Weird History
1.3k voters

Historical Products That Were Designed For One Gender And Then Taken Over By Another

August 24, 2020 9.0k votes 1.3k voters 87.4k views13 items

List RulesVote up the products whose origin stories surprise you the most.

Genders are complex, but often designers, marketers, and advertisers develop products for girls or boys, women or men. 

Recently, Redditors asked about common items that were once predominantly used by one gender only to be rebranded, re-appropriated, or reinvented by their binary-structured counterpart. They found many male trends that became women's and vice versa, identifying just how complicated the relationship between consumerism and gender truly is. Take a look at their top picks - which one surprises you most? 

  • 1

    Old Spice

    Old Spice
    Photo: JeepersMedia / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    From Redditor u/just-an-uber-driver:

    Old Spice was launched by Shulton Inc. in 1937. William Lightfoot Schultz was inspired by his mother's potpourri and as a result, the first Old Spice product in 1937 was a woman's scent called Early American Old Spice. The product was received well, and therefore followed with Old Spice for men in 1938.

    Context: Old Spice was introduced by Shulton, Inc. in 1937 as Early American Old Spice, a product that could be found as a soap, powder, bath salt, and perfume. Early American Old Spice was formulated for women and touted as "America's Own Aroma," and Shulton, Inc, headed by William Schultz recrafted the scent the following year to make it more masculine. Old Spice became more spicy and was sold as an aftershave.

    A surprising flip?
  • 2


    Photo: Le Corset by Libron. 1933 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    From Redditor u/RedBeardedMex:

    Corsets were originally intended to help with proper posture in men. Designed with the gentleman in mind. Then women saw how slimming it could be, and the rest is history.

    Context: Corset-like shapeware dates as far back as the 13th century but, during the 19th century, corsets were commonly worn by European men for the purpose of cinching wastes, for support, and for medical purposes.

    By the 1880s, corsets were marketed as garments that could help shape the bodies of young girls. They were also worn by women who considered themselves "unsightly to others" without them. In the first years of the 20th century, Vogue magazine declared slenderness as the ideal, encouraging even more women to "wear corsets to hold in their flesh."

    A surprising flip?
  • 3

    Ford Mustangs

    Ford Mustangs
    Photo: Qropatwa / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    From Redditor u/Hey_I_Work_Here:

    The Ford Mustang. It was supposed to be a car with a big trunk to you could fit all the groceries in it. There was even an ad or article stating that you can own a mustang that matches the color of your lipstick. Makes sense why a lot of old mustangs are red.

    Context: So-called "pony cars" like Ford Mustangs were designed to resemble racing cars, while accommodating small families. When Ford Mustangs were released to the public in 1964, they appealed to women for these reasons as well as a lower price than a typical sports car. 

    Ford designed ads to appeal to women, claiming, "Life was just one diaper after another until Sarah got her new Mustang" and that the V6 engine was "extraordinarily considerate of a girl’s feelings."

    A surprising flip?
  • 4

    Pink And Blue

    Pink And Blue
    Photo: countrykitty / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    From Redditor u/acjgoblu:

    Pink and blue were originally considered colors for boys and girls, respectively.

    Context: When the colors pink and blue were first associated with gender, it was the opposite of current trends. Explained in 1918, "The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl."

    Pushback against the blue-pink dynamic accompanied marketing that encouraged the feminine nature of pink during the 1950s and 1960s, with future moves toward gender-neutral clothing and toys. 

    A surprising flip?