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  • As anyone who's gone shopping in the children's section of a department store knows, there's a clear pattern to what colors of clothes are usually available for boys and girls.

  • Yep, that'd be pink and blue, a distinction that's become such a tradition for dressing up those little ones that it's often tough to find anything but the two basic hues.

  • But it wasn't always that way, and if you do some digging into the history of how we identify our children, you'll find that there's a lot that went into making the blue-pink dynamic such a mainstay of kids' fashions.

  • Plain white tease

  • Long before society latched onto these two colors, it was gender-neutral colors that gained favor with American families.

  • For practical reasons, it was just easier for families to bleach soiled clothing items if they were simply made with all-white fabrics, 'cause, you know, stuff happens.

  • - She's making poop face. - What do you mean, "She's making a poop face"?

  • Oh, my God, she's gonna poop in the tub; hurry up, hurry up, she's gonna poop on me.

  • - Okay... - No, no, no, no, no; come on, that's my hat.

  • So, white was really the preferred color for young kids to wear until they reached the age of six or seven and started wearing more sophisticated and colorful threads like the adults in their lives.

  • Vice versa

  • According to fashion historians, the idea of associating pastel colors with children occurred around the middle of the 19th century, and it would take another 7 decades before specific colors were assigned to each gender.

  • But even then, things were still quite different as some publications deemed pink the ideal color for boys since it was a stronger, bolder color while blue was better suited for girls.

  • While some forward-thinkers from the era also suggested perhaps each baby should be dressed according to his or her own features, like, say, eye color, the common gender association of clothing colors was still beginning to take shape.

  • The first pink-blue divide

  • By the 1940s and the end of World War II, the gender-specific clothing trend was firmly entrenched in the public consciousness for as simple a reason as that's what retailers were pushing.

  • Rosie the Riveter might've been wearing blue, but once her man came back from the front lines, she could trade in her oil-stained blues for the flowery pink aprons that became her kitchen uniform.

  • By 1947, fashion designers like Christian Dior were advertising the clothing of the postwar ideal.

  • And for women?

  • There was a ton of soft, flowing, now-feminine pink.

  • From there, we came to firmly believe that pink was the color for girls, while blue was the color of snips, snails, and puppy dog tails.

  • Breaking with tradition

  • The emergence of the women's liberation movement kick-started the social change of the 1960s, which put a temporary end to the dominance of gender-specific colors.

  • The idea that dressing girls in pink was going to encourage kitchen conformity gained favor, and thus began the argument that there was no biological reason for girls to favor pink over blue.

  • Ooh, delicious, stupid cookie; I think I'll...

  • '80s backtrack

  • Of course, what goes up must come down.

  • A re-emergence of "blue is for boys, pink is for girls" fashion ethos for our pint-sized citizens in the '80s had a lot to do with the most powerful thing in the world: money.

  • Finding out the gender of babies before they were born suddenly became a medical possibility, and that meant retailers found a new way to capitalize on selling specific merchandise geared toward boys and girls.

  • Given how many couples have more than one child and how many families have both sons and daughters, that made hand-me-downs more difficult if dressing your second-born daughter in your first-born son's clothes is going against social norms.

  • The feisty resistance to clothing-based gender association died down a bit by then.

  • The trend of dressing little Suzie in pink while Scotty wore his light blue was back in style.

  • It's a harsh world.

  • Modern times?

  • Fast-forward a few decades, and we're still seeing those familiar tones everywhere in kids' clothing aisles.

  • On Wednesdays, we wear pink.

  • Recent gender studies have tried to get to the bottom of just why this is still a thing, but it's something of a chicken-or-the-egg scenario.

  • Do we assign these colors to each gender because that's what they like, or do they gravitate toward these colors because that's what they're dressed in and that's what they see their peers doing?

  • One 2011 study offered babies the choice between 2 nearly identical objects.

  • One was pink, the other wasn't.

  • When they were a year old, there was no difference in the number that would choose pink or the other color.

  • By the time they were 2 years old, many more girls were choosing pink.

  • By 4, the gender divide was evident on both sides, with most boys now refusing the pink item.

  • Noticing a pattern here?

  • It's still hard to hone in on what exactly inspires that pigment preference, but it's clearly something that's learned along the way.

  • All grown up

  • If it's true that kids feel pressured to like pink or blue based on the gender norms they're exposed to, the same doesn't exactly hold true in adulthood.

  • In 2012, a sociological study at the University of Maryland showed that when 2,000 people were asked to choose a favorite color between blue, pink, and a handful of other options, the overwhelming majority from both genders chose blue.

  • While very few of the men chose pink as their primary pick from the spectrum, there were also few women who did so.

  • In other words, once we reach an age of maturity, that strong sense of devotion to pink might dissipate with women who gravitate towards favoring blue, just like the fellas.

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As anyone who's gone shopping in the children's section of a department store knows, there's a clear pattern to what colors of clothes are usually available for boys and girls.

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B1 US pink gender clothing dressing poop specific

The Real Reason Behind Blue For Boys & Pink For Girls

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    Elise Chuang posted on 2022/02/23
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