Barnard’s Bold Hot Pink

What Barbie’s hot pink means to students on campus.

Photography by Claire Cenovic

Barnard Blue may be Barnard College’s official shade, but as far as students are concerned, hot pink is quickly taking over. 

Beyond its vibrant hue, hot pink’s symbolism runs deep and represents a spirit of empowerment, unity, and a celebration of femininity. Thanks to Barnard alumna, Greta Gerwig, women and girls have been able to lay claim to a sense of girliness that they have long been told is frivolous and uncool. This fall, the Barnard Store has introduced a merchandise line in shades of pink, and the Barnard admissions Instagram account features alumni posts with a vibrant hot pink Barbie theme. 

“Barnard is in one of the great cities in the world; it wants to be part of that city but still a distinct campus,” said Professor Anne Higonnet, who is teaching Art History: Clothing, a class that encompasses the intersection of clothing through anthropology, economics, and psychology.

As a student in her class, I had the opportunity to talk to Professor Higonnet, a faculty member of the Art History department. Several years ago, she served on an advisory committee that dealt with the challenges of making Barnard distinct while still connected to Columbia. Higonnet noted how Barnard has a wide variety of distinctive architectural features, from the iron gates to the font of the letter “B” on those gates; but as these symbols evolve, Higonnet says, Barnard needs to be sure of what it conveys at a given moment in time to provide synchronization and meaning. 

That includes the school color – Barnard Blue – which may be different from the color the students have now claimed. And maybe even some of the faculty. Professor Higonnet was thrilled to order the hot pink denim jacket from the Gap x Barbie collab – but was not pleased to learn that it’s backordered. 

“I could wear that when I am 90 and it will communicate a symbol of energy and history,” she said, also noting it’s a piece she can hand down to her granddaughters and is confident it will still have cultural relevance.

The Pantone color of the Barbie hot pink happens to be an important symbol at Barnard, not only because an alumna directed the blockbuster, but because it has become the driver of meaning for the color pink.

“There is something so Barnard about that movie in every good way,” said Professor Higonnet. “The type of wise political humor that is so brilliantly used in the movie is so Barnard.”

This historic moment is a reminder that women’s colleges are centers of excellence where students are prepared to take on leadership roles, effect change, and shape the future. And it reinforces the power of symbolism – even down to a color. 

Like what hot pink now means for Barnard and its past, current and future students. It’s become a symbol of strength, unity, and unwavering commitment to women’s empowerment. There will always be “Barnard blue”, but as long as hot pink continues to shine brightly on Barnard’s campus, it will serve as a powerful reminder of the incredible potential and achievements of Barnard students and alumni everywhere.

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