My mom sends me care packages every now and then, and they usually include two toothbrushes. One pink, one green. One is meant for me, the other for my boyfriend.
I ask him, “Which toothbrush do you want?”
He replies, “Pink.”
For our latest stylebook, Girl Meets Glam, we hoped to depict Valentine’s Day style in a kitschy, playful, vintage catalog way. A pink background seemed perfect for that. There’s a whole lotta pink in this stylebook, and we’re glad if you like it! However, we realize that marketing and advertising historically assumed that “pink is for girls,” as each of the ads above state. You may disagree with that statement.
What kinds of messages have vintage ads sent about pink and women? Well, don your favorite color and read on!
In this 1955 Van Heusen ad on the left, it seems that pink is for the singular and confident male, such as movie star Tony Curtis. I can agree with that. Funnily enough, though, the same company reverts back to “a man’s world” on the right, where the pink-wearer is a woman – a submissive one.
These two ads use weak adjectives and laughable metaphors to describe their pink products. The groovy, 1967 Max Factor lipstick ad above is bold and fun. Yet, one of the lipstick shades is described as, “soft, feminine, fragile.” “Fragile” isn’t the kind of thing I’d want to wear.
I encourage you to view a larger version of the ad and read the Scott ad’s small print. It’s unclear, but to me it compares the bath tissue to “pink peau de soie,” the French phrase being a type of silky fabric. With that, I question their choice to pair pink toilet paper with a pink clad woman.
Advertising often likens women to objects. While I wouldn’t turn down a pink oven or washer-dryer for the kitsch factor, the above suggest that pink-wearing women are pink appliances are one in the same. No, your mom is not the oven, she is a human being who offers to cook you dinner.
The Hotpoint Home Laundry ad accentuates the woman-appliance connection by dressing the two males in blue. There is the one young woman in blue, though. I guess she won’t stand for society-imposed gender roles!
Royal ad via Katnip.
If the copy were removed from this Royal typewriter ad, I’d probably set this image as my computer background. The text implies that a woman will work harder if a pretty accessory is dangled over her work space. What about women who work as hard as they can just to keep a roof over their heads?
Google “baby gifts for girls.” What’s the most common color you see? Pink is often considered the official color for infant and young girls. The Sears ad on the right illustrates a girlishly innocent image through a youthful model in a very clean, simple setting. Despite the fact that the print says that you can buy this same dress in blue, your eye is drawn to the most striking item in the image – the pink dress. The Yves Saint Laurent ad on the left applies a similar minimalist treatment in which the product, a pink dress, is the center of attention. But the model, Linda Evangelista, is clearly not a little girl, but a sophisticated and elegant woman. This is where the statement “pink is for girls,” really bugs me. Linda Evangelista is a woman, but in pink, is she a girl?
As I touched on above, I like pink. Actually, I really love bright hot pink. And, so does my boyfriend. Regardless of what most advertising expected (or expects) we should like, pink appeals to both of us, and we’re not sure why. We just like it.
Pink not required! Image via Flickr user Sallyedelstein.
What are your thoughts on the relationship between colors and gender? What are your favorite colors and why?