The Year Brooks Invented Pink

Today there’s multiple news in the world of pink, and so we’re revisiting — and reworking — this post that originally ran in 2009. Back then we examined a LIFE Magazine piece from 1955, when the Ivy heyday was just getting started, that all but credited Brooks Brothers with inventing the color pink — at least for men.

In the May 2 issue, LIFE ran a piece called “The Peak Year for Pink,” writing:

The color that women have traditionally appropriated from babyhood has taken a turn in the other direction. Across the U.S. a pink peak in male clothing has been reached as manufacturers have saturated more and more of their output with the pretty pastel. Against the charcoal  gray with which it is usually worn, pink is shown here in almost everything short of a trench coat — even in a golf jacket and a dinner jacket. Now more of a staple than a luxury, the color is even acceptable to teen-age boys.

Like most male fashions, including the Ivy League Look, this pink hue and cry has taken  some time to develop. Sole responsibility lies with New York’s Brooks Brothers, whose pink shirt, introduced in 1900 but long unnoticed, was publicized for college girls in 1949 and caught on for men too. Already being copied in clothes by such rival bon-bon colors as light green and lavender, pink is heading into home furnishings.

And now here we are in 2018 with the press once again filling column inches on a supposed pink trend. This time it’s an article entitled “Real men wear pink (and not just Brooks Brothers buttondowns” that appeared in the Wall Street Journal.


Today, bold guys are reclaiming the color’s more gender-neutral roots. Across pop culture, men like John Legend and Wes Anderson are going beyond the classic pink oxford shirt—a Brooks Brothers staple since the early 1900s and a ubiquitously safe way for men to wear the color—to flaunt pieces from bright pink ties to full pink suits. At this year’s Australian Open, athletes including Rafael Nadal wore hot pink Nike gear designed to project aggression. As Sam Shipley, apparel design director for Nike Court, put it, “We talked a lot about driving energy through confidence in pink.”

Yes, well gender-neutral preppies (remember the androgyny sections in “The Official Preppy Handbook” and Nelson Aldrich, Jr.’s 1979 Atlantic cover story) have been doing that for quite some time.

In other pink news today, Molly Ringwald has a piece in The New Yorker looking back the ’80s John Hughes movies that made her famous, including “Pretty In Pink.” The piece is worth a read for those of you, like me, who came of age in the ’80s.

Finally, it’s National Tartan Day, and Black Watch looks rather fetching with pink. For all your tartan needs year ’round (at least for your home), shout out to our kind sponsor Scot Meacham Wood. — CC

27 Comments on "The Year Brooks Invented Pink"

  1. Huh – I’m wearing a pink BB broadcloth (white collars and cuffs) as I’m reading this…

  2. Been waiting since ’55 for hell to freeze over. Must have missed the memo.

  3. Except that pink was traditionally a masculine color until about the 1930s or even as late the 1940’s.

    “There is no reason why you should take my word for this. Back in the days when ladies had a home journal (in 1918) the Ladies’ Home Journal wrote: “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.”

    The Sunday Sentinel in 1914 told American mothers: “If you like the colour note on the little one’s garments, use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention.””

    So they might have taken it back, but they didn’t invent it.

  4. Crank up the volume! The Furs nail it.

  5. Vern Trotter | April 6, 2018 at 11:38 pm |

    Pro golfer Doug Sanders won 20 times and finished second 21 times from the late 1950s to the early 1970s wearing nearly all pink outfits on the PGA tour.

  6. When I was is HS, 1964-68, the LAST thing any guy wanted was a hint of effeminacy, but we sported our pink OCBDs with nary a care.

  7. Dutch Uncle | April 7, 2018 at 1:43 am |

    If the day ever comes when I get tired of rotating between solid white and solid blue OCBDs, I’ll consider white with blue stripes, if I feel daring.

  8. Etymologue | April 7, 2018 at 3:59 am |

    For those who couldn’t access the WSJ article:

    PINK MAY be one of the biggest colors in menswear at the moment, but brands still treat it like a dirty word. Todd Snyder’s elevated sweat separates come in “rose quartz.” Steven Alan makes Japanese cotton T-shirts in “putty.” The Gap offers chinos in “dusty mauve.” Officine Générale sent a shirt down its spring runway that is being marketed as “faded rose.” Theory is selling a fleece hoodie in “galah,” which, as any amateur birder knows, is a pinky-gray-breasted cockatoo native to Australia.

    No matter what you call the color or how persistently it infiltrates fashion, it remains a hard sell for certain men. While most women can comfortably think pink, as the 1957 musical “Funny Face” urges in song, guys tend to feel more like Steve Buscemi in “Reservoir Dogs,” protesting, “Why am I Mr. Pink?”

    Still, our notion of pink as a feminine color is a fairly recent construct. Throughout the Victorian era, pink and blue were interchangeable nursery colors, and a 1918 article in Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department, a clothing trade publication, advised, “Pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy.”

    Today, bold guys are reclaiming the color’s more gender-neutral roots. Across pop culture, men like John Legend and Wes Anderson are going beyond the classic pink oxford shirt—a Brooks Brothers staple since the early 1900s and a ubiquitously safe way for men to wear the color—to flaunt pieces from bright pink ties to full pink suits. At this year’s Australian Open, athletes including Rafael Nadal wore hot pink Nike gear designed to project aggression. As Sam Shipley, apparel design director for Nike Co urt, put it, “We talked a lot about driving energy through confidence in pink.”

    Men who subvert pink’s gendered stereotype appear assured because they’re going against the grain. Stylist Ilaria Urbinati, who dresses men including Dwayne Johnson and Donald Glover, said, “I think it takes a really masculine guy to wear pink.” Ms. Urbinati’s clients feed off the rewards of taking the risk: “I push them into things, but then they go out into the world and they get compliments and they’re like, ‘What else you got?’” Recently Mr. Glover rose to the rosé challenge by successfully wearing a sweater the color of poached shrimp on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” with maroon pants, no less.

    For men who are ready to take a chance on pink (or “gypsum” or “roseate spoonbill”), Ms. Urbinati counsels putting a blush sweater with navy or slate wool pants. Combining the color with black can read ’80s New Wave. “There is nothing cooler than a pink hoodie under a topcoat, worn with sneakers,” suggested designer Todd Snyder (who said he pairs his with a camel coat). Don’t go monochromatic: Wearing one pink piece at a time avoids an unfortunate allover bubble-gum look.

    The most current shade—soft “millennial” pink, familiar to anyone who spends time on Instagram—feels more grounded in the naturalism of the American Southwest than the high-octane neon of “Miami Vice.” But whatever shade you go for, and whatever stigma-deflecting name it’s been given, studies have shown that pink stimulates a mood-lifting response. Robert Green, a Chicago product designer who favors pink shirt

  9. Reactionary Trad | April 7, 2018 at 10:26 am |

    @Dutch Uncle:
    You’re certainly more daring than me; when I feel daring, I switch from white to blue.

  10. Light pink shirt are great with a gray suit.

  11. Henry Contestwinner | April 8, 2018 at 12:19 am |

    Pink goes well with almost all the other colors in the traditional pallette. Gray, of course, but also navy and every other shade of blue, tan, and even some shades of brown. I’ve already started wearing my pink shirts again; I find they suit spring and summer better than autumn & winter, but that’s just personal preference.

    Most of my pink items are shirts, but I also have some pink socks, and even a couple of pink ties (my pink & white seersucker bow tie always garners compliments, especially from the ladies).

  12. EVAN EVERHART | April 9, 2018 at 12:06 pm |

    I regularly wear pink shirts, several OCBDs in various weights, by both BB and J Press, and assorted pinpoint Oxford and End on End point collars for daily wear, and a particularly wild mid-weight Oxford cloth Bengal stripe deep carnation pink BB shirt with a white club collar for special occasions. I wear mine with navy and assorted grays and browns of course, but I find that pink looks best worn with a chocolate brown suit, or even better yet, an olive green one! And never a pink shirt with pink socks! Pink socks go with blue shirts! Just like pink shirts go with blue or green socks, depending on the color of the suit, at least in my wardrobe. LOVE this post and article!

  13. Charlottesville | April 9, 2018 at 4:40 pm |

    Count me among those who love a touch of pink. Like Henry, mainly for shirts, but I have socks, ties, pants and even a seersucker sport coat in pink. Like Evan above, I do not limit pairing pinks with gray and navy, but recently wore a pink OCBD with a tan POW check sport coat from Brooks (circa late 80s) in a silk/linen/wool blend. The coat incorporates a bit of pink and pale blue in the tweedy mix, which helped. I felt especially springlike that day.

  14. EVAN EVERHART | April 9, 2018 at 6:17 pm |

    @ Charlotsville:

    Thumbs up on that pink OCBD with the tan POW check sport coat! You’ve inspired me Sir! When it cools off, I’m dragging out my tan POW tweed for a pink pairing! (93 degrees here in disgustingly sunny Southern California – Yuck!) Of course, the perfect pairing of pink and tan would be a pair of Aertex officers’ Pinks worn with your exceptional sounding sport coat and that pink OCBD! I’ve got to ask; navy knit tie?

  15. Charlottesville | April 10, 2018 at 9:52 am |

    Thanks, Evan. Officer’s pinks would have been a nice touch, but are not currently in my wardrobe. I have a pair of tan cavalry twills with a deep red underside that give a bit more subdued version of the same effect. A navy knit tie would have worked well, and I will keep it in mind for next time. I chose an old Brooks rep stripe with a navy ground that had the proper shades of pink and blue in the stripes to pick up the over-plaid in the coat, which I think also worked pretty well, hopefully without being too obviously “matchy.”

    Congratulations on flying the Trad flag in the sartorially inhospitable climes of Southern California. I have 2 nephews who live there (LA and San Diego) and while I sometimes envy the weather, I do not warm to the prevalent clothing style. It was in the 30s here yesterday, and should hit 80 by Friday, so it is a tricky time for dressing in this part of Virginia. I recommend silk/linen/wool blend tweed for this shoulder season, as I had mentioned in a post last spring. I will probably be bundling up the heavier flannels and tweeds this weekend, and moving into the year-round and tropical-weight wool suits and summer tweeds. Looking forward to Memorial Day, on which my wife and I are heading to Charleston to ring in the seersucker season and eat our fill of low-country seafood.

  16. EVAN EVERHART | April 11, 2018 at 10:02 am |

    @ Charlottesville:

    Hmm! I am quite interested as to whether those rather nice sounding cavalry twills were a recent acquisition, and if so, from where? They sound really nice! I’ve got a pair of pinks, but as I’ve gotten older, they’re uncomfortably snug – I no longer wear a 28 or even a 30 waist trouser! I think they sell reproductions of the WWII/Korean Ware era pinks at a few sites online, and some even seem to be made up in Aertex! Price isn’t too bad, about the same as a pair of Bill’s.

    I like that tie idea! Was it a BB #1, 2, 3, or 4? Was the pink bordered in white, or lighter or darker pink on a blue field? It sounds really nice! I’m still regretting the dark royal blue silk foulard that I had with little pink and yellow repeating paisleys. It was destroyed when I was in the “tropics” aka, Louisiana humidity. I’ve never been able to find another like it.

    Matchy-matchy! That’s a good point, and I’m sure you’ve noticed, that isn’t it strange; women prefer to match, whereas men prefer to harmonize. There’s something in that about the relative prevalent (and I’d say deeply rooted)psychology and respective approaches to life, of the respective sexes, I think.

    My ex-wife always wanted to match her colors, and wouldn’t mix patterns. Hmm.

    Thank you Sir! I try! Inhospitable in every sense; yesterday it was 94 by my office, and a couple of degrees higher by my home – it’s Spring! And of course the whole Euro-suit thing that’s so prevalent in LA. If you slap a faux Italian label on anything out here, it seems to fly off of the shelves. Go figure?! I know this may sound strange, but I almost envy your weather. Somehow, I imagine that at least people wouldn’t be wearing shorts and flip flops sandals all of the time, or similar stuff. Or maybe it would cool their hot LA tempers and road rage! Today’s going to hit 75. That silk linen wool blend sounds excellent! I’ve got an old Brookstweed sport coat that’s pure wool, woven for BB, and it is perfect for moderately hot weather to cold weather with a sweater. I know it’s not very “Ivy” or “Traditional” or whatever, but the jacket is purple, dark green, ash gray, and charcoal and chocolate brown mélange in a cottage weave, with purple dyed horn buttons and butterfly lining in purple. Patch and flap hip pockets. Funny thing is, no one ever really notices that its purple! Summer Tweeds! My favorite words! I’m already in the tropical weight wools and eye-balling a possible navy blue fresco suit from O’Connell’s. It is Insufferable here with the heat. I’ve had heat stroke too many times from my wilder younger years travelling in the great unwashed and un-airconditioned wilds of the nation and some outside, and can’t take it anymore.

    Your Memorial Day plans sound Beautiful Sir, and a day which couldn’t be beaten! I salute you and wish you and your wife the Absolute Most enjoyment on your celebration of Memorial Day!

    I also wanted to say, that I really always appreciate your comments on here! They’re some of the best and most civilized!

  17. Charlottesville | April 11, 2018 at 1:52 pm |

    Thank you so much for all of the kind word, Evan. The cavalry twills came from Brooks Brothers about 15 years ago or maybe 20. I think J. Press had a nice pair that looked identical on their website recently, but I don’t see them now. If I am recalling correctly, it was an end of the season sale item. O’Connell’s caries them and so does Cordings:

    After rechecking, the tie turns out to be from Huntington (, and is in the configuration of the BB #2 stripe, with pink used for the narrow border stripe. The pink is about the shade of a BB OCBD, and the lighter blue is in the midrange with (to my eye) a slight aqua cast and is perhaps 5/8″ wide.

    I love the lighter weight Brookstweed coats and have one myself in shades of brown, with light blue and burgundy. Great for moderate temperatures. I think your sport coat sounds great, and the word “Brookstweed” on the label coupled with the butterfly lining indicates that it was made during the days when Brooks still defined the Ivy genre, so no one should criticize the purple note. I have a tie from Brooks (which I bought in 1987 or thereabouts) in navy and purple, and one from J. Press which combines two supposedly non-Ivy colors, black and lavender, along with pale blue, in a version of the BB #2 stripe. I also have a beautiful tan tweed sport coat from J. Press that has faint stripes of olive, orange, red and lavender in the overplaid, enabling a coordination with many ties. I think a hint of purple is just fine, although I would think stop short of buying a solid purple suit unless I was in a remake of Guys and Dolls.

    I enjoy having four distinct seasons, although long stretches of subfreezing temps make me hunger for spring or a trip further south. Still, if that is the price for changing seasons, I would not trade autumn for a steady diet of sunny days in the upper 80s on the west coast, or the hot humid summers of New Orleans, as much as I love that city. Hope you have a delightful, if sultry, week.

  18. Christian, I remember seeing an image in the Classic Esquire archives, back when I subscribed, that featured a businessman in a sack suit and pink button down shirt. I think it was from 1935, give or take a year. It called him “the Brooks Brothers type” or something. This has been around a long time.

  19. EVAN EVERHART | April 11, 2018 at 5:38 pm |

    @ Charlottesville:

    It always comes back to Brooks, doesn’t it?! I could just wish that they’d return to their former glory, or at least reach for it.

    Cavalry twills really are nice! I haven’t had a pair in a long time. I’m too wide at the waist now for Dad’s. He mostly had a 29″ waist, even when he got older! I’m a solid 32″.

    That tie sounds Amazing, and very unique! Somehow with it’s unusual color combination, it is not surprising that it’s Huntington! My (Dad’s) last Huntington shirt just died. I nearly cried. It just sort of started falling apart as I hand washed it. I’ve never had a softer OCBD in my life! It was white with redish orange uni stripes, and that COLLAR! Thanks for the reinforcement on the purple! I hear so much adverse talk about purple! I mean I never thought about it twice until people started going nuts on message boards on the subject. I remember Dad had a purple silk Churchill dot tie that he’d wear with his charcoal gray 3 piece and a dove gray (with lilac undertone) point collar for Court days. He thought it made him look “reliable but sharp”. That tweed is just Beyond comfortable and seems to go with Everything because of its mélange effect! I Love lavender! I actually have a midnight slate blue BB #2 stripe with taupe and lilac striping. I like it with a green shirt or with a white one and my green suits, though I have been accused of looking vaguely like the Riddler by my ex wife. But what does she know? That J Press sport coat sounds outstanding! What size are you? I’m just curious as I’ve got tons of sack jackets and a couple few suits sitting around in wrong sizes, if you ever want one. I miss the seasonal changes. Up North with my family in central California, we used to get it, but not down South here in LA. Not a bit of it! Just year round Summer with a touch of Autumn and 1.5 weeks of Spring thrown in to tease you about how hot it will be.

    Thank the Lord for Summer weight tropical wools! I’ve got a mohair/wool blend navy blue BB suit on today and a BB tab collar in white with a BB #4 stripe Bottany tie in burgundy and navy. Keeping cool – the tie’s unlined!

    I wish you well on your week’s weather as well Sir! And thank you very much for your kind words and conversation! I’m a hermit aside from work, and it’s refreshing to talk to someone as personable as yourself! Have a blessed week!

  20. @Richard

    Alas not picturing the image you’re referring to….

  21. Charlottesville | April 12, 2018 at 10:54 am |

    Thanks again, Evan. I have enjoyed the conversation as well. I am downright tubby, compared with your good self. 42 (or these days of shrunken cuts, sometimes 43) regular. My closet is pretty full already, but thanks for the kind offer. I am trying to hand off some items as well, and have found a few local guys from church in their 20s and 30s who have been eager to receive my castoffs, which assures that Ivy-style clothing will have a bit of a future here in Charlottesville.

    Your rig sounds perfect. Wool/mohair blends make great suits. I have 2, both from Polo. Today I’m in a wool/silk/linen tweed 3/2 sack with a brick-red on white U-stripe OCBD, both from Brooks, and a burgundy and tan bow-tie, khakis and double-soled, cordovan bluchers. I wish I could find the old snap-tab collar BB shirts. It looks like they have stopped making them, and I am down to just a couple. It is a style I very much enjoy.

    Blessings and best wishes to you as well!

  22. EvanEverhart | April 13, 2018 at 2:02 am |

    Hi Charlottesville,
    It’s always pleasing to be able to proselytize for American Traditionalism, sadly not too many interested parties out my way here in the wild West.

    I’ve also always loved wool/mohair blends, my Father used to wear a midnight blue wool/mohair tuxedo and I really loved how it looked.

    I love those U stripes in brick. I need a new one. I’ve currently only got an old BB one in dark mustard. Striped bow, or paisley? Burgundy and tan always looks nice. What sort of pattern on the jacket? I love a good sack jacket!

    That outfit sounds very fine!

    Today in the Valley, it was about 60 degrees with high winds blowing trees down! Yikes! I just got off of a 16 hour shift! Today was my BB Tan POW check tweed sack suit, with BB pink OCBD, black silk ancient madder tie with miniature paisleys in red yellow and green from White’s of New Haven, bottle green wool socks, Allen Edmonds split toe moc bluchers in walnut and a matching alligator belt, and plain white pocket linen, and my Dobbs Jet 707 that was Grandfather’s, Father’s and now mine. All of the stuff is vintage, and mostly Dad’s or Grandfather’s.

    Going to try and sleep before work o’clock at 4:30 AM tomorrow, then after work to church, till 10 PM.

  23. Charlottesville | April 13, 2018 at 10:38 am |

    Evan – You are quite the dapper dresser, and it sounds like your father was the same. I do not envy those hours. It has been quite a few years since I had to work through the day and the night as a freshly minted lawyer in Washington. Keep flying the trad flag. You may be the only chance the So-Cal guys will have to see how a gentleman dresses. Hope you get some much needed rest before your marathon weekend.

  24. EVAN EVERHART | April 13, 2018 at 3:02 pm |

    Hi Charlottesville,

    Thank you Sir! I am very humbled by your gracious words! My Father would’ve been pleased to hear that his wardrobe was being admired, even if only worn by his son. Ditto Grand-dad and his things. I won’t take much credit. I was just really strictly brought up as to what was proper (though I must admit I really do love nice clothes).

    Luckily, these hours are at will, and only temporary with a testing phase for a possible new protocol for our researchers. I opted in, and was requested as I’m one of the fastest typists and have a very minimal margin of error.

    It must have been very exciting working as a lawyer in Washington! My family was a bit sad when I didn’t go into college for law or language or something more respectable. I only studied art, the first time around. I later studied theology. Now I work doing background checks as a sub-contractor. I used to be an underwriter with independent financial institutions, but I got out of that industry as it was too unethical. I did work my way up from filing clerk to international underwriter in 2 years with no degree in that field however. I worked as an apprentice private investigator for my Father when I was younger. I really enjoy research!

    I am going to try and take a 1 hour nap before church tonight! It’s back up in the 80s again today! I took your route and went the Brookstweed Summer weight jacket (purple/brown/turquoise/pine green mélange), Dad’s old Polo khakis that fit like my vintage BB trousers, flat with cuffs, of course, Allen Edmonds Saratoga loafers, dusty rose linen socks, a buttery-ecry vintage BB pinpoint OCBD (Dad), and my new Bill’s Khakis 5 Duck Surcingle belt, and curry colored with white pocket linen in a bandana style but thin, Dobbs hat, of course.

    It already feels like a sauna over here in the hall!

    Do you like pocket linen and the like? I found a surprising and pretty consistent source of interesting ones if you are.

    How’s it over in your neck of the woods Sir? Has the weather improved/maintained?

    Thanks again for your kind wishes and regards Sir! I also wish you a Beautiful and relaxing weekend!

  25. Think Pink. I’m in the Pink. Love my BB Pink OCBD shirts. I wish BB would bring back the Pink Uni Stripe ! Looks wonderful with charcoal odd trousers, navy blazer and a navy ground, white pattern long tie or bow tie. As for solid pink, perfect with a BB #1 stripe in navy/white, or a #5 stripe in silver/black. The BB hue is unique. You can pick it out from a crowd, thus easy to ID the wearer as a person of good taste. Both uni and solid look GREAT with khakis all the time, and with a grey herringbone tweed during colder times of the year. I like the BB pinpoint shirts also. However the pink shade is lighter in hue and intensity. Still very attractive, but not the same.

  26. Vern Trotter | October 22, 2018 at 11:39 pm |

    Pink makes the girls wink!

  27. michael powell | September 24, 2021 at 1:35 am |

    I bought a BB pink stripes on white just today. It joins my pink OCBDs. Pink shirts are usually worn with a blue blazer, khaki or gray pants.

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