Sunday, January 23, 2011

pink is punk

For Christmas I got the best book ever *hyperbole*... *ish*. Luella Bartley’s ‘Luella’s Guide to English Style’ is truly awesome. Luella IS me...or at least, she gets mean feat, mind you. We wax lyrical about the same things – well dressed old women, punks, mods and the whole sphere of brilliant British subcultures, fashion and class, The Clash, Vivienne Westwood, tutus, ‘fashion is fun’, irony and contrast and juxtaposition...I could go on, but I won’t.

Of course, Luella is my ultimate girl crush (my heart still hasn’t healed since her label ceased trading last winter..). But, her fashion is MY fashion. I agree with every single thing she says in this gorgeous tome. Luella, I owe you a lot. Clearly, we’re soul sisters. Oh yes.

Moving on, before I self combust in rapturous applause, I was absentmindedly flicking through the book when I stumbled on one of the final chapters,  Pretty in Pink (it’s the sort of book you can pick up and thumb through , plus it has pretty pretty illustrations and lovely scrapbook – y, fuzzy well chosen images), .... Only to read this:

“What gets forgotten in the tyranny of saccharine pink that is foisted upon little that until the Forties blue was considered, a girl’s colour (The Virgin Mary didn’t wear pink.) Pink was for boys. Pink should still be for boys. Pink looks great on boys. Maybe Miss E (Miss England, the ladies of England that Bartley pitches her book to) should take a leaf out of the boys’ book and think of pink as a genderless colour, part of her androgyny.”

Wait what?! I am not sure, maybe this isn’t the kind of thing to have most resolutely bowled over, but hell, I was! I had never thought about the origins of 'pink for girls' before, but of course, trust Luella to provide some food for thought. Like Ms. Bartley, I love pink. Although, I don’t wear too much of it, I am drawn to it and its complete spectrum from palest peach to brightest Barbie. For many girls, pink is an entire fascination, an obsession to obtain pink things, and needless to mention, there is little method in this madness.

Pink for girls and blue for boys is the most basic of gender related issues. Why and how was such a colour code assigned? Therefore, the idea that this is a relatively modern phenomenon is thoroughly thought provoking.
Parisian Woman, Renoir, Queen Elizabeth II, Susie Bubble, Marie Antoinette, Woman Sewing in the Garden, Mary Cassatt, Madonna detail, Cimabue, Alexa Chung, Virgin of the Rocks, Da Vinci, Kate Middleton engagement.

A small bit of research later, I discover further proof of this concept’s modernity and the slightly shocking revelation (it is shocking though, isn’t it? Or did everyone know this already all to me?) that blue was perceived a more ladylike colour in comparison to pink until relatively recently. According to the Ladies Home Journal in 1918:

"There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger colour is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl." (source)
It’s nothing short of bizarre in our society where pink is the non – verbal code of femininity to consider that this was not always the case, but yet why not? There is nothing in the psychology of men or women to prefer a certain colour, but rather it is like most gender attributes socially constructed. This is only further proof of how those attributes are subject to change over time.

David Bowie, random image, Vivienne Westwood, still from 'Pretty in Pink', Debbie Harry, Paul Weller Agyness Deyn, Johnny Rotten, Luella Bartley Fall 2007, The Clash, White man in Hammersmith Palais.

And back to Luella who argues that pink is the most punk of colours. I love this:

“In a drunken, semi – existential discussion in the Colony Room with Paul Simonon a few years back, he told me that The Clash used pink equipment for one of their tours. ‘Pink is the only true rock and roll colour’ he said. This was a pivotal moment for me; it gave validation to my uncertain, but adamant, position on the importance of PINK (besides being one letter away from PUNK)...Pink is in short another social code.”

Conclusion? I’ll leave the debate about pink being foisted upon females for someone more equipped than me, because really I’m just pleased that pink is punk.


agent 0017 said...

very interesting! i really have never been a fan of pink, and would rather always wear blue...guess i'm in good company!
lovely blog, following ;)

Cara said...

I need to say that I adored this post <3. Def a lot of food for thought..

Very much tempted to run to the nearest Easons and buy the book now x

Eva said...

Wow!! I was fascinated by your post, pink for girls blue for boys is such an ingrained convention, thats it's amazing to know it was not always so! Been missing your posts :) x

Always Something said...

I might have to go see if my library has this book... I absolutely adore the last quote and I've saved most of your pictures (ha!)

Sarah said...

Super interesting post, I bought a copy of the Luella book last week and was fascinated by her stance on pink/punk - It's so odd to think of how pink is regarded as overtly feminine these days. Think of the stir that Schiaparelli created when she popularised shocking pink. I wonder what kind of reception (or lack thereof) that colour would get today...

Anonymous said...

I just got that book a few weeks ago, its so brilliant!!! Great post! xx

Anonymous said...

this is why I love you x

My Third Cousin and Sarah said...

so interesting! love pink too and loving it even more now that is got a bit roughed up ha great post!

Brittney said...

that's interesting. how the 180-turnaround happened is baffling, right? like saying that skirts are for women and then, bam, 30 years later, they're assigned as distinctly male clothing items. seriously. so interesting to think about. thanks for sharing!
-brittney (my daily outfit blog...and i think tomorrow's post will be a tribute to blue)

Brittney said...

okay, i'm so impressed by this discovery. i'd love to give you a little award on my blog on sunday...please email me when you get a chance. :)
brittneynsmart[at]yahoo [dot] com