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Monday, December 11, 2006
Please put away the pink

By Mary Buckheit
Page 2

As the holidays feverishly approach, so do we thumb through the barrage of catalogs arriving daily and wonder: What do women want?

PINK NATION
What's your take on the world of pink apparel?

Take our poll and color yourself counted.

We spin through Pottery Barn's classic burgundy and evergreen treats. We take in the tartans of J.Crew, the chocolate caramels of Godiva … and the Pepto-Bismol pinks of Shop NFL.

Huh?

No doubt, you've seen it. The pink gear. Pink hats, T-shirts, hoodies and jerseys in cotton candy carnation pink. It's as if all goods must first be subjected to a vat of pink fondue before women will take them home. It's a phenomenon that troubles me.

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I don't have some personal vendetta against the color pink. I don't think it's the reason for my gender's oppression. My toothbrush and electric guitar strap happen to be pink. My snowboard boots are hot pink. I've been known to pop the collar of my pink polo as if it were 1986 and John Hughes himself pulled it off the hanger. But I'm not especially tickled -- nor tortured -- pink.

Pink has long been the color associated with the fairer sex. From the moment we emerge from the womb we're enveloped in pink blankets and booties only to grow up strapped into pink backpacks and plopped on pink banana seats. But, eventually, we bust out of our Barbie pools and make our own decisions -- like whether or not we feel pretty in pink. So, if you come to decide you want your iPod to match your toenails and pink RAZR phone, I don't care.

But when pink begins to annex team colors, I've got to tap the brakes -- even if it is big business.

"The women's NFL business has more than doubled over the past three years. A large part of our success has been due to our Reebok Vibrant Collection which focuses on the female as both fan and fashion consumer," said Greg Grauel, VP of apparel merchandising for Reebok, the official sponsor of the NFL. Grauel added that it is "especially the use of fashion colors like pink" that have increased women's jersey sales by over 50 percent.

I imagined the numbers were astounding, since the pink stuff is everywhere, but who is buying it? What kind of woman? What kind of fan? And why?

I'll go ahead and say it: At its core, pink merch is a sign of phlegmatic fandom. It has to be! Look at the reason it exists. Inherent in the very lifeblood of a non-team-colored item (i.e. a pink Broncos T-shirt) is the message I put flair in front of team spirit. My style will not be trumped by distasteful team colors.

They're the team's freaking colors. That's the point.

I'm all for flair, but do it in accordance with the team tradition if you're such a big fan. Add an orange cashmere scarf to some hot jeans and a soft navy henley. Go Broncs! Everybody wins. The pinks dilute the message. Now if you go to a game or sports bar it's as if you've stumbled into a maternity ward or a salmon spawn because some women are putting fashion in front of fandom.

I have two problems with that. One, it's a selfish cop-out, and two -- it's just bad fashion!

Consider that the Reebok Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning women's glitter jersey, complete with "dazzle side panels for a flattering fit, breathable polyester dazzle and polyester diamond back mesh" is the No. 3 women's product being purchased right now.

Seriously. Who thinks this is a good idea?

It's a bedazzled piece of polyester! What makes that OK?

I posed this matter to my friend Steph because she is a super chic L.A. woman whose father owns a designer boutique. I figured she'd have something profound to say about the pink jersey from a fashion standpoint. Her take surprised me: "I'm not one to stereotype -- OK, maybe I am -- but a pink jersey shows the world that you are not actually a fan, since you either don't know your team's colors, or worse, you just don't understand the importance of wearing them." Well said, Steph.

For years, all was copacetic. We've been trucking along, thinking blue and bleeding orange. Now all of a sudden everybody is OK with women jumping ship because they're just not really into the colors? Some will claim it's a femininity thing. Say, a Steelers starlet who just can't bring herself to sport the brutish Black and Gold one day a week. C'mon. To that I say check out the uber-masculine, misogynist meathead who puts on his purple (a close cousin of lavender and violet) Vikings jersey every Sunday. He might be wishing it was black, or blue, or red or anything that would not liken him to the allegedly homosexual Teletubby, but it's not -- it's purple, and he wears it anyway.

I hear some challengers clamoring already. The guys who will tell me that it's different for girls. That of course men have to stay staunch and dogmatic in their support, but women can put their spin on things by wearing the pink stuff because it's cute. I have two words for you guys who think it's cute: white zin.

The women who are doing this to be cute are the same women who drink white zin … maybe even from a box. The ones who swig Franzia for a touch of class. She thinks she looks like an aficionado in her pink jersey but she has no clue about the team. She doesn't want a clue, either. She's coquettishly content with her one-two punch of blushing attire and rosy elixir.

It's all for you, of course, so if you think she looks great, you're in the chips. Just go up to her, make her feel smarter than she is by saying something like, "So, you're a Tiki fan," as you point to the number on her bedazzled pink Giants jersey. To which she'll smile and nod and think, I don't know what this guy is talking about. All the other numbers were so low. I picked 21 so they'll think I'm of age.

Either way boys, you're golden with your white zin bunny. And if you still believe she is cute and endearing and the best way to go girly, consider the alternative. Picture a pinot noir-sipping lady in your black Steelers jersey … and only your black Steelers jersey.

I rest my case.

My buddy Trey concurs, "Sometimes girls wear pink to support the cause of breast cancer awareness, but in most cases the pink signifies, 'I know absolutely nothing about football (or any sport), but I like dudes and I have loose morals. Please buy me a drink.'" Trey says he himself would not date a pink, but he would buy her a few drinks and see where the night went.

Eggg-xactly.

Now, aside from the chicks who go pink because of the guys that are into it, there's another interesting contingency: The small percentage of women who are really, truly, legit fans and also happen to be oddly obsessed with the color pink. If you can back it up with O.G. fandom of both team and pink. Fine. You're a freak, but fine. Wear your little three-piece pink Patriots sweat suit around the house. See if I care.

So that leaves us with the overwhelming majority -- the women in the middle who like their team and are neither here nor there about the color pink. Consider for a moment the complexity of desires and demands on women today. We are the sexier sex, and with that regal distinction comes a laboriously demanding expectation of style and grace. We're expected to exhibit just the right amount of appeal. We are to maintain a delicate ratio of smarts and sass, sporty and spice, naughty and nice. Shoot, we wish Santa was the only one keeping tabs on us.

The world expects us to balance shimmer lip gloss, black boots, blonde beer and red Gatorade. It's no wonder some of us are trying to bring the chic to the tailgate. Mr. Grauel stated that there is added benefit for the female fan to wear her team gear "for both game time and as a fashion item." So with those expectations of fashion-forward come nefarious temptations like my favorite, the Raiders pink polka-dot princess panties.

If this doesn't confirm the notion that no conundrum in life is more complicated than the female sports fan, I'm not sure what will. Go to Raider Image, the official online store of the Oakland Raiders. There, you can purchase these skivvies for just $10.99. The sales line is, "You'll feel like you're on top of the world when you slip on the Womens' Polka Dot Princess Raiders Panty."

From the nation best known for ferocious fans come the official pink polka-dot panty. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. You can't make this stuff up, baby.

Mary Buckheit is a Page 2 columnist. Her favorite color is green. She can be reached at marybuckheit@hotmail.com.