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Hot Pink

Constance C.R. White Says it's the Coolest Color

We always seem to have a gut reaction to pink. Far from a cerebral exercise in our heads, pink often pushes buttons. At any moment, someone, somewhere is creating a cultural reference from pink. You’ll be familiar with a few of them, but not all.

“Pink is the navy blue of India,” Diana Vreeland said, or something close, when she worked as an editor at Harper’s Bazaar. “Think pink” was the famous dictate from Kay Thompson’s Vreeland-based character, Maggie Prescott, the editor in chief and publisher in the movie Funny Face.

Rock stars find defiance in pink. Who would have thought the subversive seventies anthem “Another Brick in the Wall” emerged from a group of sneering rockers calling themselves Pink Floyd, or Pink for short? And it wasn’t too long ago that Alecia Moore decided that Pink, was the perfect moniker for her, a hard-edged belter who grew up as a tomboy.

Pink’s become the color associated with breast cancer, a powerful statement of hopefulness, women and health summed up in one little ubiquitous pink ribbon.

What is it about pink that can be so provocative and even transformative? It’s wonderful how important pink has become. It will be so riotously unexpected in the middle of fall. Furthermore, it can conjure warmth and supportive emotions when we need them most–on dank, dark days. It has the ability to catalyze our positive feelings in a way that other hues do not. No one gets a rise out of earthtones.

There is no more socially polarizing color than pink. As a kindergartener, you were already well acquainted with the sugary shade and had strong impressions of what this thing was all about: Pink is for girls, and blue is for boys. For many a girl, there was a moment when our real ambition was to be pretty in pink.

Doubtless, you grew up with these dictates swirling all around, reinforced by parents, teachers, advertising, television, male chauvinism and friends. So forceful was the message that some ladies were reluctant to wear any pink a shade lighter than fuchsia, for fear they would not be taken seriously as grown women. Then, in the nineties, along came Tom Ford and Cam’ron, a popular, gritty rapper from New York City. Ford designed collections featuring pink for both sexes. This was something we hadn’t seen before, certainly not from an important designer. As the straightjacket of what was acceptable fashion for men loosened, there was an equally dramatic relaxation of restrictions for women.

Essay PinkCam’ron turned up the heat when he appeared in his video and on red carpets seriously dressed in head-to-toe pink. It was a vibrant pink, with depth and warmth. The look included luxurious fur. Really, it did. His car of choice was a raspberry-colored Range Rover.

If it all sounds like a Liberace wet dream, that’s understandable. But it wasn’t, and it worked. Maybe, it was the total shock of a hard-core rapper in a “girls” color. Or perhaps it was the saturation of tone on tone–pink jacket, pink pants, pink headband. Or maybe it was just that he was so convincing: He looked like he believed in pink. Or it could have been that accessorizing with several diamonds makes almost anything aspirational.

Cam’ron and Ford ignited a little revolution. It’s why you can now wear pink and look strong or sexy or sweet, whatever you please. You’re not limited to girly, and the color has lost much of its rigidity.

Designers used a wide range of the hue. Whispers of pink sound the softest of notes in enveloping coats by Phoebe Philo for Céline and by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton. Powder-pink jackets from Dior combine a minimal aesthetic with a plush feel. The palest shades function as neutrals when paired with black, gray or white.

But there’s a stronger side to it all. Patterns in pink are anything but gentle. Alexander McQueen and Moschino both created frocks in bold artistic prints and brazenly flirty shapes. Robust shoes and jewelry abound with techno finishes that reflect light off shimmery surfaces.

This is not to suggest that pink no longer holds any gender connotations. It’s just that something that is everywhere and in various guises ceases to lend itself to lazy stereotypes.

Speaking of everywhere, pink in the hair is a romantic and adventurous notion. Try dazzling pink hair extensions—like those sported by Olympic gold medalist and fastest woman in the world Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce—at your own risk. But bet small and win big with pink nail lacquer from Tom Ford’s beauty collection, eye shadow from Lancôme or beauty “Uber Basics” by Bobbi Brown.

Gucci sees the possibilities in both casual daytime and glorious evening with neon sneakers and orchid-hued stilettos of equal flair. Oscar de la Renta and Alber Elbaz for Lanvin make dazzling use of hot pink enriched with beading or embroidery. A startlingly opulent shoe in fuchsia and gold from Manolo Blahnik strikes a similar note.

Soft pinks including English rose, cerise, blush, and coral are extraordinarily flattering to the skin in clothing. They act as an extra layer of make up or as a beauty tool when you would rather go bare faced. There’s a shade that’s right for Tilda Swinton, another for Viola Davis, and every complexion in-between.

An otherworldly quality is present in the notion of wearing pink through the fall and winter. Mostly, it’s the mood lift of pink that makes it so mystical. Imagine being in the middle of a New England winter, gray skies as the backdrop and sunlight hidden by a thicket of morose clouds, and you have the ability to wrap yourself in a coat of pink cashmere. It’s an antidote to winter blues with no side effects.