Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Pink for girls and, er, pink flowers for boys?

Having dedicated myself for a couple of weeks to designing and making babies' and children's quilts in preparation for the Country Living Christmas Fair http://www.countrylivingfair.com/xmas/, and, it has to be admitted, choosing pink for girls and blue for boys, I find my mind turning again to a question that preoccupied me for several months while doing my degree: what is it that makes flowers an almost no-go area for boys and men? I'm not talking here about gardeners, who have presumably nurtured the blooms by the sweat of their manly brow and leave their wives to put them in vases, or even about artists - Van Gogh was not considered a wuss for painting sunflowers - but about what men and boys are allowed to dress in and surround themselves with.
Much has been made recently about the obsession of little girls with pink, and even the Daily Mail has raised the alarm about sexist stereotyping and how this might affect house prices http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2338976/Too-pink-How-toys-alarmingly-gender-stereotyped-Seventies--cost-little-girls-self-esteem.html. There is, indeed, a campaign against the "pinkification of girlhood", called Pink Stinks  http://www.pinkstinks.co.uk/.

Yet very few people are questioning little boys' rights to a gender-neutral nursery. Fabrics designed for boys are full of tractors, trains, boats, rockets and superheroes  (the one above comes from my favourite US fabric retailer, http://www.equilter.com/). Why can't boys go to sleep snuggled up in a bed of flowers, untroubled by the screech of heavy machinery?

In my degree project "Men and Flowers", leading to "Men in Suits" (the module coincided with a particularly unhappy time in my office career in a testosterone-fuelled City environment) I realised that although male fashion does not prohibit flowers, they have to know their place: on ties, in buttonholes and sometimes on shirts. A floral fly button or embroidered suit collar (as in my samples above) would be unthinkable - although lots of fun.

Then I realised that one flower associated with men, on Hawaiian shirts and swimming trunks, is the hibiscus. I wonder why.

I gave my favourite sample, above right - made of suiting, shirt material and pages from The Financial Times - the title The Ups and Downs of the FTSE 100.

Anger is a powerful colour to have in one's artistic palette.

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