Pink for girls, blue for boys
Gender norms and fashion have always walked hand-in-hand. Usually since birth, when they are wrapped in pink or blue blankets, babies are taught what is socially acceptable attire for boys and girls.
For instance, boys wear pants, girls wear dresses. Boys wear minimal jewelry, girls wear plenty of accessories. Society has established these rules as a way to tell genders apart.
There is nothing entirely wrong with these rules. If a girl wants to wear a pink dress with jewelry, let her; equivalently, if a boy wants to wear a blue t-shirt with jeans, let him. However, when society starts taking these rules too seriously, boundaries and stigmas are born.
In society it is common to make assumptions about others by their appearance: “a man who wears a skirt, make-up, nail polish must be weak, not masculine enough,” “a woman who wears flannels, baggy clothes, has a very short haircut must be trashy, a tomboy.”
These mindsets enforce a cyclical way of thinking that diminishes the value and authenticity of fashion. Someone’s clothing should not define people’s sexual orientation, economic status or character. Fashion is a form of self-expression, but it’s also a way to make a statement that surpasses everyday expectations.
Fashion-forwards rock-stars of the past, namely, Freddie Mercury, Annie Lennox, David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Prince, Elton John are great inspirations to today’s fashion.
These music icons broke gender norms by simply embracing their own style. Flamboyant, modest, bold or delicate, they simply wore with ease and self-confidence anything of their liking.
Frida Kahlo, known to dress in her father’s suits; Marcel Duchamp, often photographed in his feminine alter-ego Rrose Sélavy (which pronounced in French sounds like “Eros is Life” equivalent of “Love is life”); Andy Warhol and Artemisia Gentileschi.
Their bold choices revolutionised the way fashion was conceived and left an impression on their fans and generations to come. Harry Styles, Miley Cyrus, Jaden Smith, Janelle Monae, Pharrell Williams, Billie Eilish are just some of the gender-bending inspirations. Whether they’re sporting floral patterns, oversized clothes or vibrant colors, they fiercely wear what they want just like the legends of the past.
A recent controversy has opposed Candace Owens, a fierce US conservative political activist, to Harry Styles. “Bring back manly men” - she said, criticizing Styles in his blue ball gown on the Vogue cover; “women do not like men who wear dresses”- she continued. Styles elegantly responded by simply posting a picture of himself with the, then viral catch-phrase, “bring back manly men”. Not to mention her social network accounts, flooded with comments stating “Bring back girly girls.” under pictures portraying her wearing trousers and suits. Inconsistent, isn’t she?
How did we get to pink and blue?
Going back to the pink and blue blankets and the associated genders, here are some curiosities about what is today known to be, absurdly, the norm.
In June 1918, Earnshaw’s Infants' Department, stated that: “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason being pink, a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl;” large-scale department stores in Boston, Chicago, and New York suggested pink for boys.
In the 1920s some groups used to describe pink as a masculine color, an equivalent of the red that was considered to be for men, but lighter for boys.
Only in 1953, at the US presidential inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower, wore a pink dress as her inaugural gown. This event is thought to be a key turning point to the association of pink with girls. Mamie's strong liking of the color led to the public association with pink being a color that "ladylike women” wear.
This trend in children’s clothing took a dip in the mid-60s and 70s owing to the women’s liberation movement. People who took part in this movement thought that dressing young girls in feminine or stereotypically “girly” clothing would limit the girls’ opportunities for success, and many parents began favoring neutral colors and fashions. It is a history of shifting definitions of neutral, masculine and feminine.
Clothing is very overlooked as a tool for defining someone when actually: “It’s just like anything - anytime you're putting barriers up in your own life, you're just limiting yourself.” (Harry Styles)