Tuesday, 18 January 2011

How to Pick up a Pink Pen if You Are a Boy

One for the ladies? Think again. As the whiff of bubblegum emanating from Uni Ball Signo Scents wafted towards my nose, I pondered on pink. Pink has been asked for and pink has been received. Kind donor of pink: Cult Pens. Some thirty rollerballs and gel pens in various shades of pink from Baby Pink to Bubblegum and from Pastel Pink to Fuchsia made Palimpsest wear sunglasses and swallow an indigestion tablet – and ponder over the significance of pink.

What was the cultural shift that transformed pink into a ladies’ colour – sweet, girlie, soft, sensitive to the point of sickening syrupy nothingness? What was it that made it unheard of for male babies to don pink rompers? And can pink pens be restored to the male population? With names such as Pastel, Angelic, Sparkling, Baby Pink, Bubblegum, Strawberry Scent and Twinkling Like Stars can a Macho Grrr be attached to a Pink Pen? How to pick up a pink pen if you are a boy?

1. Think Grrr, think masculine, think British Empire: Imperial masculine power, East India Co., male middle-class adventures in exotic lands, masculine colonial aggression and the masculine duties of the military and governance. And all this “grrr” sitting comfortably in a land of Salmon Pink: 

2. Think Kids. Handsome in pink Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian boys sported garments in shades of pink, while their female siblings were dressed in blue (a Virgin Mary blue with its connotations of loyalty, grace and elegance). 

3. Think War. “What is good for?” Good for pink. Admiral of the British Royal Navy Louis Mountbatten invented a  shade of pink – consequently named Mountbatten Pink -  to be used as a naval camouflage colour in 1940. He had the entire flotilla painted with a mix of medium grey and Venetian Red thereby confusing the Germans during Operation Archery. The Japanese Kamikaze even painted pink flowers on their death airplanes: sakura blossoms.

4. Think Sport. The Giro d’ Italia is sponsored by the (pink) La Gazzetta dello Sport and the winner wears a pink jersey (maglia rosa). Italian football team Palermo is donning pink shirts.

5. Think Fox Hunting. Show your manliness by “donning your pinks”, that is the scarlet hunting suits of fox hunters. Don’t forget to pop a pink pen in your pocket, if only to take notes in a Smythsons’ Games Book.

6. Think Money. The Financial Times is in salmon pink.

7. Think Wrestling. Bret Hart (pictured), Canadian wrestler, five times WWF champion, two times Intercontinental champion. Can you handle his pink? Grrr.

Pick a Pink Pen. It’s manly. Promise.

Pink Pens from Cult Pens

Images: British Empire maps from British Empire and Mappery dot com; Vintage Kids from the Mary Evans Picture Library; Mountbatten Pink from darkroastedblend; Fox Hunting pinks from Antique Maps and Prints; Bret Hart from InfoBarrel

To read: Peggy Orenstein, "What's wrong with Cinderella", The New York Times Magazine, 24 December 2006; Jude Stewart, "Pink is for Boys: Cultural History of the Color Pink", Step Inside Design Magazine, 2008. 

Added on reader's request


  1. damn! gotta go shopping now...!

  2. Don't forget to pick up a pink pen. ;)

  3. Yes!!! Bret "The Hitman" Hart. Love it! Where's "The Anvil"? He wore pink too.

  4. Here you go John, Anvil added!

  5. You have the most interesting posts!

    Bret Hart seems to have a Wikipedia article worthy of a world leader, complete with 190 (!) footnotes.

  6. oh I love this!
    it's simply hilarious!
    top creativity!

  7. Thank you, Blandine. I am planning a series on colour.