As I was reading through my research of the latest royal family drama, I stumbled upon an interesting article about gender neutral baby room colours, and Meghan’s mission to make her baby’s nursery as gender neutral as possible. Which started the trend of gender-neutral pronouns, essentially words that don’t specify whether the subject is female or male.
I first heard about gender-neutral pronouns when we discussed the meaning of “Ze” or “Hir” at work, which are both genderless and can be subjects of a sentence for both female or male. That specific thought started to make me think about the history behind gender appropriation but more importantly, colours.
Whether you’re waiting to find out the gender of your baby, or not ready to decide whether your little girl will prefer pink or blue, expecting parents (including Meghan and Harry) are all about gender neural nurseries this year. In fact, if you look up gender neutral nurseries on Google, you’ll come across plenty of different search results on Pinterest, with an increase of 53% on the topic compared to last year’s findings.
The bigger question is why the influx in search and curiosity on the topic. Is this is due to the fact that more people are having babies, or whether they’re more worried about the colour of their kids’ bedrooms? The Duchess of Sussex is expected to give birth this month and the new parents have said to have chosen a very monochrome palette of whites and greys for their little one to avoid any gender issues.
If you go back to the 18th century, boys and girls both wore pink and blue, and surprisingly, pink was considered a more masculine colour. In plenty of old catalogues and books, pink was the color for little boys, and blue was for little girls, explains Leatrice Eiseman, a color expert and executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.
The mother color of red was considered more aggressive in the olden days, which was a colour more associated with masculinity, so when exactly did this change? According to historians, the story of colour gender appropriation is a bit more complicated than we might think. Between the 1890s and the 20th century, manufacturers attempted to sell more children and infant clothes by colour coding them, but a few years later in 1927, new companies such as Macy’s switched the colours around for advertising purposes only.
“If you look back, little boys in the 18th century wore blue and pink, and grown-up men wore blue and pink, and ladies and little girls wore blue and pink,” explained Steele, the director of the Fashion Institute of Technology claims.
Today, a boy or man can’t wear pink without it being portrayed as some fashion statement; and the colours have become much more engraved in our society. However, researchers at Pantone found that the colour pink is being much more often adapted by men than ever before. More and more pink shirts are being made for men, and Ralph Lauren is pushing for the pink shirt for both genders.
“I think in general, the younger generation simply don’t have some of the prejudices about certain colors that perhaps the fathers and grandfathers do, who were raised with that idea that pink is only for little girls or a boy should never wear pink,” said Jo Paoletti, academic and author of “Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From the Boys in America.”