The Year Brooks Invented Pink

If you’re reading this, chances are there’s something pink in your closet. In fact, you might be wearing a pink polo, oxford or Shetland right now, and feeling pretty damn manly doing it.

Do you owe it all to Brooks Brothers?

According to LIFE magazine, Brooks all but invented the color pink — at least for men.

The special shade of pink in Brooks’ oxford-cloth buttondowns is legendary. Turns out it was first produced around 1900, but germinated for 50 years until it blossomed into a sartorial icon.

In the May 2 issue, LIFE declared 1955 “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.

8 Comments on "The Year Brooks Invented Pink"

  1. Why is this the same entry as on Ivy League Look blog? I posted the same question to his blog.

  2. Laguna Beach Trad | October 5, 2009 at 7:04 pm |

    Excellent post! Thanks for this. As you well know, I love my pink BB OCBDs; I wore one last Friday. I also wear dress shirts with cutaway collar in pink. Great colour, and, here in the sartorial backwaters of Southern California, rarely seen. But I’d hesitate to apply it to home furnishings.

  3. User Agent:

    Last I checked, Cyrus Vance was the lead post over there.

    Probably coincidence.

    Then again, on Heavy Tweed Jacket’s blogroll, the Ivy League Look blog is higher than Ivy-Style, meaning it was more recently updated.


  4. The pink emphasis, I thought, was in honor of breast cancer research on the Ivy League Look blog.

  5. Sheer coincidence.

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

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

  8. 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.

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