All of us who have children have been asked time and again when we were pregnant if it would be a boy or a girl. Some of us chose to know in advance, and some of us prefered to wait and be surprised. We have of course done it as well, and asked expectant parents the same question, not only out of curiosity but also to be able to buy the appropriate card or gift for the new baby.
Because generally speaking, we would choose something pink for a girl and blue for a boy, or otherwise we would pick a gender neutral tone. But we would most probably not get anything pink unless we knew for sure we were buying for a girl.
Without even having to think about it, we tend to associate pink with girls and blue with boys. But it might surprise you to realise that this was not always the case. In fact, it was once almost exactly the opposite: pink was for boys, and blue for girls.
So when did the colour divide happen, and pink became a feminine colour? Well, it is a long and fascinating story, part of the evolution of childrenâ€™s clothes through the ages.
For centuries, both boys and girls wore white clothes as a matter of practicality. White was easy to wash and could be washed in boiling water and bleached, and be reused and passed along to siblings. Also, before the invention of chemical dyes, clothing of any colour was reserved to a selected few due to its cost and need of special care. Wearing colours was reserved for the higher ranks of society, and back then red garments – and thus its pink lighter version – were the most valued. Boys wore pink as a symbol of status.
In the mid-19th century colour clothing became widely available and pastel tones started to be used as the chosen hues for children in most of Europe and America, as they were considered youthful and appropriate for kids. Pink and blue became popular, but they were used to enhance the complexion and not to denote gender: pink was considered more flattering for brown-eyed, dark-haired children and blue for blue-eyed, light-haired ones.
At the beginning of the 20th century there was a movement towards more gender distinction in clothing for children. Some department stores in the United States started adopting early marketing techniques to reinforce the idea that certain colours, mostly pink and blue, were particularly suitable for the little ones, but there was some confusion as they could not agree on which one should be for boys and which one for girls.
For example, a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said: â€œThe generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.â€ Pink was seen as a lighter version of red, and thus a good match for boysâ€™ fiery temperament. Blue on the other hand was believed to reflect girlsâ€™ purity and goodness.
Exactly the opposite as what we consider the rule today!
In 1927, Time magazine published an article analyzing the trend in America and it concluded that there was no consistency as some leading stores in the country deemed pink to be for boys and blue for girls, and others claimed the opposite. New parents still outfitted their nurseries indistinctly in pink and blue, similar to the way we use green and yellow today, as a baby colour but not gender specific.
Then in the 1940s, as mass marketing was developing, manufacturers and retailers realized that if they persuaded parents to follow their colour scheme, they would have to buy a whole new wardrobe and set of baby accessories in the appropriate colour if they had a boy and a girl at some point, rather than just going with reusing one for both. So somehow they all agreed and settled the standard as we know it: blue for boys, pink for girls. This new modern trend expanded to the rest of the world, and it continued growing in popularity.
There is no clear reason as to why this match won over the opposite one, and it could have gone easily the other way, but the most prevalent theory is that it reflected the French influence: traditional French culture paired pink with girls and blue with boys and because France set the fashion in the 20th century, their tradition held sway. Also the perception of blue as a masculine colour gained traction as military, police and firemen were adopting the dark shades of it for their uniforms.
Fashion naturally continues evolving and nowadays we see a growing tendency towards gender neutral colours, as the gender signification of the colours is becoming more fluid. It is not unusual for men to wear pink, blue is a staple in every womanâ€™s wardrobe, and the same applies to childrenâ€™s apparel where pink and blue are not constricted anymore to either the girls or boys section.
We here at Amaia Kids adore both pink and blue, in all their hues and combinations, from the soft pastel palette to the bright deep end of the spectrum. Girls in pink are darling, but they are equally delightful in blue, and same goes for boys, handsome in blue but equally charming in pink.
We love all colours, and we embrace the fact that we can dress our children in any of them, in all of them. We believe children are beautiful in blue, gorgeous in green, lovely in lavender, pretty in pink, radiant in red, wonderful in white and yummy in yellow!