Wandering the streets around Krakow’s old town, Alena and I play a game. We count the pink. The men wearing pink shirts. Actually we play two games, the other being, count the women or men wearing non-skinny jeans. It takes us half an hour to get up to 10 non-skinny or non-super-skinny. A few meggings thrown in. Poles like skinny jeans it seems. It takes only 10 minutes to count 10 pink shirts. Of course many of the pink shirts could belong to tourists, still, Poles, I decide, love fashion, and they like to look good. And pink shirts, look good on anyone: dark or light skin- tone. It is no longer a matter of if men should wear pink. Alena looks dubious, not being Polish, she isn’t so enamored with pink or skinny jeans, but the debate is over. The question is what are the must have pink garments for men?

If you’re looking for classic versatility—nothing is more classic or versatile than the oxford. Generally speaking, the white and blue oxford shirt are the building blocks that will provide the backbone to a good-looking wardrobe. For the trivia inclined: these two colors make up approximately 90% of the dress shirts sold.

The pink oxford shirt should be the other mainstay; the preppy staple that’s vital to have on hand for placing under dark sweaters or black blazers. Dress it up with a navy suit for a put together evening-out feel or dress it down for a casual summer look with dark-wash blue jeans, or pair it with white pants to make it pop. (No, Alena, it won’t make you look like a male marshmallow).

 

There’s no need to confine pink to your summer wardrobe either. In winter, deeper pink shaded sweaters layered under heavy outerwear inject vitality into your appearance, and will help you stand out amid somber tides of black and grey.

Pink Tee and dark blue jeans. Nothing could be simpler. If you’re looking for a more JFK look then try a pink polo with navy chinos.

“About Gatsby! No, I haven’t. I said I’d been making a small investigation of his past.”

“And you found he was an Oxford man,” said Jordan helpfully.

“An Oxford man!” He was incredulous. “Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit.”

—The Great Gatsby, Chapter 7

A pink suit? Sure, why not. Wearing a pink suit was just fine in Gatsby’s day. So long as you were a member of the working class. Hence the derision here. The Oxford fashion crime wasn’t wearing pink; it was not dressing like a member of your “class.” In the 1920s pink was still seen as a cousin of the red; tough, warlike and masculine, with inherent working class connotations. The horror.

As an interesting historical footnote, pink and blue as separate colors for babies only appeared a relatively short time ago—in the mid-19th century; prior to that children’s clothing had been gender neutral. The two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I. Even then there wasn’t any general consensus about which color represented which gender. A trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department from 1918 reads: “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

The color decree we are familiar with today wasn’t actually established until the 1940s, and was essentially handed to us by Americans manufacturers and retailers. Nobody could decide this whole pink and blue muddle, so they did. It made clothing manufacture less of a headache. Baby boomers were actually the first children to be raised with this idea of pink for girls and blue for boys.

So there Alena, it could have easy gone either way.