Teach Your Children Well

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Last week my five-year-old son asked my wife why we did not dress him in “nice” clothes. Bear in mind that much of his wardrobe is a miniaturized version of my more casual attire. For school he wears blue jeans with sweaters or simple solid-colored polo shirts. Over that he may wear a navy pea coat, a waxed cotton jacket or a bright yellow rain slicker. At church he might be seen in navy blue pants, a white dress shirt, gray cardigan and red, white and blue bow tie. So why does my son think I am depriving him of “nice” clothes? Apparently the kindergarten definition of “nice” involves t-shirts emblazoned with the latest logos from popular culture. It is also apparent that my son is feeling some pressure to conform his dress to that of his peers.

In most retail stores it is surprisingly difficult to find boys’ clothing that is devoid of decoration. It seems that every shirt is embellished with a bulldozer, a football, a rocket, a dinosaur or a pirate. Somehow, more than thirty years later, Star Wars remains a popular theme. There are t-shirts for Spider Man and Sponge Bob and countless other cartoons of which I am either too old or too out-of-touch to even be aware.

So do stores sell these embellished clothes because that is what parents want to buy for their kids? Is this driven by demand? Or do parents just dress their kids in these clothes because that’s what’s available at the local store? In this regard I wonder which came first, the chicken or the egg.

As you may have gathered, I am not a fan of logo-emblazoned children’s clothing. Our society is infected with a sloppy, lazy attitude towards dress. That attitude is being reinforced in the next generation. Habits are learned young. I, for one, do not want to one day find a picture of my son on the pages of People of Walmart wearing tattered jean shorts or a t-shirt that says “disease free” with an arrow pointed at his genitals.


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Andrew Hodges is a small-town Southern lawyer and author of a-southern-gentleman.blogspot.com, a blog about classic style and culture in the American South

Comments

  1. Juan Manuel says:

    Hello

    I agree with some of the things you pointed, I also dislike logos and printed t-shits, except some very creative and distinctive ones.

    But there are other things that are more important; my son is not a mini version of myself he is an individual and has the right and will to choose (even at age 5), dressing should be fun otherwise it would be senseless spending time and guilt in it. I agree that there are some places where clothing shows respect to yourself and others and there is where parents should suggest clothin.

  2. Miami Mike says:

    Another reason clothes have logos and popular culture artwork all over them is that these things go out of style LONG before the garment they are on has started to show wear.

    The result is that perfectly good clothes are consigned to the rag bin because their sin is to sport last year’s hot logo or cartoon character. (Does anyone even remember last year’s hot logo? Or care?)

    Additionally, the license fees increase the cost of the garment with no corresponding increase in the quality. In fact, the garment itself is often cheapened because its real purpose is to display someone’s logo or advertising, not to be comfortable, fit well, look good, or last very long.

    What child wants to be labeled as “last week” or “out of style”? Consequently, it is venial and slick marketing, not value, that drives the woeful “buy me . . . ” cries of children (and many adults).

    The great thing about classic clothes is that they almost never go out of style, so the “buy me” decision can be made on quality, fit and utility instead of being based on transitory fashion and marketing fads.

    It is probably unrealistic for a five year old to understand this. It seems to be equally unrealistic for a fifty year old to understand it either.

    The barbarians are not at the gates, they breached the gates long ago and are now well established at the mall . . .

  3. Kai says:

    @Juan Manuel

    Please don’t take this personally but isn’t it crazy letting our children choose for themself at age five? I’m honestly feed up will all the experts and child rights ‘protectors’ today telling us how to raise our children.

  4. Lark says:

    Many of the parents I know who hate logos make some compromises–the child picks out a couple of tee shirts or other items and can wear them to school once a week and/or on weekends, certain logos are off limits (anything suggestive, for example), patterns aren’t restricted even if the parent doesn’t like flowers or stripes. Or the child is allowed unlimited choice in a place with acceptable clothes.

    Children learn to chose well by choosing in a safe environment. They also learn to separate themselves from their parents in a healthy way when they’re able to make certain harmless identity and hobby choices rather than be sharply restricted. And a few ugly shirts are a harmless choice–unless the parent is afraid of being judged by his or her style subculture, which is carrying things a bit far.

    I grew up in an rather authoritarian (old-school Swedes, not the permissive kind) home with many, many clothing restrictions. I was not dressed at all like my peers; my parents were very concerned that my clothing be “appropriate” and forbade a huge number of things from shorts to the color black to–for reasons I never understood–deck shoes. To say the least, this did not help me among my classmates. It didn’t help my relationship with my parents or my ability to choose my own clothes, either, and I spent my twenties in absolutely hideous cast-off rags from the thrift store, chosen for shock value.

    Learning, as they say in the Wodehouse novels, isn’t a putting in but a drawing out…a freely-made choice is a stronger choice than one made under duress.

  5. Juan Manuel says:

    Hello Kai

    I think that children that are raised in a enviroment that has some esthetic preferences will eventually embrace them naturally, I prefer guidance than enforcement but anyway it has to be fun.

  6. Derrik Ollar says:

    Well, as the father of 5 sons, I settled on the rules that they must dress respectfully around me, and dress up to present themselves for worship at church. They have some latitude outside of that, however, when they come to me to help them shine their shoes, pick out a tie or ask my opinion on an outfit, I know they look up to me and my sense of classic style. I also know that eventually as they mature, they will move more towards my standards of dress. Be patient, allow some latitude in choice and set a good example.

  7. Stephen says:

    I’ve always felt that if a company wants me to wear their logo on my clothing they can pay for the advertising. Paying a company to wear their logo is just crazy talk.

  8. George Dixon says:

    In my view it’s much worse parenting to take your children to church than it is to allow them to wear ugly clothes. Religious indoctrination of young children is truly despicable.