International Baby Colours?
October 22, 2006 6:27 PM   Subscribe

What colours do other cultures use for babies? Here we have baby blue & pink. Do other cultures also have colours that are used for newborns, or is that specific to Western culture?
posted by Salmonberry to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
wikipedia has this to say:
The color pink is now associated with womanhood and little girls, just like light blue is associated with little boys and manhood. However, in 1918 "Infant's Department" (an industry publication) said the reverse was the "generally accepted rule", describing pink as "more decided and stronger" while blue was "more delicate and dainty". Pink continued to be used for both boys' and girls' clothing through the early 1960s, though it is becoming more and more associated with femininity.
posted by jepler at 6:54 PM on October 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

At a recent Knitters Guild meeting here in Sydney, our group was pretty shocked to read a pattern book (produced by one of our sister groups in the country) that actually listed separate knitting patterns for white and Aboriginal babies. The only difference? The pattern suggested "earth tones" like ochre and orange for the Aboriginal babies. Being a relatively new Australian myself, I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt and asked the other members if this was a cultural thing, that perhaps Aboriginal women traditionally dressed their babies in these colours. Nope, they said. Like I said, everybody was pretty shocked.
posted by web-goddess at 7:04 PM on October 22, 2006

I asked my coworkers. They told me that in modern China there is no distinction but that in ancient China they used red for boys and green for girls. White would be avoided regardless, as it is the color of death and funerals.

(if you see black when you die you are going to hell, if you see white you are going to heaven so mourners cover everything in white for the deceased)
posted by Pollomacho at 9:43 PM on October 22, 2006

Actually, if you read the Google Answers thread that Wikipedia cites there, you'll see a guy who actually tracked down that issue, and couldn't find that quote or any reference to it.

I've always heard that it dates back much, much farther. I've read that blue was thought to protect from evil spirits, and boy babies, being thought more valuable, were supposed to need this protection more, so they were dressed in blue and often given bells to wear on their wrists. In this version, the female equivalent, pink, still didn't develop until fairly recently (I think there was some stuff about how it had to be toned down from the "too strong" red first).

I'm not sure this story is accurate, not by a long shot, but I've heard it many times from a bunch of different sources. It could still be just misinformation being passed around, though. I'm not seeing support (or debunking) online, but I know I read it in Why Don't Cats Like to Swim?, one of the Imponderables books. Page 29, I believe it was.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:48 PM on October 22, 2006

Okay, according to a video I watched a bunch of times about Croatia, made for Croatian-Americans by some kind of cultural consulate (I don't know why, but I did find it fascinating), use of color in Balkan dress is very important, and red, yellow and blue are meant as strong, vibrant colors that will protect the wearer, and so are often used for children. I can't google for backup on this.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:51 PM on October 22, 2006

Pink continued to be used for both boys' and girls' clothing through the early 1960s

As was suggested in that Google Answers thread, can't some people here just ask their grandparents? Surely they should be able to quickly confirm or deny such a statement.

I'd ask mine but they were raised in Mexico.
posted by vacapinta at 11:07 PM on October 22, 2006

Anecdotal and biased evidence, to be sure, but we have a lot of infant clothes at the historical society I work at (more than we bloody well need), and I haven't actually seen any blue. It'd say it's at least 85% white, cream, or, to a lesser extent, pink. These are all probably pre-1950, for infants or very, very young children (before they were dressed in miniature-adult clothes, so I think that means before they could walk.)

I wonder if it's because you could boil the crap out of white/off-white more easily than dyed fibers. Or blue clothes could have, for whatever reason, not lasted as well or as long.
posted by cobaltnine at 4:40 AM on October 23, 2006

French Catholics sometimes use blue for girls because it's a symbol of the Virgin Mary.
posted by annaramma at 3:27 PM on October 24, 2006

completely anecdotal, but something I've never understood (although that last comment may shed some light on it)...I was born in a Catholic hospital in the early 70's (in the US) and even though I was clearly a girl, the nuns dressed me in blue for my newborn pictures taken in the hospital.
posted by crockettc at 8:59 PM on November 1, 2006

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