Why Is Pink Gay?

Put on a pair of pink Crocs, Steven Axelrod writes, and people will treat you differently.

I wear pink Crocs.

My son got them originally, as part of a publicity give-away at party early June three years ago. They were too big for him. He didn’t like the color. I tried them on, just for fun—and scarcely wore any other shoes until the next winter. The Crocs were supernaturally comfortable, easy to slip on and off (excellent for those early morning dog walks); best of all, they were free.

But I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It turns out that a man wearing pink Crocs transforms himself into a kind of cultural touchstone, a walking sociological laboratory for the study of gender politics and iconography. No one was neutral about my footwear that summer. Everyone weighed in: women, for the most part, thought they were sexy. I was “secure enough in my sexuality” to flaunt such a provocative wardrobe item. I had clearly “embraced” my “feminine side” and showed a refreshing indifference to ridicule. In fact, there was quite a bit of ridicule. Friends remarked, lightly, “You know how gay you look, right?” Troglodytes jeered “Faggot!” at me as I walked past.

This instinctive twitch of homophobia, this Tourette’s syndrome shout-out of socially approved bigotry reared up everywhere, like anthills on a suburban lawn. A tenured professor at a major university accosted me one morning and said “Cute Crocs,” in a cringe-worthy “gay” voice. “Oh yeah,” I said, deflecting the obvious intent of the remark, “They’re chick magnets. Women love them.”

“Boys, too, I bet,” he said with a little smirk.

I guess he’d figured out my dirty little secret. Good thing I’m not his teaching assistant.

The whole business is especially strange because I live on Nantucket, where localized fashion embraces wearing pink pants—or “Nantucket Reds,” as they’re called. The pants, dyed red at the factory, soon fade to a color not unlike the tint of my Crocs. This coincidence counts for nothing. Pink means gay. The blush brands anyone who wears it, and the disruptive controversy follows you like a poodle on a leash. I suppose if you actually were gay it would be a convenient marker, like the little pink triangles some lesbians sport on their pick-up trucks. So maybe people are just annoyed when you send out a confusing signal. And I soon realized that there’s no social stigma about gay-bashing; it’s a safe way to vent hostility and feel superior. A broad spectrum of society, from academics to day laborers, from Ecuadorian immigrants to New England matrons, from every race and religion, from every region and upbringing, seem to take gays as a suitable target. It’s politically correct; it’s Biblically approved. It’s fun for the whole family. Canny political operatives can leverage the specter of gay marriage to defeat an otherwise unassailable opponent. I knew intellectually that this prejudice was ubiquitous.

But I never felt it, until I wore the pink Crocs. No gay man had ever said to me, “Walk a mile in my pink Crocs … ” I did it, though, however inadvertently.

But now my situation is changing.

The first pair of Crocs are wearing out. I’m going to have to buy new ones soon. Do I buy pink Crocs and confirm my political position? Or do I buy ordinary gray ones and bow out? I decided to buy more pink Crocs because I realized that I actually enjoy these new encounters. I relish the instant snap-shot I get when people respond in this visceral, unguarded way to the color of my sandals. It tells me more about them than they’d probably like me to know.

A tough-as-nails New York businesswoman can be startled into a moment of flirtation (“Now that’s a real man.”); the Professor with the AIDS ribbon on his car can turn out to be a creep.
And the tattooed carpenter in a New York Giants sweatshirt can glance down with an admiring grin and say “Bold move, dude.”

The world is full of surprises when you wear pink Crocs.

And that’s the best reason I can think of to keep on wearing them.

Originally appeared at Open Salon.

—Photo Nieve44/La Luz/Flickr

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About Steven Axelrod

Steven Axelrod holds an MFA in writing from Vermont college and remains a member of the WGAw despite a long absence from Hollywood. A father of two, he lives on Nantucket, where he paints houses and writes novels, often at the same time, much to the annoyance of his customers.

Comments

  1. The same can be asked of high heeled strappy sands, frilly blouses, and skirts. A man has every right to wear those should he feel so inclined. Wearing such doesn’t necessary mean he’s a homosexual, but some people might have questions.

  2. Belongs, along with “the boy with the girl’s bike” in the Museum Of The Hard To Believe.

  3. I treat people differently because they wear crocs, not because of the color of said crocs. I figure wearing crocs is jumping the shark anyway, so what does their color matter?

    Oh, and I treat male and female croc wearers the same way: as people who apparently can’t look at their feet or see themselves in a mirror – not as gay.

    So I wouldn’t shout “faggot”, but I would roll my eyes and say “My. Been shopping at K-mart lately, have we? Flip-flops just too up-scale and boojie…?”

  4. Brilliant.
    I’m a vet, but also a liberal (rare in my neck of the woods). It’s interesting to watch the reactions of folks who think that ‘liberal’ and ‘veteran’ are oxymoronic.
    Enjoy the pink Crocs!

    • CajunMick- After reading your posts I gotta say I would love to sit down, drink a few beers and shoot the bull with you. Your combination of Acadian, Buddhist, Veteran and Progressive has got to make you one of the more interesting people I would ever hope to meet.

      Regarding pink crocs- go with it. I’ve been wearing pink dress shirts / ties for more than a decade now. The effect is gone now but it was pretty entertaining back in 1999.

  5. I really don’t get the whole notion that pink is gay. I will say that crocs are about the most unfashionable thing you could ever consider putting on your feet, and I would rather walk over glass barefoot than wear a pair of crocs but that is beside the point. The simple fact is that I’ve been wearing pink since I was a toddler, and I love the color. Perhaps it was because my father was unafraid to wear pink or because when you dress well it is acceptable, but I haven’t had a problem with people being that rude and inconsiderate since junior high.

    It is true that in middle school and junior high kids would call me gay or faggot or whatever for a whole host of reasons — including my penchant for pinks, purples, and pastels — but that hasn’t been a problem since. To be honest, I think more men would benefit from wearing pink and purple. Not from a lets-make-it-more-acceptable standpoint but based on the fact that the colors are very flattering.

    Pink goes extremely well with white, it looks great on all skin tones, it is a color that looks amazing in just about every fabric, and it pairs well with a whole host of other colors. With purple, you’ve got a wide range of shades (I’m wearing a lavender dress shirt today) that also pair with most colors and work with most fabrics.

    Soft colors like pink, purple, and other pastels give off a great vibe. They are friendly and welcoming and not intimidating. They’re also great summer colors! If someone tells me I look gay wearing my pink searsucker shorts, tassel loafers, and a white dress shirt, I take that as a compliment because it means I am very well put together.

  6. I’m surprised no marketing genius has tried to spin the color differently. Calling it “pink” is the problem. I’m sure if someone came up with a different, more overtly masculine sounding name, guys would be all over it. Don’t call it pink, call it “wild salmon” or “lung” or “musk orange” or something like that. Don’t call them crocs, call them something like “workshop shoes” or “feet gloves.”

    Canola oil used to be called “rapeseed” oil. The “orange roughy” fish used to be called a “slimehead.” It’s not overcast outside, it’s “filtered sunlight.” Et cetera, et cetera.

  7. First of all, that’s amazing you got such homophobic pushback. Kind of terrible. Since the early 40’s Pink was designated for girls…being like a girl is gay. Homophobia and misogyny are best friends. Note the pink triangles used in Nazi prison camps. I’m sure after that was discovered no fellow wanted pink associated with him.

    Second, pink used to be for boys as back as far as the early 1900’s.

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/When-Did-Girls-Start-Wearing-Pink.html

    “For example, a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “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.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.”

    Colors are colors. People decided that determining gender by color was the way to go, thereby limiting everyone’s fashion freedom.

  8. Great piece, Steven. We need to keep bringing attention to this ridiculous stereotyping that makes no sense. There was actually a time, in the early 20th Century, when pink was considered masculine (a shade of red) and blue feminine. So there is no rhyme or reason to the color-coded gender identification. Don’t know if you saw my article here on GMP that showed two rattles–one sold for little girls which was in the shape of a pink diamond ring and the other a blue hammer for boys (of course). http://goodmenproject.com/gender-sexuality/gender-stereotyping-begins-in-infancy/ This is where it starts. While it may seem harmless for infants, it then gets followed up by an onslaught of gender-specific merchandising and marketing. We’ve all fallen into that rut and so it is hard for some to climb out. My company, Princess Free Zone, Inc., seeks to remove those stereotypes by offering an alternative to “princess” for little girls. Thanks for your perspective.

  9. Anonymous Male says:

    You encountered a lot of stupid, juvenile assumptions:
    1. Pink is a “gay” color.
    2. “Looking gay” is a bad thing.
    3. You can’t look “gay” and “masculine” at the same time. (“Bears,” anyone?)
    4. Never let anyone doubt your heterosexuality, ever.

    It’s silly that in the twenty-first century anyone past the age of junior high school cares about looking or not looking “gay.” If a guy is obsessed with “not looking gay,” then he still has some growing up to do, and/or he needs to expand his circle of friends. I think of being a man as someone who doesn’t worry about his masculinity, who’s secure in who he is. If you worry about maintaining a lockstep, straight image, you are not secure in yourself. Besides, you know who else is eternally vigilant about looking totally straight? Closeted gay men….

  10. I was out with my gay friend on Cape Cod, close to Nantucket. We came across someone wearing pink Crocs (maybe it was you). I rolled my eyes and silently thought about what a douchebag he looked like, wearing such ugly shoes. Wanna know what my gay, male friend said?

    “Those are so gay.”

    Wearing those shoes doesn’t make you more of a man any more than those shoes make you gay. They’re just shoes. Ugly, ugly shoes.

    The point is you look like an attention-seeking idiot. And you are specifically seeking attention, as you admit you’re buying more pink Crocs in order to get a rise out of even more people. You’re about as enlightened as the idiots calling you a faggot.

  11. Actually, my favorite response came from a gay friend of mine in my MFA program. He thought the whole ‘pink crocs look gay’ thing was hilarious. “No gay man would ever be caught dead in shoes that ugly” he told me. “We prefer good Italian loafers.”

  12. Daddy Files, while I agree with you that the shoes are pretty ugly (Mario Batali rocking them doesn’t make them any more attractive), I disagree with you calling Steven an “attention seeking idiot.” People wear clothes for many different reasons, and being able to express yourself and opinions is one of them. Often it brings attention, as it should. Clothes are a legitimate form of self expression. Maybe you wear a nice tie to bring about positive attention from your boss. Maybe you add a bit of yourself into it by choosing your favorite color or a funny theme. Maybe you wear a t-shirt with an inside joke from your favorite tv show. Maybe you wear one endorsing a political candidate. Maybe you’ve lost or gained some weight and dress differently to show off your hot new look, and feel awesome about yourself while doing it. Maybe you’re an artist and make your own jewelry, hoping that it both brings attention and express who you are. There’s nothing wrong with wearing clothing to bring attention to or test a point of view, a look, a brand, or a propensity towards a certain decade.

    • Exactly. We all want to express ourselves as individuals in some way. I express my individuality through dancing and writing. Some people express themselves through clothes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with self-expression.

  13. I like the color pink, but I got called ‘faggot’ enough growing up. such an incredibly moronic society we live in.

  14. Far more and more people are concerned about the safety and side-effects of prescription drugs and medications. And with the health care debacle going-on inside the United States Congress, as well as the high cost of health care generally, individuals are searching out alternative forms of healing. One kind of alternative medicine that is gaining popularity is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is simply the healing of ailments naturally by making use of the body’s own, natural healing abilities triggered by the smell of certain chemical compounds contained in crucial oils from plant.

  15. My husband, when he was a young man in his early 20s, went to a bar in the Village with his best friend….he was wearing a lavender muscle tee, faded jeans, and a pink bandana hanging out of a back pocket and sipping a cocktail….he couldn’t understand why so many gay men were coming onto him! His best friend guffaws every time he tells this story….!

  16. I’ve been wearing them for years ever since my wife challenged me. Mens’ size 13 in pink don’t sell, so the Birkenstock store in Key West sells them to me at half price, and I recently got four pairs at $17.50 a pair. Footwear for two years, and I figure anyone freaked by my Crocs is too boring to talk to.

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