~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, March 8th 2013
When my first daughter was born, I was determined to dress her in gender-neutral colours. Whites were fine, yellows acceptable, but one colour—you know the one—was verboten. It was a resolution that lasted about a month. There’s only so much a proud dad can take, and after the fifth stranger in the street had complimented me on how handsome my infant son was, I realised that gender-stereotyping had its place: I was ready to think pink.
Still, not everyone is as lily-livered as I am. Some parents are campaigning against such divisiveness, just as they do every few years, and as usual the accompanying news articles are reminding us that the pink-for-girls-blue-for-boys dichotomy is a recent one (see above), dating back only as far as the second world war.
I’ve always considered this particular bit of trivia to be irrelevant, in practical terms. Maybe pink was a boys’ colour in the past, I reasoned, but times have most definitely changed, and there’s no way anyone’s going to overturn decades’ worth of Barbie propaganda now.
And then, last weekend, some friends came to visit, and their tough ten-year-old son was wearing neon pink Nike trainers.
Trying not to show my astonishment, I was informed that he’d begged and pestered until he’d been bought these exact shoes, because that was the kind all his friends were wearing. Someone at Nike has cracked it, it seems. They’ve managed to sell pink as a must-have colour to sporty, pre-adolescent, peer-pressure-prone boys. Nike has Barbie on the ropes.
But apparently things aren’t quite as simple as that. The boy’s seven-year-old sister later announced that she’d grown out of wearing pink—that was for babies—but she made an exception for the pink logo on her T-shirt because it was a "boyish pink", not a "girlish pink". I admit, the distinction was lost on me. But a complicated shift is undoubtedly underway. Progressive parents were never going to get their sons into the pink, but the marketing department of an all-conquering global corporation...that’s another matter.
Nicholas Barber is a film critic for the Independent and film previewer for Intelligent Life. His recent posts for the Editors' Blog include The Steve Coogan we haven't seen and Better names than their characters
Portrait of a young boy said to be Lucius Cary, 3rd Viscount Falkland, c.1637, Cornelius Janssens van Ceulen (Bridgeman)