Men Who Wear Pink

A personal essay on the hatred on pink

Image by Lauren Henshaw

Image by Lauren Henshaw

I’ve recently become fixated on modern workwear. The ‘why’ is puzzling. Why the sudden allure of this functional, utilitarian aesthetic? Is it an easier way for me to wear black? Or maybe a way to wear ‘tech’ clothing without having to venture into the world of the health­ goth? The only way I can explain it is that it pleases me somehow.

You could say that my desired guise is a dark one. I’m drawn to the deep end, to the pitchy hues, the bolder shapes, the distorted images. My reference point is usually music and I orbit around a dark star; Shoegaze, Punk, Industrial. Bands like Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and Iceage all flirt with this notion. So that must be it…Right?

Wrong. Much to my surprise, I’ve latterly become obsessed with the colour pink. Not salmon, not peach, but baby girl pink. The kind of shade you’d find festooning the birthing halls of a maternity ward in various degrees of saccharine sweetness. Maybe I’m moving towards the light?

It’s an aberration I feel comfortable with, but not something I can easily explain, especially given the colour’s divisive nature in menswear. This became apparent to me almost immediately, as I set my feet into a pair of pink Adidas Centaurs. Homophobic abuse is not something I generally heed; on the rare occasion that it’s directed at me, I just blow them a kiss. But the last time I was wearing my pink Adidas Centaurs I found myself subjected to a torrent or slurs from a passing child. “You look like a fucking queer!”, he declared, as Tayto detritus flew from the corners of his mouth. One thing became apparent; it wasn’t the denim jacket I’ve had for over ten years; it wasn’t my zigzag patterned Our Legacy shirt; it wasn’t my nylon Porter bag. It was the sneaks. It was the pink. Nevertheless, his puce­ faced outburst brought to mind that old cliché that ‘real men wear pink’.

Do they? You can’t be a ‘real’ man unless you wear pink. What is this phrase saying? Is it that pink is a colour to be wary of and ‘real men’ laugh in the face of such considerations? Therefore, in order to be seen as a man, you have to be seen as being without fear.

“His puce­ faced outburst brought to mind that old cliché that ‘real men wear pink.”

I don’t subscribe to this concept of what it is to be a man. That thought never entered my mind when I picked up those trainers. It was a fashion­ based judgement call. I just thought they looked exciting and unusual. In truth, men fear everything! Especially when it comes to fashion. With men’s fashion having been ‘outmoded’ for so long, only now is it emerging from the suspended animation of functionality over design. Perhaps it’s time to recognise men’s fashion as the thing in itself.