This fascinating infographic collects the results of several studies on gender and colour that were conducted over the last few decades. It is very well done and definitely worth a look, but here’s my summary of some of the generalizations that were drawn:

  • Blue is the favourite colour across both genders.
  • Purple didn’t even feature as a favourite colour for men!
  • Men and women dislike many of the same colours.
  • Brown is the least favourite colour among men.
  • Orange is the least favourite colour among women.
  • Men have a higher tolerance for achromatic colours (black, white & shades of grey)
  • Women gravitate towards softer colours, while men prefer brights.
  • Women prefer tints (a colour mixed with white), men prefer shades (a colour mixed with black).
  • When it comes to colour naming, women like to be precise and say “honeydew”, “fern” or “clover”, while men keep it simple and say “green”.

Of course these are just generalizations based on the interpretation of experimental results, but interesting all the same. For example, how do I fit these results? Well, purple wouldn’t feature on my list of favourite colours. I like orange and dislike most browns. I prefer brights to softer colours. I have a very high tolerance for black and white. Oh dear. Am I a man?

Perhaps I’m an outlier. If there are stereotypical colour preferences for men and women — if there are “masculine” and “feminine” colours — how and why does this happen? It’s the age old psychological question of nature versus nurture. To what extent are we shaped from the outside to act and feel in a particular way, and to what extent is it part of our genetic makeup? Can we fight against gender based colour stereotyping, or is it innate?

Since it’s often hard to see the gender of a clothed newborn baby, society pops girls into pink and boys into blue from a very early age. And so the gender based colour stereotyping begins. It’s kind of hard to fight it when everything for little girls comes in pink and purple, and nothing for boys is sold in these colours. We have dear friends who are desperately fighting the tyranny of pink, dressing their beautiful infant girl in green, grey, blue and brown as much as possible. She looks adorable no matter what colour she wears, but she is often mistaken for a boy.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to gender-based colour rules. In my book it’s perfectly acceptable and stylish for a girl or a woman to wear black, grey, white and blue. And boys or men look great in shades of pink, red, lilac, yellow and pastel.