I will exchange a little mutual appreciation here with the writer for pink is for boys, who emailed me to say she liked this post because I really liked this piece of hers on clothing choices for small boys (which includes some perfect photographic examples):
Mothers I have interviewed describe the dominant theme of young boys’ clothes as “violent” and “aggressive.” Animals are mean-looking, not cute (with vicious dinosaurs being a favorite), and vehicles generally stop being the cute, cartoonish dump trucks or police cars found on infant boys’ clothes. Instead “they’ve got fire coming out of them or a lot of dirt coming off of them; they look aggressive. They make vehicles look aggressive for little boys somehow”.
Another mother agrees: “As I’m shopping for larger sizes, the options almost get more violent. Things that are almost scary looking . . . skeletons, and flames, and there’s nothing soothing about it.” Other examples of aggressive themes and sub-themes include athletic wear, camouflage, and superheroes.
The themes of valiant aggression encoded in images and messages of competition, exploding vehicles, superheroes, and the military begin not only promoting a warrior identity to toddler and preschool boys, but prescribing it. (And the prescription is not always subtle.)
When shopping for clothes for Cormac, who is almost eighteen months old, I try to buy him gender neutral clothing in combination with some clothes obviously from the boys’ section and some obviously from the girls’ section. (And this is exactly how I did it for our daughter too, but I can attest to it being so much easier to walk the varied gender line with little girls). Now that he is a toddler, and a tall one at that, the boys’ clothing choices are falling precisely into the category described above (more expensive hipster clothing outlets aside). Unfortunately the toddler girl choices are becoming almost as restricted. I am very comfortable dressing him in birds and hearts and pink elephants from the girls’ section but not so comfortable putting him in frilly necks and spaghetti straps.
I absolutely love what Pop’s parents are doing but I am not inspired to try the challenge myself. Until Cormac is old enough to select clothing for himself, whereupon he may choose to wear dresses and I think I will be pretty fine with that, my interest at this time is more in giving him a good range of colours and something aesthetically appealing to wear. Sounds simple enough. But I tell you, it takes some work to achieve that goal because hyper-masculine may be a lot of things but it ain’t pretty and it ain’t colourful.