Why Do Girls Wear Pink and Boys Wear Blue?

The theory that pink is for girls and blue is for boys has been a norm in American society since the 1940s. But before World War II, that wasn't always the case. Baby photos from the late 1800s show both male and female children wearing white frilly dresses. This was a practical decision so that the white clothes could be easily bleached. But even after pastel baby clothes were introduced, there was a lot of variation in what colors were considered gender-specific. According to University of Maryland historian Jo B. Paoletti, author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls from the Boys in America, in the early 20th century, the generally accepted rule was pink for boys, blue for girls. It stayed that way until the 1940s, when clothing manufacturers and department stores settled on the opposite color scheme.

Are you pink or blue?

  • According to a 1918 issue of the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants' Department, "pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl."

  • In 1927, Filene's in Boston told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle's in Cleveland, and Marshall Field in Chicago.

  • Other sources back in those days thought blue was flattering for blonds and pink was perfect for brunettes. Also, there were those who advocated blue for blue-eyed babies and pink for brown-eyed babies, Paoletti writes.

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More Info: Smithsonian magazine

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