For most of the time that I have been alive, the color pink has been associated with feminine character. In fact, I just bought a pink baby swing for the cherry tree in the front yard, hoping to entice the many young families that walk through the neighborhood to stop and swing their little girls in the baby swing. Of course, boys are welcome too, but my family is full of girls, sooooo…..

A friend of mine recently told me that Pink was originally associated with boys. That was a shocker, so I had to research this. The history makes sense when you hear it. Red is a masculine color standing for strength and courage. The association to blood on the battlefield is real as fighting for territory and survival was common. Soldiers wear their “red badges of courage” with pride. The thought was to prepare little boys for the “red life” of courage by dressing them in pink.

In the 17th century, boys wore pink in preparation for taking their place in the adult world of battle and mayhem. The association of pink with boys lasted for centuries. Then in the 1920s, in the United States, a type of Department Store war broke out. Some stores kept the tradition of associating pink with boys, and some made the switch to associating pink with girls. The motivation for this is unclear though I would venture to say that any controversy in marketing is likely to draw attention and lead to higher sales. Mothers across America were no doubt purchasing pink clothes to assert their preference.

I sort of wish the pink for boys would have stuck because then we might have a better opportunity to help boys see that they can be soft sometimes as well as bloody. Our boys have lost the ability to use the softer parts of their psyche, and maybe “color coding” is a part of that. If we had made them “green”, would they be more grounded? More interested in growing things than destroying things? Or, more environmentally aware? Or, if we had made them “orange”, would they be aspiring to more complicated and juicy ways of solving problems? Or, have the ability to blend more aspects of life together and not be so rigid.

“OOPs!” did I offend with that last musing? Boys and men are emotionally limited and narrowed by our social norms. Just watch the news. How many mass shootings are committed by boys? By girls? Maybe clothing and color coding have nothing to do with it; however, something in our culture is creating this desire to explode and to finally “be seen”.

Buy your boys pink shirts!