evidenced by Jo B Paoletti’s work at U of Maryland, there was once a time well before pink and blue were used to distinguish between boys and girls at all. In fact, all children, whether male or female, were generally dressed in white. Ironically enough, the view of gender in the late 1800’s was a lot more progressive than it eventually became.
For instance, both girls and boys would wear dresses – and white was chosen because it was easy to clean using good old fashioned bleach. During this time, children didn’t really start wearing anything gender-specific until they were about seven years old. In reality, according to Paoletti, the concept of associating color and gender didn’t start until the mid-19th Century. At this point light tones and pastels became more common on children at a younger age, but it was blue worn by girls and pink worn by boys.
Theories have varied over the decades, but it is believed that blue was associated with the Virgin Mary, while pink was linked to red – which was seen as a strong, masculine color. During an interview with the Business Insider, Gavin Evans (a color expert) revealed that mothers were told in the late 19th century to dress their boys in pink so that they grow into a more manly individual later in life. Girls, on the other hand, were dressed in feminine alternatives like blues and purples.
Strangely enough, after WWII, pink was suddenly being sold by large fashion retailers as the perfect color for women, while blue was suddenly the manlier option. Over time, the gap between these colors became larger and the pink/blue divide spread like wildfire.
Luckily, now that we have a larger scope of understanding with regard to gender roles and identities, work is being done to break down old stereotypes and end this pink/blue divide once and for all. What do you all think? Is this an ancient issue? Or will you still dress your baby girl in pink and only pink?