December 13, 2005


The Star-Ledger [Newark, NJ]
November 27, 2005

Breaking the color barrier in clothing, boys think pink


When Jake Miley was 5, he violated one of boyhood's most powerful taboos: He
wore pink socks to kindergarten.

The results were predictable.

"I got made fun of," says Jake, now 12.

These days, when Jake wears a pink shirt and matching bracelets, he gets
nothing but compliments, especially from middle school's harshest fashion
critics: eighth-grade girls.

"They say, 'Nice shirt,'" according to Jake, a seventh-grade skateboarder
from Montague whose shaggy blond hair falls over one eye.

Once the color of girlie girls and preppie men, pink is losing its stigma
among boys. Teen and preteen skateboarders - a group that retailers consider
trendsetters - have made the color a style statement, a defiant blow against
gender-typing that lends boys in fuchsia a sort of reverse machismo. It is
summed up in a T-shirt sold by J.C. Penney: "Tough Guys Wear Pink."

Doug Rosell, 13, is so tough he wears that T-shirt, with pink sweat pants,
to wrestling practice at Little Egg Harbor Middle School. He's campaigning
to get teammates in pink for matches, though not everyone likes the idea.

"They think they're going to get harassed," says Doug, a skateboarder whose
11-year-old brother, Eric, also wears pink.

Although pink menswear is not new - it was big in the 1950s and resurged in
the 1980s - it's unusual for it to be embraced by boys, especially younger

"When a baby's born, blue is for a boy, pink is for a girl. It starts right
off the bat. It's how we've been socialized in this country," says Atlanta
psychologist Barbara Rubin, who specializes in gender identity.

While she couldn't explain pink's from sissified to sick (skater slang for
"cool"), Rubin said it may symbolize some small, rose-colored way that
America has changed.

"I don't know whether this is a status thing for these kids, a sign that
they're able to take risks, or whether they're doing it for shock value,"
Rubin said. "But if they're not getting chastised by their families or
friends, things have come a long way."

Skateboarders, who total 12 million in the U.S., according to the
International Association of Skateboard Companies, incited the pink
revolution a few years ago, along with rap stars like Cam'ron.

The fad began with older teens and caught on with junior high skaters and
grade-schoolers, especially fans of MTV star Bam Margera, whose signature
gear for the Element skateboard company is pink.

"It trickled down," said Bill Spice, who works at Division East skateboard
shop in Montclair.

At NJ Skateshop in Sayreville, four of 10 items sold are pink, said co-owner
Chris Nieratko. "One hundred percent of the pink stuff we sell is sold to
boys," he said.

For skaters, wearing pink is a way to stand out.

"It's not something everyone else is doing," said Jake Miley.

Wendy Smith, who with her daughter Leslie McAdam co-owns Fate skate shop in
Manahawkin, said: "It's a really positive rebellion: 'I feel so secure with
myself I can wear pink.'"


At Fate, boys can find pink T-shirts by skateboard companies like Flip and
Girl, along with metal-studded pink belts and pink leather sneakers.

There are pink helmets, pink decks (the top of a skateboard), pink trucks
(the brace that connects the wheel to the board) and pink wheels. Shades
range from hot pink to bubble gum to pink as pale as ballet slippers. (The
store also sells "girl pants" - tight, flared jeans that skaters, including
Jake, are starting to wear.)

While Smith has seen some parents balk at pink for boys, many are fine with

"I just figured it's a punk rock thing," said Jake's dad, Lance Miley.
"Whatever makes him happy and keeps him out of trouble."

Miley, a guitarist who sported teased hair and Spandex in a 1980s metal band
called Angelica, draws the line at pink for himself, however.

"I wear a lot of black," he says.

And for most preteen boys, pink is still fringe.

"We are aware of the trend and we are watching it closely. But at this time
we don't have any pink clothes for boys on order," said Susan LaBar,
investor relations analyst with the Children's Place clothing chain.

Charlie and Carter Cooper, preteen skateboarders from Parsippany, sometimes
raid the girls department to buy pink knit caps and T-shirts. Carter, who is
9, said he has been teased - his pastel polka-dotted Vans sneakers are a
particular source of ridicule.

"They say, 'You wear dumb shoes,'" said Carter, but he shrugs off the
hostility. "I don't care about other people's opinions."

Charlie, his 12-year-old brother, lifted the cuffs of his jeans to reveal
shocking pink socks, also bought in the girls department. He's been wearing
pink since third grade. Carter started last year, when he was in second.

Pink's popularity among skateboarders probably means it soon will be easier
to find in stores. It's already making headway in the boys department.

"Skateboarders are the trendsetters, the center of it all for that age
group," said Daphne Avila, a spokeswoman for J.C. Penney.

Pink has been especially popular for boys in the teen department, said
Avila, and she expects there will be a spike in pink clothes for younger
boys. The "Tough Guys Wear Pink" tee was a big seller this year, she
said.Whether tough guys and skateboarders will continue to wear pink,
however, is debatable.

While Carter said he'd stick with the color even if everyone wore it, others
have moved on.

"Purple is really coming up," said Smith.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought Bunny was sissified but now I realize she's just plain sick.

I love pink!

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think skaterboyz in pink panties are hot.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Kenneth said...

I was looking to buy some socks the other day and I was dissapointed to find that stores like walmart only sell socks that are white, black, dark blue, dark green and grey. I wish socks and other clothing were available in more vibrant colors, just to be different.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article! Thanks.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for interesting article.

4:14 PM  
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6:49 AM  

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