Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Style > Fashion

From Boys to Barbie: The Evolution of Pink in Gender Stereotypes

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Texas chapter.

Get ready to have your mind blown: did you know that the color pink used to be considered a masculine color? That’s right, pink used to be the color of choice for boys, while blue was for girls. So how did we end up with the opposite today? Well, get ready to learn all about the history of pink and how its association with femininity came to be.

The origins of this color association can be traced back to the 19th century. During this time, pastel colors were popular for both boys and girls. However, the exact colors that were used for each gender varied. In an 1893 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal, a writer stated that “the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl.” This sentiment was echoed in other publications and became widely accepted.

So why did this association exist? One theory is that pink was seen as a diluted version of red, which was considered a strong and masculine color. Blue, on the other hand, was associated with the Virgin Mary and was seen as a more delicate and feminine color.

The use of pink for boys continued into the mid-20th century. For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby describes a male character wearing a pink suit. Even iconic figures like John F. Kennedy and James Dean were known to wear pink clothing.

However, the tide began to shift in the 1950s. The post-World War II era saw a return to traditional gender roles, and marketers began to push pink as a feminine color. The 1950s also saw the rise of Barbie dolls, which were marketed with a pink color scheme.

By the 1980s, pink had firmly become associated with girls and femininity. This trend was reinforced through the media, with pink being used to market products ranging from clothing to toys to feminine hygiene products.

Despite this history, some people today are challenging the notion that pink is a “girly” color. Gender-neutral clothing lines have become increasingly popular, and some parents are choosing to dress their children in non-traditional colors.

After centuries of being associated with masculinity, the color pink underwent a radical transformation in the 20th century. From a symbol of power and vigor for men to a hallmark of femininity, the history of pink is an intriguing journey through the evolution of cultural norms and gender roles.

As fashion trends and societal values continue to change, it is worth noting that colors, much like gender, are fluid constructs that can be interpreted in various ways depending on the cultural context. Whether it be the powerful hues of magenta in Renaissance paintings or the pastel pinks of contemporary fashion, the color pink has continued to fascinate and evolve. The journey of pink is a testament to the ever-changing nature of our cultural and societal norms and a reminder that the meaning behind colors is never set in stone.

Vanna Chen

Texas '23

Senior Computer Science Major Sleepy, Funny, Addicted to Kombucha