The Color Pink and the History of the Color Pink
Pink is a feminine, romantic color. It’s pretty, charming, and frivolous. But has color always been perceived this way?
Where did the term “pink” come from? And aside from being associated with femininity, does it have other meanings?
In this article, we’ll talk about the history of the color pink, what it means, and the psychology behind how it affects people.
A Brief History of The Color Pink
The first concept of color is mentioned in Homer's Odyssey, which was written in 800 B.C. The word, “pink,” was not used, but Homer mentioned a "rosy-fingered dawn," to describe the color of the sky in the early morning.
It was only in the 17th century that the term was coined by a Greek botanist to refer to the color. He named the color “pink” from a flowering plant, particularly due to the rose-colored ruffled edges of carnations.
However, the verb “to pink” had been used since the 14th century, which means, “to decorate with a perforated pattern.” This is said to originate from the German word “picken”, which means, "to peck."
Scissors that create perforated edges are called "pinking shears" today, most probably in reference to the verb, "to pink," used since the 14th century. The color wasn't always associated with femininity or fragility. Pink was a popular color among aristocratic men and women in the mid-18th century.
It was a fashionable color that evoked class and luxury, with only the nobles having the privilege of wearing the color. It wasn't associated with the female gender, as well.
Paintings of infants during this time often wore white, as opposed to pink or blue, which are the colors assigned to genders today.
Little boys wore pink more than girls because the color was perceived as "masculine," being a watered-down version of red, the color often used in military uniforms at the time. In 1757, the color was made popular by the chief mistress of Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour.
Pink was her favorite color and loved it so much that Sevres, a French porcelain manufacturer, named their new shade of pink after her, which was called, "Pink Pompadour."
It was during the mid-19th century that feminization of the color pink began due to men preferring to wear darker colors.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, there was massive production of dyes and one of the most produced colors was magenta, which was able to create a wide range of pink shades.
Eventually, pink became more accessible to the masses, and its association with nobility and luxury soon waned.
By the mid-20th century, the norm for menswear was dark-colored clothing, especially during and after World War II. Light colors and pastels were now assigned to women and children, who were deemed weaker than men.
Furthermore, to remove women from the workforce after the war, 1950s marketing and branding in the US, focused on using the color pink in ads featuring women and in products targeting the female market. Since then, the color pink has become associated with the female gender.
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What Does the Color Pink Represent?
Pink is associated with sympathy, love, compassion, playfulness, nurture, affection, warmth, and comfort.
In children, it is often assigned to girls, as it represents innocence, charm, and being girly. That is why most toys designed for girls are made in the color.
Pink is not just one shade but comes in many different variations. Light or pale pink is associated with female children, as it evokes light-heartedness, innocence, being childlike, and charm.
Rose pink is associated with femininity and maturity, while darker pink is associated with passion, playfulness, and warmth. In food and beverage, the color is used in the packaging of sweet products, such as candies and gums.
It is also mostly used in pastries, such as cupcakes, donuts, and many kinds of desserts. Being a mixture of red and white, pink is said to diffuse the aggressive nature of the color red, making it a calming color despite being a variation of the bold and striking primary color.
The Psychology of Pink: How Does It Affect Us?
Aside from its associations and meanings, pink creates a psychological effect on the onlooker.
When seeing the color pink, color psychologists believe it creates a sense of calm. It is said to be so effective in regulating mood and behavior that the color has been used in holding cells in many parts of Europe, particularly for prisoners of violent crimes, to tone down the aggression.
Additionally, some sports teams paint opposing teams' locker rooms in the color pink to reduce a visiting team's aggression.
However, this does not apply to all shades of pink. Pale or light pink shades are the ones that are soothing and calming, while darker shades such as hot pink, fuschia, and magenta have the opposite effects.
Darker shades of pink increase blood pressure, heart rate, energy levels, as well as palpitations. While lighter pink shades calm and regulate emotions, darker shades heighten emotions, similar to the psychological effects of the color red.
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The Color Pink, Moving Forward
In recent times, the color pink has evolved into a color of protest. It is no longer just a color of femininity, romance, or compassion, but it has become the color of feminism and fighting against the opposition, especially in the LGBTQ communities.
During WW2, pink triangles were used by the Nazis to identify homosexuals but it became the color of gay activism in the 70s. Pink is no longer reserved as being a timid or lighthearted color but it is slowly moving away from the idea that it is a color of the weaker gender.
It is now being used as a color of hope, power, and courage. Women's movements, breast cancer awareness groups, and LGBTQ organizations use color to represent the strength of femininity.
The color pink may be associated with pretty things, fragility, love, sympathy, and warmth, but it's also a powerful color that soothes and overcomes aggression.
Calming and mood-regulating, its strength lies in its ability to play down the heightened effects of red, while also bearing hope and courage, coupled with tenderness and affection.
Recent times have shown that the color pink is no longer viewed as the color of the weaker gender, but rather as a color that is now being used to represent the strength of being a woman and a woman at heart.