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A pink eye for the straight guy

The traditionally feminine color is fashionable for men
Wednesday, April 21, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:16 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

Chuck Falkenberg, a senior at MU, has been wearing the color pink since high school. In fact, his friends know him as “the guy who wears pink all the time.” And, even though the majority of these guys make fun of him, Falkenberg continues to wear the color on a regular basis. He says, though, that his love for the color came by accident.

“I got ready for school one day thinking I put on a white button down shirt. But it turned out that it was a really light shade of pink,” he said. “When I got to school, everyone was so impressed that I dared to wear such a girly color. But they all thought it looked great. Ever since then, pink has been my signature color.”

Wearing pink on purpose

Going into the new spring season, it seems like pink is everyone’s signature color. Everywhere we go, we see pink. We see pink shoes, pink shirts, pink pants and even pink hats. It’s unavoidable. But this time around, a majority of this pink is for men. And unlike Falkenberg’s experience, it’s not an accident.

If you stroll around the Columbia Mall, it’s hard to avoid the color. Foot Locker sports apparel is even selling University of North Carolina merchandise, typically baby blue, in a light, pale pink. The store even goes so far as to tell guys to “Think Pink” — a thought that used to be associated only with females.

At Gap, the men’s side is not only decorated with pale pink shirts but also hot pink ones. Both of these colors have been flying off the shelves.

“We’ve sold out of all the pale pink shirts and a majority of the hot pink ones,” said Chip Owens, a Columbia representative for Gap. “Guys are literally flying in to buy them.”

Laura Eisman, CEO and founder of the Web sites Girlshop.com and Guyshop.com, is not surprised by this shopping trend and believes that this color change for men was long overdue. She said that historically men have occasionally put pink into their wardrobe and are doing it in different ways to make a statement.

“Men are getting more playful with what they’re wearing and pink helps them do that,” Eisman said. “It helps men show the confidence they have in themselves.”

Eisman also attributed this trend to the fact that lots of men are moving into the “metrosexual” phase, in which men are more concerned about their appearance and fashion.

“Men have really started to become more open to what fashion designers have to offer. And this means that the designers can bring in the color pink,” Eisman said. “Since lots of men want to be in fashion, they listen to the current style and become more accepting of certain trends, like the color pink.

The pink stigma

However, Eisman said, certain guys are always going to have that stigma toward the feminine color. Ben Muskoff, an MU student and a friend of Falkenberg’s, said he wouldn’t be caught dead in the color.

“I leave that color for my girlfriend and my mother to wear,” Muskoff said.

Eisman said pink will always be an option and exposure to the color is extremely important to getting over that stigma.

She suggests starting with something small, such as a pink tie.

permanently pink

Eisman also said the color pink as a popular fashion is more of a trend that will come and go with time. She said people are especially excited about the color this year because of the snowy winter.

“Pink gets us excited about the warm weather,” she said.

Leatrice Eiseman, a color consultant, director of Pantone Color Institute and author of five books related to color, said color is as flattering on men as it is on women. But unlike Eisman, she does not think that the color will fade from men’s closets any time soon.

“Once a color is accepted by men, they continue to remain happy with it,” Eiseman said. “It’s just like the color purple. Men used to have a stigma toward that color, but once it was finally accepted into the mainstream, guys started to wear it more and more. Now we even have male sports teams whose main color is purple.”

Boys are pretty in pink too

Eiseman also said everyone associates feelings with certain colors. Many times, pink is associated with childhood, which is a time when pink was for girls and blue was for boys.

“As children we are taught to associate pink with girls and blue with boys. But like anything else, something that is taught can be untaught,” she said.

Sarah Cirkiel, the account executive for the fashion and lifestyle section of 5W Public Relations, said this crossover for men into the color has been waiting to pop up for some time.

“For many years, men have been itching to wear the femme fatale color. And now it’s sweeping from the couture runway to the closets of the average Joe,” she said.

Cirkiel attributes this phenomenon to the fact that many people watch “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and many men are becoming susceptible to the “pink eye.”

But, whether that “pink eye” is here to stay is a question that remains. The fact remains, though, that females will have to share their signature color, at least for this season. As for Falkenberg, he’ll continue to wear the color no matter what the trend is.


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