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Man wearing pink shirt.



The history of fashion offers us insights into taste and society. Class, culture, race, and gender are all tied up in the things we wear. In her book and exhibition Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color, director and chief curator at The Museum at FIT Dr. Valerie Steele focuses on a single aspect in the history of fashion: the color pink. Steele traces the color’s storied history to see how its varied and contradictory connotations developed over time.

If you are looking to level up your wardrobe or you’re already working pink into your style, check out these three takeaways from Pink to learn about this divisive little color that appeals to you.

Pink Wasn’t Always Feminine

For centuries, across many cultures, men and women alike wore pink. Advertisements are what really started the debate around gender coloring infants’ clothes – and it wasn’t girls who seemed poised to “win” pink. In 1918, a Philadelphia magazine said that boys should wear pink because it was a “more vivid, stronger color” than blue, which was “sweet and delicate.” Funny how that turned out!

Pink Is Changing

But the image of pink as exclusively feminine is changing. Millennial pink is old news in the fashion world at this point, but the trend never really went away, either. Pink is also prominent in hip-hop culture, with many male rappers donning the color. It seems pink is here to stay. Turns out, men just really want to wear pink, too.

Pink Is Rebellious

Steele links the perception of pink as an “unserious color” to its ties to femininity, which itself is often portrayed as frivolous. Perhaps it is in part because of this characterization that the color has been used as a symbol of rebellion – from rock ’n’ roll, to pride, to protest. Yes, pink is cute. Pink is playful. Pink is girly. And it’s also strength. When you wear pink, you acknowledge that it can be all those things – and that these things are not mutually exclusive. Whether it’s a subtle pair of pale pink socks or a big, bright pink hat, pink gives you edge. When you wear pink, wear it with attitude.

For more on fashion, entertainment, lifestyle tips, and updates on local events, check out the Olympus Hillwood blog.