The Color Purple

There’s no doubt that the biggest reason for the three months of silence is little Ms. M and little Mr. S, who are now a year old (!!!) and will soon fit into the Angle sweaters that Z and I knit for them . . . oh, a year and a half ago. I thought I was busy and tired before I had kids. Clearly, I had no idea what I was talking about.

The second biggest reason things have been so quiet here is because most of the knitting I’ve been doing has been for publication. Most publications don’t like you to post pictures, patterns, hints, implications, or insinuations of what you’re working on. There are good reasons for this, but most of my ideas for this blog come from things that I’m knitting, so it limits what I’m able to publish here.

But since being a male knitter is such a charged and controversial issue, that leaves room for other charged and controversial issues. Today’s hot-button issue is running shorts.

This is a picture of me completing the 2005 Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco wearing my favorite running shorts. You might not be able to tell this on your computer screen, but those shorts are purple. Unlike any of my other running shorts, these are possessed of a magical power: they turn anyone who sees them into a twelve-year old.

My collection of running shorts includes three other colors; black, blue, and maroon. None of those other shorts have the same power as the purple ones. My purple shorts have inspired people to hoot, holler, forget what they were talking about before I showed up, or simply descend into babbling nonsense. On one occasion, they turned an entire schoolyard of girls into shrieking fools. I don’t think I could have gotten the same response if I’d run by wearing nothing at all. They’ve also caused people to call me a few names:

  • “stinking faggot”
  • “dirty faggot”
  • “god-damned faggot”
  • “faggot-assed faggot”
  • “faggot”

This raises an obvious question—aside from why so many homophobes are stupid enough to live in San Francisco—which is, what is up with the color purple? True, those shorts are cut rather high, but I show about as much leg in my other shorts, and I don’t get anywhere near the same reaction. I get similar responses when I knit in public, but nowhere near the same number, and never with as much virulence. What is it about a man in purple that inspires such idiocy?

This is not a rhetorical question. I would really like to know what you think. There is a lot at stake here. I love those purple shorts, but I love not being shouted at even more, so it’s likely those shorts are headed for retirement.


  • Angela says:

    What a powerful color purple is. My six year old son asked me to knit something for him in his favorite color – purple. I have three boys and don’t knit for them because they really don’t appreciate the effort or the item. So when I actually had a request – I jumped at the chance. I made a keyhole scarf with his intial “embossed” in knit and purl stitches. After a few days (cold days), I noticed he wasn’t wearing it. When I asked him, he told me that the kids at school told him purple is a “girl color” and he didn’t want to wear it anymore. I told him purple is the color of royalty (it used to be exlusive to kings and queens) and he should wear it proudly. He has decided he will wear it…just not to school!

  • Melissa says:

    Maybe it’s the combination of the purple, the high shorts, and the locale? Two of these things don’t equal “gay” but three do? To test this theory, you need to go running in the purple shorts in Sacramento.

    Either that or just have a t-shirt made to wear with the shorts that says, “I’m not gay, I just like purple.”

  • yarn boy says:

    I don’t care if people think I’m gay (being thought of, or referred to, as gay is not an insult). It’s really the hate speech, and the threat behind it. It saddens me to realize I’d be willing to give up wearing one of my favorite colors simply because of a bunch of loud-mouth homophobes, but some of the comments lately have been so angry-sounding that I wonder if it isn’t a matter of personal safety.

  • Angie says:

    I agree with you, yarn boy…It’s become so sad that some of us can come so far while others just hate more deeply. Rather than defending your sexuality on your clothing, I say just iron on the old “Mean People Suck” slogan…lol Although, I once saw a moron with an Arayan Nations sticker on one side of his bumper, and the ‘Mean People Suck” sticker on the other side (yay, Ohio *sarcasm*)…Some people will never get it…no matter how much time lapses because they choose to be ignorant. And, in the news yesterday, I heard about another gay man who was literally mutilated by a hater. It CAN be a matter of safety. I’d love to tell you to let your rainbow colors fly, purple included! But, maybe be aware of your surroundings? SAN FRANSISCO?!!! Where else are you GOING to be able to let it fly?! *Sometimes it’s a sad world* If people can’t be anymore supportive, whatever happened to the old “Live and Let Live” addage?

  • Ruth says:

    What those screeming idiots don’t seem to know is that in the Bible purple is what royalty wore. Men in purple were usually only the kings and priests. Time changes what a society believes in. Reading your blog I have decided that you are a kingly sort of man and your wife and kids are blessed. As for why the screeming idiots ??? I have no clue what their issue is with men wearing purple. Maybe 500 years from now the perception will have changed again.Ruth from Houston TX

  • Mary says:

    Not condoning their actions, but from what I could gather, purple is a colour associated with “pride”. So maybe that in combination with the high cut shorts and the shaved head – and living in SF.

  • Elemmaciltur says:

    Wow, yeah, that’s weird.

    I never get that kind of reaction around here when I’m wearing my original Joukahainen, which is in purple. But then again, I’m living in Germany….Europe, where purple is still ‘in’. And also, most people know that I’m gay anyway. :-p

    I mean, it’s just a colour that has association. Doesn’t mean that whoever wears the colour is automatically a homosexual. Some people need to grow up.

  • Renee says:

    My brother’s favorite color is purple. He wears it proudly, unabashedly, almost arrogantly. If anyone seems to think it’s strange he looks at them as if they’re the crazy ones. I love this about him. Don’t give up your shorts.
    Besides, I’m sure at least some, dare I say most, of the shouting are shouts of approval. 😉

  • Yarn-Yogini says:

    Well it is funny, that here I am reading about purple on your blog when I just sent you a message on Rav about a man I was speaking to about knitting…who also happens to love the colour purple, and wears pink too as well….being in Montreal I wondered if this caused him some problems…but he doesn’t seem to be bothered…..”real men” (*cough, cough!! a-hem*) seem to think purple is for husband was an engineer, he frequently worked in the field. I started to knit us matching nomad hats…blue for him, purple for me….I finished the purple first cuz I knew I wanted one, and to see if he liked the style….he snatched it away from me and wore it proudly until he took it out one day in a snowy construction site….I don’t need to tell you what happened next! The poor man stopped wearing his purple hat on the job because he just couldn’t supervise these men who were constantly ridiculing him……how a colour can illicit such juvenille responses among men is still beyond me!
    I say wear the shorts….ignore the weirdos…and the school girls in the yard were probably looking at your gams not your shorts!

  • Anonymous says:

    Could it be that the comments were directed at a man running in the women’s marathon and had nothing to do with the shorts?

  • Steener says:

    My husband loves purple and pink and he looks great in it. He is from the midwest and very tall, very loud which makes him hard to ignore on the east coast where everyone seems smaller and guieter next to him. He has been accused of being gay when he where’s pink or purple and when this happens he just laughs and says “maybe, you never know”. He is also famous for saying to our gay friends, “it’s hard when EVERYBODY finds you attractive (sigh).” So, wear whatever color makes you happy and ignore other’s ignorance.

  • Chuck says:

    If one can “rock’m” out in purple shorts so be it.
    Regarding knitting and stereotyping: People are ignorant! Men have been knitting for centuries.
    Currently knitting your pattern called “Avast”. Thanks so much for sharing the pattern.

  • Dan says:

    If I paid attention to the opinions/scorn of homophobes I could very well have ended up making some wonderful woman miserable in a miserable marriage with a brood of neglected kids who wondered why Pop had to “work” so many extra hours away from home. I wouldn’t sing the way I do, I wouldn’t dance the way I do, I wouldn’t laugh the way I do, I wouldn’t cry the way I do, I wouldn’t knit the way I do and I wouldn’t have spent the last 17 years with the sweetest, most thoughtful, loving and handsome man I’ve ever met. It can be scarey and even dangerous to follow your own path. But I refuse to give them even the tiniest piece of my soul. The problem is not your shorts. Don’t let ignorant people steal your joy.

  • Paula says:

    You know what– I think it’s awesome that a man can knit–
    I think it’s wonderful that a man can wear purple and look wonderful in it…
    I think you are a wonderful designer– be proud of your purple creations– keep them — wear them — just be careful…..
    It’s a sad world– with alot of nasty people….
    You have nothing to prove to anyone– you know who you are– be proud of your creations, your accomplishments, your sport,and yourself!!
    ps- I just taught my husband how to spin yarn and he loves it!!

  • Wilner says:

    Pink and purple are two of my favorite colors, but I rarely wear them because of the ridicule that I get. It is ironic that women can wear any color they want but men are forbidden to wear two colors simply because those colors are associated with females.

  • Tallguy says:

    I wonder who it was that picked out the colours for us. I mean, who was it that decided that pink was for girls and blue for boys, and purple for kings, or red for brides, and white for funerals? I don’t see colours as FOR a special person or occasion — I like colours for how they make me feel.

    Seems a lot of people in this world really have some deep-seated problems. They need help.

    Let’s put lots of colour in the world!!! On everything!

  • Purple is a very powerful and alive color, maybe more than even red. It’s also a bit less common, so it stands out more. It’s a mix of red and blue, so it presents more balanced male and female energies, which is uncommon in our society, and people without hearts will find that hard to embrace until maybe they discover a close friend or relative is gay or bi. Maybe not even then. Too bad for them. They are missing out on a wonderful color.

  • valkyrie says:

    It’s not the color, it’s the fact that you’re attractive. If you were a fat middle-aged guy in purple shorts, I’ll bet no one would bother you. 😉

  • Kaushal says:

    Alex, I keep meeting other pelpoe who are color blind, too. It’s been interesting to talk with you about it and now to read about it, too But after listening to you and my other friends, I am beginning to think color blind isn’t exactly accurate. Tell us more about how you see camouflage and rainbows, for example. Or just tell us what you wAnt. I learn something new from you all the time.

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