Colour symbolism is highly culture-specific and changeable. Consider, for example, that white was the traditional colour of mourning in Japan at the same time that black had the same meaning for most of Europe. It is clear that in most of Europe and America in the 19th century and early 20th century, pastel colours were considered “youthful” and were used more often to flatter the complexion, not denote gender. Pink was considered more flattering for brown-eyed, dark-haired people and blue for blue-eyed people. Green and yellow were preferred for red-heads. Lavender was sometimes used for African-American babies.
Gradually between 1900 and 1940 a trend appeared that certain colours denote gender. Babies and toddlers were the first to have their clothing divided into blue and pink. However, there was still confusion among clothing manufacturers and retailers about which was which, as they tried to settle on one rule for the entire country.
More rigid rules fell into place from the 1940s till the mid-80s. In some areas there were still anomalies, for example in Nebraska blue was still used for girls up until the late 80s, whereas in the south pink clothes for boys were non-existent from the 70s onwards.
Since the 1980s though a lot has changed. Pink became so strongly associated with femininity, that when a boy or man wears it is is no longer “just a color”, but an act of defiance or personal expression beyond the aesthetic.
20 year old artist Prue Stent created a photographic series called ‘Pink’ to address the idea that the colour is a naturally feminine colour and issues of gender identity that many deal with. Stent’s series explores feminine beauty. Using the element of colour to raise questions about society’s beauty standards; breasts, buttocks, and lips are slathered with pink paint to illustrate these commodities are a woman’s own. Her images are vivid and filled with movement.