Thursday, 8 November 2012

Gender specific colours

When I was a child in Finland in what now begins to seem like prehistory, the primary colour connected with the female gender was red. The boys were dressed in blue – as they continue to be dressed. However, there has been a clear shift in female primary colours and most mothers of girls seem to be choosing pink. The shops with children’s clothing have ‘the dark side’ for the boys and the pink fluffiness for the girls.

It seems that unisex dressing is not big in UK. There are some white or yellow items for babies, but even the less gender specific green and brown tend to be present in girly lines with all kinds of laces, pink ribbons and bows attached. Boys seem to be left with increasingly grey and black choice – especially in the supermarket lines, which reflect a kind of manifestation of social deprivation apparent with the first glance of their racks. If you do not have much money, your son is going to look grim. The choice of blue is no problem, since it is my favourite colour anyway. I tend to buy it as an alternative for Number One Cousin as well on birthdays and such. I am sure all girls are well catered in the pink department.

Colours are important as symbols and markers. Just recently Cadbury trademarked a certain shade of purple in order to have exclusive use of the colour in their advertisements. However, how they are going to enforce the trademark outside confectionary industry is anybody’s guess. I can see that they may try to keep the shade reserved for them in T-shirts and merchandise, but they are not omnipresent nor do people often go around with colour maps. Shade is also a reflection in the viewer’s eye and it will be tricky to distinguish with shades at the first glance. Their colour-scheme is genderless, though.

In the past the colours were gender specific as well in certain situations. The skin of women was whitish in Etruscan wall paintings whereas the men were reddish brown skinned. The Roman Emperor wore purple and the imperial connection continued into the Byzantine period. During Medieval times men used widely bright colours and red was common as a colour of important male garments. Greyfriars and Blackfriars, Franciscans and Dominicans, were recognised by their cloak colours; however, these colours were common also in the cloaks of nuns. A garment exclusively connected to women is a wedding dress; its colour has changed through centuries, though. Now it is typically white, but in the 19th century, if there was a special dress, it tended to be black in Fennoscandia. So may be we have hope that the ‘pinkification’ of our everyday life is just a phase.

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