Straight Forward Design Journeys in Colour, A brief history of Pink
3rd April 2019


Pink for girls and blue is for boys.

Or is it? The flood of pink in the girl section of any store is a relatively new thing. In 1893 the New York Times stated that “you should always give pink to a boy and blue to a girl”. Pink was thought to be a stronger colour and blue more delicate. Another explanation is that red was considered a masculine colour (after red soldiers’ jackets and red robes of cardinals). So red was for men and pink—a paler red—was for boys. It was only in the middle of the 20th century, when women like Mamie Eisenhower, Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe popularised pink colour, that it started to be seen as feminine.

The word pink is fairly young too. While a lot of languages derive the word for pink from roses (rose in French, rosa in Italian and German, rosada/o in Spanish, růžová in Czech…) the English word comes from a different flower—Dianthus plumarius—a.k.a. the pinks and was used to refer to a colour for the first time in the 17th century. The verb to pink however dates back from the 14th century and means “to decorate with a perforated or punched pattern” and it still reflects in the name of scissors that cut a zig-zagged line to prevent fraying a.k.a. pinking shears.

Pink is often associated with charm, politeness, sensitivity, tenderness, sweetness, softness, childhood, the feminine, and the romantic. In combination with white it’s connected with innocence while when combined with black it symbolises seduction and eroticism.

Although public opinion surveys say that after brown, pink is the second most disliked colour, 
it is definitely a designer staple colour.