Pink is like the Kristen Stewart of the colour spectrum: a shade no longer bound by gender constraints or social convention. Which is perhaps why this generation has so eagerly claimed it as their own. While red is resolutely passionate and unwavering in its intention, its errant little sister is a colour of contradictions, all meek and mild one minute, kooky and off-kilter another, and playfully rebellious the next. It all started back in 2016 when Pantone declared Rose Quartz as its colour of the year and its latest incarnation, millennial pink, has saturated our Instagram feeds ever since. (Still not entirely sure what ‘millennial pink’ actually is? It’s essentially a dusty rose/baby pink blend – the exact colour of the top half of Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel). But why are we hitting peak pink in 2017?
Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, puts this in part down to an image overhaul. “The colour was once only familiar to us as a sensitive expression of femininity. But as gender stereotypes are being quashed, our perceptions of pink have drastically changed and today many view it as a shade that is symbolic of gender neutrality as well as the epitome of modernity,” says Pressman. “With this shade range beginning to show up in hospitality and commercial interiors (areas of design which take a much longer-term view of colour), it’s clear to see that pink has transformed into an acceptable and desirable lifestyle shade.”
But there’s also a deeper sociopolitical motivation at play. “Pink has a calming, swaddling effect on our psyche which explains why it has come to the fore at a time when there is a general feeling of upset and unrest across the globe,” explains June McLeod, colour consultant and author of Colour Psychology Today. “The popular pinks we’re seeing at the moment are much softer and gentler than previous tones and are being used to excess in eateries such as Pietro Nolita in New York for their restful effect on diners.”
So what does this all mean for our make-up choices? Pink was certainly in abundance backstage in all four fashion capitals at the a/w 2017 shows and has firmly shed its uber-girly Disney princess connotations. But if pink is now gender fluid (case in point Harry Styles wearing a pink pussybow blouse for a shoot with Rolling Stone magazine), its placement in make-up terms is equally flexible, with eyes and temples usurping lips for pink power. “I think women are finally moving away from the whole Insta-drag look and are seeking something prettier without looking kitsch or cutesy,” says director of make-up artistry for Mac, Terry Barber. “Brown and beige don’t feel fresh enough at the moment; dusty pinks have become the new neutral. For me, it started a few seasons ago at the Burberry 2014 show where antique pink was used around the eyes – there was a hint of ‘just rubbed your eyes’ about it, but it still felt fresh and modern. Women don’t want raw, they want polished raw.” And the hue for a/w 2017? The hilariously named ‘packet ham pink’, according to Barber. “It’s flesh dialled up a notch.”