The word pink dates back to the 1570s, when to pink was to create a small cut or perforation, such as on a decorated edge (think pinking shears).

The story of pink’s link to color is an incredible story of linguistic conversion. That’s the concise way to say the word started out as a verb, became a noun, and, after that, an adjective.

The Dutch associated pinck oogen, “small eyes,” with the small, delicate flowers of the carnation, whose petals look distinctly perforated or crimped. This lead to pink’s association with two more ideas: the color of the flower and the idea of the flower as perfection. Perfection is what Shakespeare’s Mercutio is referring to in Romeo and Juliet when he says, “Nay, I am the very pink of curtesie."

At the point where scholars pinpoint the first attribution of pink as a color, around 1681, people could not stop talking about it. In Elizabethan England, pink hose were all the fashion for men. Fortunately, Sumptuary Laws which determined the color of clothing people wore by their social status, made pink available to both the upper and lower classes.

In the 1920s pink started to be used for the marketing of products for boys. The color association was considered appropriate for boys, full of energy, not yet mature enough for the full heat of the color red. Conversely, baby blue was associated with girls as a soft, mild color, and one strongly associated with the Virgin Mary. Post-WWII these associations switched, with pink directed at products for girls and blue for boys


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