Photo illustration: Jeremy Allen/Bloomberg; phone: Apple

'Peacocking' Men May Boost Pink iPhone Sales as the Hue Fades With Women

The rose-gold iPhone is new to the market. But who will it woo?

Let's face it, the "rose gold" iPhone 6s is pink. 

We all know it. It doesn’t even seem as if Apple tried very hard to replicate the salmony glint of a rose-gold piece of jewelry. It went all in with pink.

"It's kind of a Kim Kardashian pink. It feels like an extension of the gold in that it's just kind of over-the-top glam,'' says Cas Holman, an associate professor at the Rhode Island School of Design who studies gender roles in design. So who will be running out to buy this new hue?

Apple's rose gold iPhone 6S.
Apple's rose gold iPhone 6S.
Photo illustration: Jeremy Allen/Bloomberg; phone: Apple

The question of colors and gender-association may seem outdated, but pink remains the color with the most gender baggage, says Holman, who also creates children's toys. She purposefully works pink colors into pieces of a building block set she designed that might otherwise be seen as a "boy" toy.  The issue of gender-specific clothing and playthings has come to the forefront recently, with Target removing its in-store "boy" and "girl" sections recently, and startup companies eschewing labels entirely. The shift has garnered much discussion online. 

"The second I saw the rose-gold finish I had to get it," says Jorge Enrique, 26, a nursing student from San Antonio who has been chronicling each step of the process on his Twitter account. "I’ve always been partial to red, pink, and copper mixes and it stood out considerably from the other colors. It just pops more."

He says he has six friends who have preordered the rose-gold color for a new iPhone 6s and four of them are male. Apple has not given details on preorders of the phone and won't comment on the demand for the color, but blogs and social media posts suggest demand has already created a backlog for the specific color. (Apple watches are now available in rose gold, too.) The rarity of the item contributes to its appeal, Enrique suggests.

And anyway, men are leaning in more to pink. According to the Color Association of the United States, four different pink colors will become popular over the next four seasons, while only one will wax transcendent for women. Leslie Harrington, executive director of the 100-year-old group, says men's color preferences show pink hues trending for this fall into next summer, even as women shift toward more muted tones, she says.

Clockwise from top left: A pink suit from Canali's Spring/Summer 2016 collection; a pink Valentino sweater as seen on the streets of Milan during the Men's Fall/Winter 2015 shows in January; a double-breasted pink coat from Bottega Veneta's Fall/Winter 2015 collection; a pink Benetton sweater spotted at Milan Fashion Week.
Clockwise from top left: A pink suit from Canali's Spring/Summer 2016 collection; a pink Valentino sweater as seen on the streets of Milan during the Men's Fall/Winter 2015 shows in January; a double-breasted pink coat from Bottega Veneta's Fall/Winter 2015 collection; a pink Benetton sweater spotted at Milan Fashion Week.
Photographer: (clockwise from top left) Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images; Andreea Bogdan/Bloomberg; Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images; Andreea Bogdan/Bloomberg

     

"Men have been peacocking it out over the last few years more than women," she says, noting, "You go to an event, and women are all black and white. The men have teal, turquoise—pink shirts—they're really looking a lot at color."

Whatever the reaction from men, Apple isn't going out on any limbs with the choice of rose gold, as the selection follows several years of increasing popularity that stems from the use in jewelry and makeup, says Allison Heape, a color stylist in the industrial coating business at PPG Industries, which sells coatings for some smartphones but not for the iPhone.

In recent years, the color has been showing up in accent piece such as vases at Target, a signal of mainstream appeal, she says. Her team has been watching the trend grow for at least the last two years, Heape says. Rose gold also captures a more luxury feel that helps justify the higher costs of the phones. In its recent Tiffany T collection of jewelry for men and women, the iconic American brand reports that the male versions of rings and cuff bracelets in rose gold have been very popular.

The 42 mm, 18 karat rose-gold Apple Watch Edition with a midnight blue classic buckle (left) and a white sports band.
The 42 mm, 18 karat rose-gold Apple Watch Edition with a midnight blue classic buckle (left) and a white sports band.
Source: Apple

"Apple is very good at honing in on the perfect iconic thing and making it seem like they came up with it out of nowhere,'' she says. "They are very in sync with the sentiment of their time.'' 

The very idea that pink is a color for girls is a relatively new concept, says Jo Paoletti, an associate professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland and author of the book Pink and Blue, Telling the Boys from the Girls in America. Midway through the last century, in some places in the U.S., pink was considered more appropriate for men because it was a "strong" color and the "softer" blue was better for women, she says. Some such proclivities persisted into the 1970s, Paoletti says.

"Pink always means something,'' she says. "A guy wearing pink has to explain himself.''

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