Why Pink & Blue?


I recently became a dad to a wonderful, amazing little boy and he is definitely the most loved new addition to my design life.

Whilst my wife was still pregnant, we decided that we did not want to know the babies sex before the birth and loved the idea of it being a surprise. This however was met with some shock and surprise from a good many of our friends who just couldn't believe that we wouldn't want to know this in advance. How could we possibly prepare if we didn't know what colour to decorate the babies room or buy them clothes?

I suddenly started to ask myself why! Who decided that pink was a feminine colour and blue masculine, the marketeers? The branding experts, and more so, why is there a need for a gender based distinction? At this point my curiosity kicked in and I suddenly wanted some answers.

After some research, I found images of babies clothing from the 18th century, showing both girls and boys in white frilly dress style outfits. Many articles claim that It wasn't until the mid 19th century that the pastel colours began to appear, although it seems as though the colours weren't gender specific at this point and in many cases it was pink for boys and blue girls. On other occasions it was blue for blonde and blue eyed babies and pink for brunettes or those with brown eyes.

It was't until the 1940's that retailers settled on blue for boys and pink for girls. In the 1960's and 70's, trends moved towards more neutral colours, which many believe to be related to the women's liberation movement. The development of parental testing in the 1980's brought pink and blue back as the 'natural' choice for parents to dress their baby's and paint the nursery.

However some believe that colour preferences among the sexes are biological rather than that made by culture. An experiment by the University of Newcastle in Great Britain conducted tests on a number of participants from cultures without the blue and pink gender distinctions, to find that the female subjects still had a preference to pink and male towards the blue.

I would love to get your thoughts on this topic. Are these colour preferences nature or nurture?


Todd Anderson is an award winning British designer, currently based in Cape Town he has worked with some of the worlds largest retailers and hosehold brand names.