When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?

I chanced across this blog post from the Smithsonian Institution of all places and it struck me as something that could be useful as a way of getting students to think about all kinds of sociological stuff – from gender and identity, through the role of the media to more-abstract ideas about childhood, invented traditions and the like.

It’s also useful if you want to illustrate the counter-intuitive nature of some sociology – not only the idea that particular cultures associate certain colours (and toys and characteristics and behaviours…) with specific genders but also that this association is fairly arbitrary (which may or may not be useful for labelling theory).

The idea of “Blue for boys and Pink for girls”, for example, is an association created around 100 years ago – only originally it was “Pink for boys and Blue for girls”. The current association – one that completely reversed “commonly accepted gender norms” – only emerged in the 1940’s…

The article also notes how the different styles of gendered clothing – skirts for girls and trousers for boys – that currently garners much discussion in the age of “back-to-basics” Academy Schools – have evolved over the past 150 years.

Further Reading

All of the following generally riff off the theme of the Smithsonian post, but I think each adds something to it, either by filling-in some of the references or expanding upon the general idea:

The Surprisingly Recent Time Period When Boys Wore Pink, Girls Wore Blue, and Both Wore Dresses

The pink vs blue gender myth

Kids Believe Gender Stereotypes by Age 10, Global Study Finds

Pink wasn’t always for girls

Further Viewing

If you prefer your information a little more visual, you can rent or buy the following Shortcutstv film:


The British Sociological Association’s “Discover Sociology” site is aimed at A-level teachers / students and this month’s (April 2023) Journal Corner offering is a digested-read (roughly a page and a half) of Julie Blanchard-Emmerson’s 2022 article “’It’s the Time You Got to Wear Whatever You Wanted’: Pre-Teen Girls Negotiating Gender, Sexuality and Age through Fashion”. As an added bonus you get an interview with Blanchard-Emmerson in which she talks very briefly about her research.

While it’s not going to win any prizes for presentation, it’s a short, interresting read.

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