Even if you haven’t heard of Millennial Pink, or didn’t know that it went by this name (it’s also known as Tumblr Pink and Scandi Pink), you’ve seen it. At first, in 2012, when this color really started showing up everywhere, it appeared as a toned-down version of its foil, Barbie Pink, a softer shade that looks as if all the blue notes have been taken out.
By the time everyone started calling it Millennial Pink in the summer of 2016, the color had mutated and expanded to include a range of shades from beige with just a touch of blush to a peach-salmon hybrid. Colors always come in and out of fashion, and as our fashion editor-at-large, Amy Larocca, points out, often when Pantone declares Marsala Red or Radiant Orchid to be the next color to watch, we shrug knowingly, fully expecting to see that shade on shelves but not expecting it to invade our consciousness.
This pink is different. Even now, just when it seemed like we had hit a peak and it was finally on the wane, there it appeared again in Fenty’s spring look book and on army jackets at Madewell. That’s because the color keeps on selling product: “We’ve upholstered things in this emerald green that we’re excited about, but it sits there for months,” says Fabiana Faria of the boutique Coming Soon. “The second I show a pink thing — anything — it leaves so quickly.”
But why? For one thing, with Millennial Pink, gone is the girly-girl baggage; now it’s androgynous. (Interestingly, back in 1918, the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department published an article saying, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls.”) In these Instagram-filtered times, it doesn’t hurt that the color happens to be both flattering and generally pleasing to the eye, but it also speaks to an era in which trans models walk the runway, gender-neutral clothing lines are the thing, and man-buns abound.
It’s been reported that at least 50 percent of millennials believe that gender runs on a spectrum — this pink is their genderless mascot. At the same time, turn-of-the-century pinks (Paris Hilton Juicy sweat suits, fuzzy Clueless pens) and tacky design tropes of the ’80s (Pepto couches) have made an ironic comeback. Millennial Pink’s desaturated shade is a subtle wink back to those lesser aesthetic times, paired with a sincere confidence that we’re doing it better now. It’s cheeky, sincere, and nostalgic all at once — which is perhaps why the earnest ironist Wes Anderson bathed the entirety of The Grand Budapest Hotel in the color — filling us with a bright, wide-eyed wonder and even, for at least a moment, keeping us calm.