Pink - Gender or Class?

August 13, 2013
Posted by Jay Livingston

Pink, as we all know, is all about gender – ir’s for girls.  And sissies.
The University of Iowa . . . for decades has painted the locker room used by opponents pink to put them “in a passive mood” with a “sissy color,” in the words of a former head football coach, Hayden Fry.
That’s from Frank Bruni’s NY Times op-ed today.  But not all cultures link pink to femininity.  The Palermo soccer team wears pink uniforms as do other European teams.  (An earlier post on this is here, with links to Sociological Images posts on the same topic.)  In the US, it was only in the 1950s that pink took on its “boys keep out” message, and even then, a charcoal gray suit was often matched with a pink shirt or necktie.  In The Great Gatsby, set in 1922, Nick writes of Gatsby
His gorgeous pink rag of a suit made a bright spot of color against the white steps, and I thought of the night when I first came to his ancestral home, three months before.
DiCaprio as Gatsby in the recent Baz Luhrman film.
The suit is pinker than it appears in this photo.

In the previous chapter, Tom Buchanan says that he has been “making a small investigation” of Gatsby’s past.
“And you found he was an Oxford man,” said Jordan helpfully.
“An Oxford man!” He was incredulous. “Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit.”    
Gatsby’s choice of suit colors reveals not his sexuality but his class origins.  An educated, upper-class gentleman – an Oxford man – would not wear a pink suit.  Anna Broadway cites this passage in her Atlantic article and adds,
According to an interview with the costume designer for Baz Luhrmann’s recent film, the color had working-class connotations.
Today, that class connotation is reversed. It’s the preppie type men at the country club who are wearing pink shirts or even, on the golf course, pants. That trend may be reinforced by something entirely fortuitous – a name.  The upscale fashion designer Thomas Pink, perhaps because of his name, does not shy away from pink as a color for men’s clothes. 


Anonymous said...

Jay Livingston said...

Nice find. And it kind of illustrates the point -- Phillips Academy, Dartmouth, Bergen County. The Woodlands, TX has a median family income of $98,675, a tad below Bergen County's $100K. (And BTW, my Pink tie retails for $135. At Housing Works, it was a bit less.)