Somewhere over the rainbow

by Emily

A while back, some one told my son, A-rod, that purple was a girl color. That statement made me see red (so to speak). Aside from the fact that colors don’t have a gender, let’s take a little trip down history lane, and see what’s behind the meaning of colors.

Purple – if it had a gender, it would be a masculine color. Purple dye was discovered by the ancient Phoenicians around 2000-1500 BC. It was made from snails, and was literally worth it’s weight in silver. It was the single most expensive dye in the world, and was worn only by male aristocracy – specifically kings. It was referred to as “imperial purple”. In some places, it was illegal to wear purple if you were not the king. Around 1850 (AD), someone invented a synthetic purple dye. From that point on, women wore purple as a sign of (secondary) mourning, although men continued to wear purples, plums and mauves.

Blue – is currently thought of as a “male” or “masculine” color. Historically though, blue symbolized innocence, daintiness, and most importantly, purity. That’s why so many images of the Virgin Mary portray her wearing blue. This dates back to the Middle Ages. (Emily: Pandora, is this why you wear blue so often? Pandora: You bet! Maintaining my pure rep is particularly important at an advanced age. Bonus points if people equate me with the Virgin. My husband also loves this.)

Pink – since pink is a pastel version of red, pink was considered a strong, passionate and aggressive color. This was true even 100 years ago. In 1918, a Ladies’ Home Journal article stated: “There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” (Although it was also recommended for blue to be worn by blonde and/or blue-eyed babies, and pink worn by brunette/brown-eyed babies). Pink was introduced as a feminine color around World War II. My favorite designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, was partially responsible for this. She introduced a color called “shocking pink”. “Genderized” clothes started becoming fashionable in the 1950s, as a sign that families had enough wealth to buy new clothes for all their children.

Do I dress my boys in pink because it’s a historically appropriate color for the little warriors, or do I buy them blue because our society today tells us it’s the “boy” color? Neither. Most people develop a favorite early in their life, and actually tend to keep it as they get older. It may not be the most prevalent color in your wardrobe or in your house decor, but almost instinctively most people will gravitate towards a particular color. My favorite color is purple. My fifth birthday party theme was: PURPLE. Today, my kitchen, bathroom, glasses and hair are purple. A-rod has decided his favorite color is green. He is most emphatic about it, and although he is open minded about color choices (he DID ask me to make him a hot pink suit of armor) (Pandora: Um, I want a pink suit of armor!! How much would that cost me?), at the end of the day, he is a “green” boy.

At our house, we enjoy colors because they are beautiful, and they inspire us, regardless of what society says about that color. At my house, we are a “rainbow” house – all colors are appropriate for all people.

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