Who decided pink was for girls and blue for boys? A short history lesson.

We've all grown up with it - girls wear pink and boys wear blue. It's been drilled into us in stores, in marketing, in the gifts we receive and the clothes children wear.

Neutrals ruled

Well, did you know that gender-specific colours are a relatively new phenomenon? Throughout history children have tended to wear the same clothes - because it was easier and cheaper.

Before clothes were mass produced and manufacturing made colourful fabrics easy to make - children usually just wore plain cotton clothes - because that was all that was available. Girls and boys wore the same until approx. 6 years old with items passed down between siblings no matter what the gender. Nobody cared what colour they wore, and fashion didn't play a great part. Plus white cotton can be bleached - which is handy when you have grubby kids and no washing machine.

As fabric manufacturing improved, and so did consumer tastes, children started to wear pastel colours - including pink and blue - but neither was gender specific. Because again, having clothes that could be reused and passed down was more practical and economical.

Media was limited back then, and it was all black and white anyway, so people didn't see or feel the need to keep up with trends or could even tell what people across the other side of the country were wearing in terms of colour.

Pink for boys

It was only in the mid-19th century that people started to think certain colours worked better for boys or girls. But believe it or not - pink was the choice for boys and blue for girls, but neutrals were still a huge part of the market. Pink was seen as a strong and masculine colour and blue dainty and feminine.

Pink for boys and blue for girls

Marketing changes the script

Weirdly however after the Second World War the colours flipped! And the main reason for this was marketing and consumerism! Brands decided that pink was a more feminine colour, so they stated it should be for girls and blue was decreed as masculine, so used for boy. 

With manufacturing becoming cheaper and easier, consumer demand growing, and the arrival of colour TV and print, a marketing boom happened. Products were being pushed on consumers like never before, and because this was all relatively new customers lapped it up and believed whatever they were told (remember those adverts saying cigarettes were good for your health!).

Marketing agencies and brands realised that there was money to be made by colouring and gendering children's products. By introducing two opposing colourways you could sell twice as much. If you had a boy and a girl child, no longer would clothes be handed down - you'd have to buy new. And toys were the same - blue and pink versions meant parents would often have to buy two colourways. All because they were brainwashed into thinking this is what was supposed to happen.

It's become the norm

As the years have gone on, and more people buy pink and blue variations it's become the norm. We're convinced that girls love pink and that's why they have it, same for blue. But it's probably more because the messages have been drilled into us since birth.  Many young boys love pink, but parents feel embarrassed to let them wear it. And god forbid they want to decorate their bedrooms in pink hues. 

Even grown men often get ridiculed for wearing pink! Our society seems to deem the wearing of pink means a man is less masculine. Yet a century or so ago it was the complete opposite - it was a strong powerful colour.

We're stuck in a cycle. Shops and brands think that's what we want, so make more pink and blue versions. We're stuck for choice and have been told that's what we should buy, so keep buying it. The stores see that those colours sell, and so it continues.

It's time for a change

It's ridiculous really when you think about it. It's just colours. Wearing a particular colour doesn't change who you are. Wearing the wrong colour certainly cannot change how masculine or feminine a person is - that is down to hormones,  genetics and a bit of socialisation. Colours scientifically cannot have any influence on a persons physical make-up. The colours we wear should be a reflection of our personality and choice - rather than dictated to us.

When it comes to toys the colours are bizarrely unrealistic anyway. In real life most prams are black or grey, kitchens are rarely pink, pink houses are few and far between, and I've never seen a pink washing machine! So why when we make child versions do they all end up pink. The reason is because we're being told 'these are for girls' - which is an incredibly sexist notion. Boys toys do tend to have a bit more variety; blue, green, red, black, grey - but never pink.

Why do these things even need to gendered? Why not stick to colours children would actually see in real life, or make them fun and bright. Research has found younger children respond better and take more interest in brighter colours anyway, so why not let science lead?

We're a firm believer in gender-free products at Little Nutkins. And not because we're trying to be 'PC' or 'Woke' but because we think it's just a daft concept when you think about it!

  • Playing with a certain colour toy, or wearing a colour is NOT going to change their personality, orientation, gender or anything else. Colours aren't that powerful.
  • Children should be free to choose what colours they like. You'd never tell a child they can't like red - so why do the same of pink or blue?
  • Having children is costly, so unisex and gender neutral clothing and products are the perfect way to save costs. Hand it down, pass it on or sell it on. You've suddenly doubled who you can give it to.
  • The concept of pink and blue as gendered colours was created in the 20th century to sell more products and make brands more money. It's a made up thing. It's not a law we have to follow. It's not good for the child in any way. And it's certainly not a moral obligation.

Make your choices count!

Now, luckily, there is more choice. Many smaller brands and retailers are starting to sell unisex clothes and product ranges have opened up. Even the bigger retailers are realising and making changes. Bright's and rainbow colours are available more and more (hopefully not just a trend). 

We can make a difference with our purchases too - buy from any section of the store (girls can like dinosaurs and bears too), choose retailers who sell clothes you love and give feedback to those who are serial blue/pink offenders.

Little Nutkins are committed to selling colourful toys and clothes that aren't just pink and blue. And we never split between boys and girls. We hope we can give children the colours they want, and give parents more choice.

PS - I definitely don't hate pink or blue as colours. I just think everyone should have a choice and let's make children's live more colourful - not just two tone.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published