The XX Factor

Stop Calling Everything Millennial Pink

Sweetbitter, Grand Budapest Hotel, Thinx ad.
Not all pinks are created equal.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos via Knopf, Fox Searchlight, Thinx.

Another day, another piece about “millennial pink,” the blush shade young people supposedly can’t get enough of. I was fascinated by this trend the first time the Cut reported on it last summer, but after watching Fashionista, the Ringer, and Bloomberg BusinessWeek (among others) each discover its magic, I thought there wasn’t much left to say on the matter. Not so, the Cut declared this week: Millennial pink is the Elizabeth Warren of colors—no matter how tired we are of hearing about it, it persists.

But that’s not the real problem with millennial pink. Here are some things that are quintessential millennial pink, cited in the above pieces, practically defined by their utter millennial pinkness: Thinx ads; the Grand Budapest Hotel; Kendall Jenner’s appetite-suppressing (unhealthy-diet-culture-perpetuating) wall; and the cover of Sweetbitter, the 2016 novel by Stephanie Danler. You see what I’m getting at here, right?

See it?

I can’t believe this needs to be pointed out, but none of these things are the same color. The Thinx ad, first of all, contains several shades of pink, so we have to define which one we’re even talking about. The hotel? A pastel confection, with none of the angst or dustiness the signature millennial color is supposed to bring with it. Then there’s Kendall’s wall, which is way more Barbie pink than millennial. And the book, of course, is salmon, a pink with more orange in it than the others—though it does depend what light you’re looking at it in. Not all pinks are created equal; there are many different ways to be pink. So no, not every pink out there is millennial pink.

The Cut’s most recent dispatch concedes that as it got popular, millennial pink “mutated and expanded to include a range of shades from beige with just a touch of blush to a peach-salmon hybrid.” If a color can be a range of shades, then … wait, what? That’s not how color works, sorry. Hate to say it, but from now on, we are revoking others’ color-identifying privileges; no publication but Slate (which has been reliably maroon for 20 years) can be trusted to determine which color is which. Browsing through the Strategist’s list of 31 millennial pink items you can buy on Amazon, a lot of them deserve to be disqualified off the bat. That water bottle is not millennial pink, neither is that toaster, and so on.

Discussing this among colleagues, one Slatester asked a topical question: What about Tomi Lahren? Is the young conservative’s skin tone millennial pink?

Finally, something we can all agree on. The answer is yes: Tomi Lahren is millennial pink.