Kids Are What They Wear. Are They?

Spring is in the air and so are the spring breaks across the schools. Hope you have had, you’re having or you will have a good one! I’ve been fully enjoying a week without early drop offs, cooking and cleaning. Traveling with little kids is not always relaxing, but it’s a great way to get away from the daily routine. Plus, all the things you can discover when traveling (like Balboa Park in San Diego) and all the things you will do, even though you have always said you wouldn’t! In my case, it was visiting yet another theme park. How was I supposed to know that Sea World is not an aquarium. Go figure! But in the end it turned out fine. The kids were amused by rides and watching dolphins, and I had a wild time watching people. All those inventive hairdos, bold tattoos, party make-up, wacky outfits, snazzy accessories that one gets to see there! It makes you dizzy without taking a ride. I’m not judgmental, but one thing made me really mad. It was a little boy’s T-shirt that read: “My Mom Says I’m Bad Influence”. I know, it was supposed to be humorous, but somehow it did make me want to laugh. Instead I wanted to find whoever dressed that boy, perhaps the “funny” mother, and shake them. “Is that how you see your child?! Is that how you want others to see your child?!”

The unfortunate T-shirt made me reflect upon the clothes we put on our children. Parents are the first stylists, after all. Stylists that oftentimes are bad influence on children’s sense of fashion and beyond, to play on the T-shirt wording. What statements do we make on behalf of our little ones?  Some people say we are what we wear. What do we make out of our children?

I decided to examine my sons’ dressers. My toddler’s drawers were pretty straightforward. A bunch of T-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, a few pairs of dressier outfits, barely used,  shorts, non-slippery socks. Comfort is definitely the common theme here.  Very different from my older son’s wardrobe when he was a baby and I wanted him to look nice, neat or sharp in his just-like-daddy’s dress shirts, buttoned cords, and graphic shirts announcing things like “Mommy’s All Star” or “Daddy’s Big Helper”. Somehow, this time around, such ‘opinionated’ clothes don’t appeal to me.  The cute ones are just too silly and the supposedly funny ones are a bad joke. Besides, it’s unfair to a child to be dressed according to their parents’ sense of humor, isn’t it? What’s more, I don’t want the labels like “Tough Guy” or “Here Comes Trouble” to stick to my son, even though he is strong and busy indeed.  If  I do dress him in graphics, I want the pictures to be about my toddler’s interests, not mine. But I must admit. I can’t escape imposing certain things, like the color choices. Naturally, since I buy his clothes I choose what strikes me. I can proudly say that his drawers are not blue thru and thru. But on the other hand, you want find there anything pink or purple, either.  Am I already teaching my son that these are not boyish colors?

Looking at my older son’s color range, I haven’t been much of an influence. I strongly promoted green when he was a baby, but now red, black and blue are his favorites. Black, because of ninjas, red because it’s snazzy and blue because he likes it. Just as he does comfortable sweatpants and sweatshirts for his daily attire. You might think he is just an easygoing boy who doesn’t care about what he puts on as long as it’s comfy. Think twice. Shirts can’t be too long and too wide. He says they make him look chubby. (Body image awareness at the age of 5?) Besides, comfy doesn’t mean sporty and he only likes sporty. From Nike to Puma, he wants his clothes and shoes to be ‘fast’. And cool. Star Wars on his socks, Skylanders on his underwear, sharks on his T-shirts. He almost wanted a shirt from Gap, but then he saw a tiny bear symbol… No more baby clothes for my big boy, with a clear say on fashion.

I wonder what has determined my older son’s sense of fashion. Have we steered him in this direction? How much do sports have to do with it? How much is peer pressure? The other day he wanted me to buy him laced sneakers for his best friend wore them. I tried to convince him that Velcro would make his life easier for now, but in his mind, laced shoes mean big-boy shoes, which is like a promotion. What style of clothes will my toddler commit to in a few years? Will he want to copy his brother? He already loves to wear his socks.

I never thought that as a mom of two boys I would be writing first-hand comments on fashion. But the truth is that fashion is a part of our lives and there is surely nothing wrong with a well dressed boy or girl. (One day they will be a well dressed man and woman.)  Neither is there something bad about having fun with fashion. It’s a personal choice. As a parent though, I think we have to be careful  about making fashion statements for our children. We should rather help them discover their own sense of fashion that suits their personality, lifestyle and doesn’t turn them into brand slaves, who think that ‘cool’ clothes turn them into cool kids. I think that clean and matching socks are of more importance.

There are certain grey zones for me, though. Not sure what to think about a cape clad boy on the first day of school for example. He is having fun as a Superman, but where are his Super Parents with their lessons on different dress codes?

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. The Sartorial Coquette
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 15:28:28

    Great post!! It really is important that kids discover their own sense of style, not just mindlessly copying what others are wearing (as so many did at my school)


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