The key to everything a gentleman wears is confidence. And while many elements in clothing require a degree of confidence to pull off, some are so bold as to absolutely demand it. Even colors, certain colors, can scream confidence. One of those colors is pink.
Most men shy away from pink, thinking of it as a color exclusively for women. But pink can be a very powerful weapon in a man’s wardrobe.
Stephen’s Historical Insights
(Occasionally, our in-house historian, Stephen Hayward, will make some remarks to put an article in wider context.)
Boys wear blue, girls wear pink.
Although its cultural entrenchment would lead one to believe that this odd, seemingly arbitrary social code has been around for thousands of years, it actually started after World War II.
Until the 1850s, newborns were predominantly clothed in white. Even clothing styles weren’t gendered; both male and female children began their lives wearing skirts and dresses, and boys only “graduated” to wearing masculine styles (like trousers) at the ages of 5 or 6.
But in the 1890s, things got weird. Jo Paoletti, an academic at the University of Maryland who specializes in the study of gender and fashion, analyzed over 500 print representations of children’s clothing from 1890 to 1920, and found a distinct “masculinization” of boy’s clothing had taken place. Skirts became trousers, and blouses were discarded in favor of dress shirts. But the reason for this shift remains unclear.
As gender-appropriate clothing styles became codified, there was a complimentary effort to institute gender-specific colors. But it was only until the late 50s that pink became off-limits for boys. During the 30 years previous, it appears that our current scheme was reversed: pink was for boys, and blue for girls. There are several theories accounting for this early orientation. One cites pink’s relation to red, a traditionally “manly” color (what with fire and all). Another links the association of blue with femininity to depictions of the Virgin Mary, which commonly show her dressed in that color. But these associations weren’t hard-and-fast, either. For a (deplorable) example, take the Nazi Party’s use of pink stars to indicate imprisoned homosexuals (and their assumed femininity).
Somewhere along the way, the gendered color-scheme was solidified. And it seems to have been even stricter for boys than girls. In 1959, a department store buyer even told the New York Times: “A mother will allow her girl to wear blue, but daddy will never permit his son to wear pink.” So why the change? Short answer: nobody knows.
Some studies suggest inborn biological preferences. Several studies have found that primate females prefer “warm” colors, like red or pink, and then continue to speculate that the sight of a young primate’s pink face encourages its mother’s maternal instincts. In my mind, this is an overly-mechanistic explanation; it doesn’t give the female primate enough credit. Why does she need a color trigger to feel “maternal”? Wouldn’t we expect the primate mother to feel maternal at the sight of her offspring, no matter the color of its face, even blue? I’m betting that the “boys wear blue, girls wear pink” belief is purely arbitrary.
And now, back to your previously scheduled programming, already in progress…
Start With Something Small
For those on the fence (curious but unsure), start with something small, like a tie that’s a different color, but has a small amount of pink in it (try pink polka dots or stripes). At this stage, look for something that has soft pink in it (try to stay away from hot pink for now). There are many small ways to do pink, without over doing it. One of my favorites is a tie or bow tie. It’s the simplest way to ensure that you don’t go “too far”.
Another great way to get into pink is with dress socks. Dress socks may seem like an insignificantly small detail, but I think they’re as important as brushing your teeth. Trust me, you never want to be that guy wearing white socks with an otherwise great outfit, and since you’re already basically required to have them (who doesn’t wear socks?), why not try out a pair with a splash of pink? Dress socks allow you to have a little fun, while showing off your personality. So find a pair you like and take a chance!
Taking Pink To The Next Level
I’m a huge fan of pink and I’ve always tried to find little ways to show my love for it.
If you love pink as much as I do, the sky’s the limit. One of my favorite ways to express my personality is by wearing pink shoe laces on my dress shoes. It’s a little extreme, but a great way to have some fun when accessorizing your dress clothes. I’m also a big fan of pocket squares that have a splash of pink.
It’s minor details like these that I feel have the biggest impact.
Test The Pinky Waters With Someone You Trust
I recommend taking your significant other to the store, or asking the recommendation of a sales associate, when starting out with pink. Their help will give you the confidence to try something new.
Plus, the compliments for wearing pink are like no others! I honestly feel that people just love to see pink worn confidently. Have fun and show some of your personality!