06 November 2013

"Pink for boys, and blue for girls"

Excerpts from an essay at Smithsonian:
Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I—and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out.

For example, a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw's Infants' Department said, “The 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.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago.
Today’s color dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers. “It could have gone the other way,” Paoletti says.
Photo: TongRo Image Stock / Corbis


  1. Everything you Know is Wrong.
    - Firesign Theater.

  2. "I never was more staggered in my life. Isn't it fun? Are they boys? What are you going to name them? Let's have another look. Hold me up, Jo, for upon my life it's one too many for me, returned Laurie, regarding the infants with the air of a big, benevolent Newfoundland looking at a pair of infantile kittens.

    Boy and girl. Aren't they beauties? said the proud papa, beaming upon the little red squirmers as if they were unfledged angels.

    Most remarkable children I ever saw. Which is which? and Laurie bent like a well-sweep to examine the prodigies.

    Amy put a blue ribbon on the boy and a pink on the girl, French fashion, so you can always tell. Besides, one has blue eyes and one brown. Kiss them, Uncle Teddy, said wicked Jo."

    From 'Little Women,' 1868 - 1869 (it was serialized, I believe.)

    So it was probably fashionable in France long before we accepted it here in the US. As is usually the way. :)

  3. My understanding is that initially, Blue was for boys, but no color indicated girls. Eventually, parents wanted to show off their beautiful daughters alongside of their sons, and so chose pink at that time as different from the blue for boys.


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