The psychology of colour: pink

Martha Roberts, creator of The Colour File, investigates how colour makes us think, act and feel. Let’s indulge our love of pink – which has fewer feminine connotations than you may realise


The psychology of colour: pink

The story goes that, not so long ago, pink was for boys and blue was for girls. A 1918 trade publication confirmed this was the ‘generally accepted rule’ because pink was ‘stronger’ and blue more ‘delicate and dainty’ (think the Virgin Mary). However, factors such as the popularity of blue sailors’ suits for boys and the mass availability of fabric dye put an end to all children wearing only white, and meant that, by the 1950s, the colour-gender divide was established, says Kassia St Clair in her book, The Secret Lives Of Colour (John Murray, £20).

Whatever the situation, pink is seen as powerful: recent research found that items such as pink pens and razors marketed at women are almost 40 per cent more expensive – the so-called ‘pink premium’ or ‘pastel tax’ – than those marketed at men. But how does the colour pink make us feel?

All rosy in the drunk tank

Pink has been scientifically proven to be calming, despite its simple composition of red and white. Researcher Alexander Schauss, of the American Institute for Biosocial Research, found that when inmates of a prison looked at a flamingo pink card, their heart rate, pulse and respiration were reduced. Schauss named the colour after the institute directors – hence Baker-Miller pink, also known as drunk tank pink or Schauss pink – and, to this day, pink is used to mollify rowdy prisoners.

The pink challenge

The rise of ‘millennial pink’ means finding a venue with pink décor shouldn’t be tricky. Visit The Gallery at London’s Sketch (, famous for being remodelled in pink.

Pink flowers are feminine, but ‘architectural’ plants such as proteas and red ginger are striking in the home. Succulents like the red jelly bean plant are gorgeous, too.

Victorian gentry donned pink to mark the end of the week. Try London Sock Company’s Pink Friday socks for a touch of entry-level pink.

Find out more about Martha here.

Images: Martha Roberts

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