Why I Wear Pink in the Field

My first crew chief.

My first crew chief, a man who radiated so much rugged masculinity he was promptly nicknamed “Stallone” or “Rambo” in every camp he worked, flagged all our radios in pink. This differentiated the company crew radios from the survey site’s camp radios, and made it far easier to spot the radios when they inevitably toppled into the brush.

Toolbag

Toolbag

I experimented with this tactic on my next several jobs, flagging items in bright pinks and purples. Within a few jobs, the experiment was so successful the colours dominated my equipment, field clothes, and even squirmed into my toolbag.

The consequences of prevalent pink in my field gear goes beyond ease of identification and increased visibility. Having a signature colour makes it far faster to pull my gear when unpacking at the office; by assigning my field clothes to a colour I rarely wear in “real life,” post-laundry sorting and last-minute packing are faster, too.

Picking a signature colour strongly associated with femininity while working in a male-dominated industry greatly reduced the number of incidents of my gear growing legs and casually walking away. Better yet, converting to pink field gear has also increased the likelihood of misplaced items making their way back to me. In an iconic moment, at one field camp I was approached by a well-meaning gentleman who informed me he’d found my glasses on the floor of the mudroom, and tucked them into my raincoat pocket for safekeeping. The only problem? Neither pink glasses nor pink coat were mine, nor did they belong to the same person!

Field Fashion

Field Fashion

Wearing a lot of pink has even eased the logistics of field communication. As the only person in sight blending pink with my mandated high-visibility personal protective equipment, it’s very easy to spot where I am. Among other practical benefits, helicopter pilots never seem to have difficulty identifying which of the many neon orange people-ants is me when delivering sling-loads to remote mountainsides.

This tactic is not without its risks. The first time I wore I pink hard hat, I had my first casual confrontation over the colour:

I’d never wear a pink hardhat because it would instantly undermine my credibility.

The flip side of finding it truly revolting to “make science girly” (Especially Comment 20 by Mandy Moon) by colour-coding it pink is that I should be able to wear pink if it pleases me, so the next morning I laced pink sparkly shoelaces into my steel-toed rubber boots.

Field Boots

Field Boots

This act of sheer orneriness — if a pink hardhat makes you question my competency, what will sparkly shoelaces do? — had the surprising impact of making everyone who saw me smile. I don’t know if it’s the cognitive dissonance produced by pairing something so essentially practical with something so obviously superficial, or if at heart everyone loves sparkles, but either way, my day was noticeably more pleasant as everyone greeted me with an irrepressible grin. Better yet, my boots are now incredibly distinctive in the heaps of boots in camp mudrooms, and can live at the office without running off on jobs without me.

So go on, wear pink in the field. Just not on my job sites, please.

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2 Responses to Why I Wear Pink in the Field

  1. Lab Lemming says:

    Awesome laces.
    I smiled.

    My only pink field story is a pink flagging tape war between one of our fieldies and the daughter of the farmer whose ranch we were drilling.

    In 2 days it went from a pink bow on the towbar to consume three rolls of flagging tape.

  2. Bob Arrent says:

    Clever approach to a timeless problem — the mysterious disappearance of tools on the job.

    My dad was a (retired now) carpenter, and I still remember going to the local tool supply store (pre Home Depot) and getting him replacement tools for those that had been nabbed.

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