Pink is popularly associated with little girls, ballerinas, Barbie dolls, and all things feminine. Yet the symbolism and significance of pink have varied greatly across time and space. The stereotype of pink-for-girls versus blue-for-boys may be ubiquitous today, but it only gained traction in the mid-twentieth century. In the eighteenth century, when Madame de Pompadour helped make pink fashionable at the French court, it was perfectly appropriate for a man to wear a pink suit, just as a woman might wear a pink dress. In cultures such as India, men never stopped wearing pink.
Yet anyone studying pink comes up against “the color’s inherent ambivalence.” One of “the most divisive of colors,” pink provokes strong feelings of both “attraction and repulsion.” “Please sisters, back away from the pink,” wrote one journalist, responding to the pink pussy hats worn at the Women’s March. Some people think pink is pretty, sweet, and romantic, while others associate it with childish frivolity or flamboyant vulgarity. In recent years, however, pink has increasingly has been interpreted as cool, androgynous, and political.
Curated by Dr. Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at FIT, Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color explored the changing significance of the color pink over the past three centuries.
Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color by Valerie Steele, Thames & Hudson, 2018.