The Power Of Pink

Real men dare to wear the pastel.

July 20, 2004|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Think pink.

If you're picturing ballerina shoes or a flouncy sundress - pretty, girlie, feminine things - then you're way behind the times.

These days, pink is popping up in the most unlikely places. Over hairy chests. Covering bulging biceps. Atop a buzz cut.

This is the summer of the masculine pink. Rappers, politicians, business types, inner-city boys on the city bus - all dressed in bubble gum, cotton candy, sunset pinks. For them, and other confident men, pink is the new white.

"Pink is just fly," said Kenny McAllister, who studies lifestyle trends at the New York-based marketing company AMPdi. "It's big everywhere. Especially on men."

The springy color choice is surprising. Not just because for ages men have been prisoners to the dark, drab latter half of the color spectrum, but also because pink has long been stereotyped as only for girls. Period. The end.

Today's fashion-forward man is rejecting that idea. If modern women can wear combat boots, tuxedo jackets or Charlie Chaplin hats and still be feminine, then why can't a man wear pink and still be masculine?

"I think it actually shows confidence in your masculinity," said The Apprentice's Kwame Jackson, who more than once this winter was shown across the boardroom table from The Donald wearing a natty pink shirt. "It shows you have like a subtle flair."

Jackson likes the look so much, he's including at least two pink or pink-accented shirts in a line of men's clothing he hopes to launch this fall - a sign that the color isn't just for summer apparel.

In fact, experts say, pink is only going to get hotter - figuratively and literally.

At the recent men's fashion shows in Milan, observers noticed much brighter colors, and many more of them - hotter pinks as well as brighter oranges, purples and yellows. Passion fruit for the manly man.

"I'm expecting pink to be a trend for the next year," said Stan Williams, fashion editor at Maxim, a popular men's magazine. "And I think it'll be even bigger next summer than this summer."

The pastel trend may have started with the flash-and-dash hip-hop crowd, McAllister said - a daring group that often takes its cues from over-the-top fashionistas such as the ultra-bold Donatella Versace.

In the last several months, rap star and fashion award-winner P. Diddy has turned heads sporting pale pink suits to see-and-be-seen events. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has been photographed in striped pink polos and pink baseball caps. Rappers Fat Joe and Cam'ron unabashedly rock pink from head to toe; even Cam'ron's tricked-out SUV is pink.

"The first guys that were wearing it were wearing it to say, `I'm so confident in my masculinity, and I'm so hard and I'm so gangsta, I can wear pink,'" McAllister said, calling such risk-takers "fly guys."

Like most fashion trends, it didn't take long for hip-hop heads and music video-watchers to catch on. The logic goes something like this: If Usher, R&B's latest multi-platinum phenom, can pull the ladies wearing frothy pink pants, then Jamal Generic can sport a pink shirt to the club on Friday, and it's all good.

Now, the ubiquitous white T-shirt worn by every inner-city teenage boy in America is being replaced with Pepto pink tees, or pink polo-style shirts. Baggy jean shorts, unlaced Timberland boots and a crisp, pink three-button polo. Go figure.

"The pink trickled down from the fashion heads to the fly guys to the masses," McAllister said. "And now, unless someone puts on a pink tutu, I don't think people are going to look at it funny."

Retro revival

But pink isn't confined to R&B crooners and corner boys.

In just the latest reminder that the `80s have returned, preppy pink has become about as hot now as it was during the heyday of Miami Vice and The Breakfast Club.

Political observers have spotted Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in pink ties on the campaign trail. Former President Bill Clinton has worn a pink tie at book signings and interviews across the country - most notably on a recent Oprah segment, where he and the show's pretty-in-pink host were color-coordinated.

J. Crew, these days, is a veritable pink palace.

"There's a larger kind of preppy revitalization coming on across the board, and pink is sort of a staple within that fashion palette," said Peter Hyman, author of an upcoming collection of humorous essays called The Reluctant Metrosexual: Dispatches from an Almost Hip Life. "It is kind of a classic part of that preppy repertoire."

The pink polo shirt is the calling card of the neo-preppy, experts said, but pink button-down business shirts and ties are gaining popularity among the Wall Street and 9-to-5 crowds.

"Pink is even going beyond the ... shirts and making its way into the ties and even into the linings (of suit jackets)," said Sanford Bryant, a high-end menswear designer based in New York. "It's all over the place."

And not just on clothes.

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