The pink shirt is one of those sartorial lines that many red-blooded American males will never cross. Pink is a feminine color, they say, unsuited to real men. Wearing it takes guts. To which I reply: Faint heart never won fair lady. I’ve known many women whose capillaries come to life at the sight of a man in pink. You need confidence to wear this color, and confidence, as you may have picked up along the way, can be a major turn-on for the XX-chromosome set.
In the 18th century, “the pink of the mode” meant the apex of fashion, but sartorially speaking, pink as a modern man’s color was invented in 1955, when Brooks Brothers introduced it to the grey flannel gang. The instant popularity inspired a major Life magazine spread declaring pink the new it-color for men.
Since then pink has been one of those things that separates the secure and audacious from the self-conscious and timid. I say it’s an alpha color: Guys who wear pink are smarter, funnier, more interesting, and invariably better lovers than their pinkophobic peers. I’ve been wearing pink since age 18, and I’ve never been dumped on account of dullness.
Unlike yellow, which symbolizes cowardice to macho types the way pink symbolizes effeminacy, pink shirts are versatile and easy to match. They look regal with charcoal, are softened by brown, and, as men of London know, look natty with navy—and that’s just with suits. For sportswear, pink polos pair great with khakis. And while a pink buttondown and black knit tie are a classic combo in a jazzy, vintage Esquire kind of way, black and pink is otherwise a working-class prom-night color combo, as illustrated by John Travolta in Grease.
A far better example of the pink shirt in action is the 1964 comedy Father Goose, in which Cary Grant plays a sailing bum in the far reaches of the South Pacific whose only reminder of civilization is his pink oxford. There’s a much younger woman involved, and—at the risk of spoiling the ending—let’s just say the shirt did the trick.
Christian Chensvold runs the blog Ivy Style.