For men, pink is the new black

NEW YORK • The psychological phenomenon of the moment is group-think pink. The colour is more popular than rose at a Provence garden party.

It seems possible that this year will eclipse 1955 as "the peak year for pink" as  Life magazine effused that spring beneath a photo.

Today, the eye spies the cosy androgyny of millennial pink, the feminine pink of models on runways and the feminist pink of women on marches.

And now, its shades are ready to storm the torso of the business- class man.

"Pink is a bestseller this season for Thomas Mason," said Mr Tim Neckebroeck, brand manager for the venerable British shirtmaker.

"The elegance, undoubtedly, is also having a good dose of courage."

Although it may require a smidgen of daring for some men to wear pink anywhere other than at an Easter parade, one can safely lay to rest the notion that the colour is impossibly epicene, inescapably preppy, or in any case, unworthy to be worn by a modern adult male.

Sure, it is inadvisable to wear a pink shirt to certain job interviews, board meetings and bail hearings, but the garment is generally correct and surprisingly versatile.

 A pale, pink shirt is, at its best, cheering up a grey suit, enlivening a navy blazer or endowing a neutral shade with a lot of joie de vivre.

But you might think twice before wearing it with a light tanned suit, stone-coloured chinos or anything else that might get you mistaken for some kind of antique ice-cream man.

And while you generally do not want to be wearing a black suit in any event (unless at a funeral, with you in the casket), if you wear a pink shirt with a blackish suit, you will resemble a gangster looking flush after a big score.

As it happens, this pink-shirt spring brings a Broadway revival of John Guare's Six Degrees Of Separation (now in previews, opening on  April 25 in the United States), a 1990 play that contains a great pink-shirt moment.

The plot concerns an imposter named Paul, who talks his way into the lives of a New York art dealer by pretending to be the son of veteran actor Sidney Poitier and a Harvard schoolmate of their children.

In the 1993 film, Will Smith played Paul; Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing portrayed the couple. 

Early in the play, the couple give Paul their son's pink shirt after his own shirt is ruined in a faked mugging.

After the impostor has been discovered and the children informed, the son throws a memorable fit: "You gave him my pink shirt? You gave a complete stranger my pink shirt? That pink shirt was a Christmas present from you.

"I treasured that shirt." 

The tantrum is a great moment of comic relief and the particular shirt is a fine Ivy League-status detail.

The costume designer for the new production is Clint Ramos.

"We auditioned about seven shirts," he said, naming J. Crew, Banana Republic, Charles Tyrwhitt, a couple of vintage Brooks Brothers and also Paul Stuart, which was "too pink" for this staging, with actor Corey Hawkins in the key role.

Ramos ultimately settled on a current Brooks Brothers model.

"Relaxed fit," he specified.

"Because, you know, it was the 1990s."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2017, with the headline 'For men, pink is the new black'. Print Edition | Subscribe