Let us accept, once and for all, without shame, that we were born with it – and that even if we don’t realize it, we live and also die with it. No other color is up to as many interpretations or possibilities, because pink is the only color that accepts all others, the only one that doesn’t ask for anything in return, the only one that remains faithful to dreams, even those that seem impossible. Pink can be whatever any of us wants it to be but, above all, pink is, and always will be, the color of eternal return.
When it was published, back in 2014, Bad Feminist caught the literary universe with pants in hand. Literally and figuratively. No one was expecting the rawness and honesty with which Roxane Gay, the author of the essay, confessed her “flaws” as a black feminist woman. One of those “flaws” was liking the color pink: “Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink — all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink.” And just like that, with Gay’s confession, thousands of women a little all over the world managed to “come out of the closet” and assume their love for that which is the most naïf and controversial of all colors. Now for the facts: can it be that the reader remembers all the talk caused by a certain press conference held by Hilary Clinton, in 1994? The session with the reporters, a marathon of 72 minutes, was the debut of the at the time First Lady of the United States, and it went down into history as the “Pink Press Conference”, above all because Clinton was wearing… a pink jacket. If her wardrobe choices already had an extremely low acceptance rate, that look was the final drop on the terrible perception – part of it orchestrated by the media, for the record – the audience had of her. “We accuse her of wanting to soften her image, but if she had worn any other color, we would be accusing her of something else. The problem is that we, women, don’t really have a public uniform as to fly under the radar when it comes to aesthetic.” And the problem is, truthfully, that at the time, pink had way too many girly connotations; it was a color associated with futility, and any attempt to convey a different message through its use would be seen as a colossal mistake. As it did. Fast forward to the XXI century, and in the advent of the election for the White House, last November, many celebrities decided to dress in bright-pink suits as to appeal to feminine voters. “I love these power pantsuits, and the powerful women that wear them”, the ex-secretary of State wrote on her personal account. Supermajority, one of the organizations behind the initiative, commented: “Thank you Hillary Clinton for always wearing your pantsuits (and your ambition) with pride!” Moral of the story: a) there are no bad feminists, what they are is colorblind – or blindfolded; b) what pink brought together, no one can separate.
Pastel pink. Bright pink. Flamingo pink. Worm pink (yup). Tea pink. Glacé pink. pink. Purple pink. Baby pink. Salmon pink. The list could go on, so many are the tones, or declinations, of pink, a color that is obtained through the root of a plant, the madder, once milled. The history of pink is like an infinite cycle of changes and adaptations, of discoveries and passions, which we could easily call 50 shades of pink. But let’s not fall into that cliché. At least not for now. Especially because some say pink is not even a color at all. It is the middle ground in between red and white. After all, there are few to no investigations that portray pink as the protagonist and, as if that was not enough, then came the realization that the color is not even part of the rainbow – something that would have never crossed our minds, were it not for science to tell us that it is all nothing but an optical illusion. However, according to Eva Heller, sociologist and author of the book The Psychology of Color (2012), pink is, and has always been, much more than a mix of other Pantones: “White and red are opposites – whatever is perceived as red can never be white. In our research, there is no ‘red concept’ where white has been cited frequently; neither a ‘white concept’ where the color red was never put forward. Besides, red and white are psychological contraries. Pink is not only a half-term between red and white. Pink has its own character. There are feelings and concepts that can only be described through pink. And all feelings that belong with pink are positive – pink is, in fact, the only color about which no one has anything negative to say.” In that, we agree. Pink is a synonym of kindness, gentleness, sensibility, but also of charm, femininity, sensuality. It is the color of affection, of innocence, of tenderness. It is the color of a certain childishness, a notion that is lost in us as the years go by – it has been proven that our adoration for darker tones is often substituted by small pink touches, whether in clothing or decoration pieces, as we approach the “age of wisdom”, that turns its back on dogmas and preconceptions. Because pink is serenity, peace, it’s the equilibrium between body and soul. It’s pure zen.
It is not by chance that the ribbons in support of breast cancer are pink. The pink ribbons, as they are known in the US, where they were first created by Charlotte Hayey, herself a survivor, have had a sinuous path, since today they are even criticized for allegedly trivializing the illness. However, there is no hiding away from the success of their mission, which started in the 90s, and has raised the awareness of millions of men and women, in the four corners of the world. Their color, 150 Pink, was chosen because it symbolized the “peace, joy, tranquility and other characteristics that are an affirmation of life.” In the beginning, however, the ribbons were orange. It was the layers at Self magazine, that joined the project, similarly to the beauty brand Estée Lauder, that advised on the change of color, precisely due to its significance. It was also not a coincidence that the pussy hats seen in the feminist protests, in 2017, were pink. The beanies were a way to “reclaim the pussy” (we’re going to let this one on standby because we believe only those who have been living under a rock wouldn’t know who once claimed the expression “Grab them by the pussy”) and, at the same time,of reclaiming the color pink as strong, empowering, and unifying. And it certainly wasn’t by chance, that Vivienne Westwood, the queen of fashion punk, Rei Kawakubo, faithful follower of a certain aesthetic “black everything”, and Miuccia Prada, the industry’s anti-hero by excellence, had served themselves of pink as a way of breaking tabus and deconstructing stereotypes – just as, back in the day, Elsa Schiaparelli also did, the Italian creator that in the 30s of the previous century revolutionized the use of color. Her “shocking pink” was a punch in the stomach to every convention and trend that made up the first steps of that time’s Fashion. From then on, that “brilliant, impossible, shameless, flashy and filled with life, as if all light, every bird and every fish were just one” shade began to be available to every woman, as an escape to the greyness that floated in the air between the two Great Wars. Christian Dior followed their footsteps and, during the 40s and 50s, didn’t hesitate to use pink in his creations, reinforcing the feminine and romantic style brought up by his New Look. “I’m a mild man, but I have violent tastes”, was the phrase he would have claimed after the presentation of his spring/ summer collection in 1948. That is the fate of pink. To be marvelously controversial. Valerie Steele, the director of The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York, wrote in her book Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color (2018): “Pink provokes exceptionally strong feelings of both attraction and repulsion. Indeed, it has been called the most divisive of colors. “Please, sisters, back away from the pink,” urged journalist Petula Dvorak in The Washington Post when she learned that tens of thousands of protesters were planning to wear pink pussy hats at the Women’s March of 2017. The issues facing women are “serious,” she added, and “cute” pink hats risked trivializing these issues. Yet attitudes towards pink are changing, and the color is increasingly regarded as cool and androgynous.”
The boom of the “millennial pink” (a tone defined as a blush or delicate pink) at the beginning of the 2000s, and the most recent “bubblegum pink” (that just as its name indicates, is a more acid tone, recalling the color of chewing gum) helped us see pink in a different way. Pantone, the institute of color, chose Fuchsia Rose as the “Color of the Year” in 2001 because it evoked the feminine side in all individuals – men and women. In 2016, that same organization chose Rose Quartz as the color of the year, together with Serenity Blue, assuming the drive to change “traditional perceptions when it comes to pairing colors”. The profound change that came from the fight for equal gender rights, alongside an ever-rising fluidity in Fashion, which is made for a genderless audience, allowing the consumer to be comfortable enough to wear any shape or color, put pink on a pedestal from where it should have never been taken off. Because in the 70s and 80s, it was common for men to dress in pink, the only difference was that they were looked down upon, as if they were rare birds on an invisible runway, surveilled by the style police, who dictated who could wear what. Except these judges forgot that history always sides with those with a free spirit. “Blue is for boys and pink is for girls”. Error? No. For centuries, it was like that. In ancient standards, from the XIII to the XIX centuries, many times Jesus appears painted, as a child, in pink. “Red is masculine – and pink is a toned-down red, a ‘little red’, the color of boys”, Eva Heller explains in the aforementioned book. Until 1900, both boys and girls wore white. Only from 1920 onwards did it become a habit to dress children in colorful clothing, “when it became possible to make clothing tinted with colors that resisted boiling water”, especially those made out of artificial indigo, the best tint that existed at the time. It was also around that time that new Fashion canons were being created – women were freed from the corset, red disappeared from military uniforms, boys stopped being mini-copies of grownups and started to wear pieces that were more suited to their age, such as little marine uniforms, blue, that quickly transformed the color into “boys’ stuff”. Nowadays, anyone can wear whatever they want. And pink, the one that Diana Vreeland called “the new black”, became just “pink”, the color that serves our wishes, whatever those may be. A color that, after all, is so rebellious, that even the well-known Financial Times has been wearing it since 1893 – the “salmon pink” that brings life to its pages was a conscious choice, way ahead of its time, in order to set it apart from its competitors. A color that, indeed, is so disruptive that it warns us about the dark side of the world – in 2013, the photographer Richard Mosse presented The Enclave, a series of images that depict the Congo conflict. Only that instead of being presented in the typical black and white that one expects from photojournalism, these photos were “stained” with an incomparable shade of “vivid pink”, which transcended his work as a reporter and elevated it to art.
And so it has been, until this day. Because pink can be found in the tweed blazers, in silk shirts, in the satin jumpsuits and sequin short jackets that Alessandro Michelle imagined for Gucci. It is on the XXL cashmere coats, in the matelassé leather bags, in the unexpected sets of bombers + denim jeans that Virginie Viard designed for Chanel. It is in the tulle ball gowns of Carolina Herrera and Alexander McQueen, in the mousseline tunics of Dior, in Isabel Marant’s miniskirts, in Miu Miu’s cotton bomber jackets, in the impeccably cut suits of Balmain and Prada (product of the combining of two brilliant minds, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons), in the oversized shirts that Pierpaolo Piccioli created for Valentino, in the crop tops and Bermuda pants by Versace. It is in the look that opened the final show by Natacha Ramsay-Levi for Chloé, a viscose crepe dress in the color “velvety pink”. In the spring/ summer of 2021, that season that we expected to be grey and cold, pink insists on being a ray of light, a way of hope, as if it was trying to prove that no pandemic could ever destroy the dreams of a creative mind. “Where dreams are, pink also is”. Heller stated. Because, in the end, pink is unrealistic, it’s impossible, it is the miracle that awaits. Pink is the flower that never surrenders, the one we keep, close to our heart. It is the memory that not even time can erase. It is the fantasy, the tomorrow. A world in pink doesn’t exist, but the world only exists still because there is pink in it. Pink is the color of peaceful love, of the calmness to what you arrive after red, it is the color of awaited peace and shared silence. Pink is the color of happy endings, of a life that is emancipated after the storm, the color of eternal return. And that is why, although we know it isn’t there, we will always be able to find it in the middle of the rainbow.
Translated from the original on the "Pink Issue", from may 2021.
Full credits and story on the print version.