What historical evidence exists for the origin of the association of blue colors with boys, and pink colors with girls?

I realize this is a cultural specific trait. An article "Beyond Pink and Blue" looks at how color preferences vary across cultures, but this question is specifically about the cultural norm that a boy baby should have a blue blanket.

What is the earliest known reference to this association? Or, alternatively, is there any evidence that this association goes back as far as recorded history?

  • 1
    It definintely doesn't go back as far as recorded history, as blue is (perhaps arguably) a fairly recent color.
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 10, 2013 at 22:10
  • Off topic: youtube.com/watch?v=RLRLhV9U0kQ (first thing I thought of when I read your question)
    – yannis
    Jan 10, 2013 at 22:36
  • @T.E.D. i think you'll find the sky was blue before recent times.
    – JamesRyan
    Mar 19, 2015 at 16:05
  • @JamesRyan - That was my reaction when I first was told that too. But you will most likely search in vain for ancient sources that refer to the sky as blue. For instance, Homer never used the word once anywhere, despite describing the color of the sky in nearly every dang stanza. They just didn't have the sense of that as a color. Strange but true.
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 19, 2015 at 16:19
  • @T.E.D. That is a myth. Homer was a poet, of course he likened the colour of things to other objects, it doesn't mean that they were colourblind! The people in your link were jumping to the wrong conclusions. It is only the word blue that is new, in greek and roman it was cyan. And in greek art the sky is background colour ie. transparent while the sea is blue, if anything that shows their enlightened understanding, over other civilisations, that the sky is made of air.
    – JamesRyan
    Mar 19, 2015 at 17:44

3 Answers 3


Apparently sometime after 1927. New source, but the dates roughly agree with @Nathan Cooper.

For example, a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw's Infants' Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago. Smithsonian


Let me wikipedia that for you.

"In the United States, there was no established rule in the 19th century. A 1927 survey of ten department stores reported that pink was preferred for boys in six of them and for girls in four. The foremost student of the role of color in children's fashion, Jo Paoletti, found that "By the 1950s, pink was strongly associated with femininity" but to an extent that was "neither rigid nor universal" as it later became."

  • Off topic: wikipedia.lmgtfy.com/?q=Pink%23In_gender (first thing I thought of when I read your question) Jan 10, 2013 at 23:39
  • lmwtfy is a bit unfair, this is still a question that adds value to our site. The wikipedia is not exhaustive by any means and I will add to this if I find time. All I'm saying is wikipedia is quite well cited on this topic and usually is an excellent starting point. +1 to question.
    – Nathan
    Jan 11, 2013 at 12:53
  • 1
    I actually agree with you, really, I was just posting the first thing that I thought of. I myself upvoted both question and answer. Jan 11, 2013 at 13:08
  • Don't worry, I think your comments added value to the site. I also think I should stop using corporate buzzwords. :D
    – Nathan
    Jan 11, 2013 at 13:10
  • This does not answer the question adequately. It provides neither time-table nor cultural background for the (very strong) current gender association with color, and offers instead scattershot anecdotes. Sometimes even well-sourced Wikipedia articles are not up to standard. Mar 7, 2013 at 13:22

I have an ambrotype dated c 1860 with a little child - with blue ribbons. I think it is of my great grandfather as a baby. i can find no other relations that fit the bill.

  • How can there be color in an ambrotype unless you view it through tinted glass?
    – tchrist
    Oct 28, 2017 at 19:13

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