When a baby is born the first question asked is ‘what sex is it’, followed by ‘how much did it weigh’. Neither of these questions should really make any difference to the future life of an individual, but they are so inbuilt we rarely question them. Cultural expectations begin at birth.
Until the First World War children of both sexes up to 6 years old wore gender neutral white clothes that could be easily bleached and boiled. Young boys had long hair and wore dresses – it was impossible to tell the sexes apart. Pastel coloured children’s clothes began to be made from the middle of the 19th century, but were not identified with gender. In June 1918 an article from the American 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.’
Today’s version of pink and blue clothes became accepted in the 1940s. Since then it has gone in and out of fashion, for example in the 1970s feminist mothers dressed their children in practical gender neutral clothes.