Photo by neonove via flickr

In her forthcoming Indiana University Press book Pink & Blue: Telling the Girls from the Boys in America, American studies scholar Jo B. Paoletti explores how it is that we’ve ended up with a blue section and a pink section in virtually every kids’ store in the U.S. An April 2011 Smithsonian Magazine article gives a primer on this color-coded development, Paoletti’s research, and gender socialization, including the intriguing paragraph:

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. [emphasis added]

“Today’s color dictate,” the Smithsonian reporter writes, “wasn’t established until the 1940s as a result of American’s preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers.’It could have gone the other way,’ Paoletti says.”

To read more about Paoletti and her research (including new work on how older women communicate through their dress), check out her website here.

And as a kicker, here’s a little girl who’s really not ready to accept the pink-and-blue paradigm: