On a cold, wet day in October 2020, when coronavirus cases in England were doubling each week, the Queen went to Salisbury in a candyfloss-pink coat by Stewart Parvin and a matching hat from Rachel Trevor Morgan. But it’s not just the Queen who dares to wear pink – unlikelier figures from Daniel Craig to laddish Stone Island fans have fallen in love with the shade of late. Searches for pink clothes are up 96 per cent in the past two months, according to online retailer Love The Sales; John Lewis has reported an 83 per cent increase in sales of pink lipstick and a 68 per cent rise in pink blusher; while the stand-out moment of the recent Met Gala has to be Glenn Close, utterly jubilant in fuschia Valentino.
In fact we have Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli to thank for boosting the colour’s fashion credibility. Clearly a man in a cheerful mood, he created virtually every look for his last show – from tiny mini dresses to dramatic opera coats for women to slouchy hoodies and long overcoats for men - in his own brilliantly bright pink.
“Men have a more fickle relationship with pink,” admits men’s fashion expert, Stephen Doig. “But it wasn’t always seen as a predominantly feminine colour, as the excellent Fashioning Masculinities exhibition at the V&A reveals. Historically pink was a shade associated with nobility and didn’t hold the kind of stigma it does today.”
It certainly takes a confident man to don pink. Daniel Craig set a flamboyant tone when he embraced the princely power of pink in an Anderson & Sheppard velvet blazer at the No Time to Die premiere in 2021. Earlier this year, Succession’s Jeremy Strong followed suit (sorry) in a splashy pink bespoke Prada ensemble which he complemented with an icy-toned shirt and bow tie. That Stone Island, that most cultish (and pretty laddish) of outerwear brands, has ventured into the spectrum of rose-through-to-magenta points to a shift in how pink is perceived from the front row to the high street.
“Pink is psychologically soothing but also uplifting because it appeals to the creative part of our brain,” explains colour consultant Jules Standish. “Studies even show that wearing pink makes us more compassionate with ourselves and kinder to others.”
If some men in power seem disappointingly reluctant to don the hue, female politicians from Nancy Pelosi to Ursula von der Leyen have been wearing pink jackets and trouser suits in parliament, reclaiming the shade that was once seen to diminish women.
Like the Breton stripe, pink flatters almost everyone; it’s a perennial trend that stays with us from girlhood to old age – and happily, this spring we’re all trying to out-pink each other.
“I often think we’re drawn to colours subconsciously, shades that capture a moment in time,” says designer Justine Tabak. “Tricky times are still upon us and pink is uplifting and cheerful without being garish. Pink has a touch of frivolity to it whilst still remaining a classic. It’s optimistic but also warm and nurturing. There’s been so much news around mood-lifting ‘dopamine’ colours but I think that pink is the colour within this trend that’s the most enduring.”
Tabak adds: “Icy-shell pinks, candy, nude, hot pulse-racing pinks, warmer roses and corals – there are just so many shades. I often think that finding your pink is like finding your favourite lip shade; once you’ve got one that suits you, it’s a keeper. Deeper pinks as a block colour look sophisticated and elegant. Personally, I tend towards warmer pinks for prints as I think they look less ‘girly’. Coral pinks are really popular amongst my customers across lots of skin tones. Generally I like more candy iced pinks for separates rather than a whole dress, while a bright pink shirt or top is a great colour to lift denim.”
Many of my favourite pink pieces are part of the supporting cast rather than the main attraction. Yes, pink dresses are wonderfully summery but Katie Holmes in a white suit and hot pink slingbacks illustrates how sophisticated it can be as a colour pop. I found swapping my navy blue blazer for a pink one made even the simplest outfits look cheerful and memorable.
And happily, midlife women are wearing more pink than anyone. Helen Mirren looked particularly head-turning in a candyfloss pink dress by Prada and a pink headband at the SAG Awards. A few years ago, we might have thought pink was cutesy but our associations with the shade have changed - and with Mirren’s slate grey hair, Harry Winston earrings and irrepressible sense of fun, the dress was sophisticated and genuinely striking.
“I really don’t think there is an age limit to wearing pink,” says Haeni Kim, the creative director of a fun label Kitri. “It’s very flattering on all skin tones and, if hot pink in a feminine dress is too much, then sharp tailoring is very powerful too.”
Although power pink is far from a modern phenomenon, attend any baby shower and you’ll be confronted with the most pervasive colour association of our time: pink for girls and blue for boys. And yet, throughout history, pink was seen as a passionate colour best left to the men.
French kings insisted on surrounding themselves with bright pink in all its look-at-me flamboyance – so much so that Louis XV of France had all his traditionally blue Sevres porcelain redone in pink to make it more masculine. An article for The New York Times in 1893 stated that “you should always give pink to a boy and blue to a girl because the boy’s outlook is so much more roseate than the girl’s, and it is enough to make a girl baby blue thinking about her life as a woman”.
It took until the 1950s for women’s lives to be deemed rosy enough to warrant the shade – and the catalyst was probably when Marilyn Monroe started wearing Elsa Schiaparelli’s shocking pink collections. After that, the trend quickly caught on and Vogue editor Diana Vreeland declared pink chic (and famously called it “the navy blue of India”).
Whenever I wonder whether or not to wear pink, I remember a summer evening in Paris about a decade ago. and was sticking to the local fashion diktat of dressing in black, when I went to a party and saw a woman standing next to a vase of pink hydrangeas in a candyfloss-coloured suit. The more soberly dressed guests kept stopping to talk to her and I realised it was impossible to look at her without smiling. And really, what could be a better argument for wearing pink than that?
The Daily Telegraph