Boy Genius! Alix on Boys and Skulls

image: GAP

Today's Boy Genius! is my friend Alix: She's not a blogger (yet!) so please welcome her as she takes a stab at the topic: Boys' clothes...why all the skulls?

My oldest son always seems to have a growth spurt toward the end of winter (Ever seen capri snowpants? My son is sporting a pair right now, thanks to this never-ending New England winter). Over the past month I've noticed the hem of my son's pants creeping towards his ankles and, when my husband started calling him Urkel, I finally sat down at my computer to do some good old-fashioned online shopping. (Have you ever tried to go clothes shopping with a preschool boy? The 1st circle of hell. I'd rather go shopping with my dad. Yes, my DAD. At least he doesn't pretend the clothing racks are battle droids or wait until The Last Possible Second to decide he needs to go to the bathroom.)

And so, in search of some new jeans and tees for I started up my laptop, and went straight to the Gap website. Instead of clicking on the “Baby Gap” tab as usual, I clicked on Gap Kids for the first time. This was a milestone for me, entering the world of kids' clothes that don't come in sizes that end in a “T,” and I was curious to see what I would find.

I first went to the jeans section, and quickly placed a few pairs in my virtual basket. Mission accomplished! Then, thinking my son could use a few new polos and tees as well, I decided to check out the shirt section. Boy oh boy, was I in for a surprise. No one told me that as soon as your sweet little boy outgrows his 5T shirts and pants, he becomes an angsty tween obsessed with death and sports, particularly extreme ones. Gone are the truck and dinosaur tees, replaced with skulls, skateboards, dirt bikes and more skulls. There were also, for some reason, a lot of angry looking snakes. Oh, and the occasional soccer ball or football. I even saw a t-shirt with various sports balls inside a skull.

Yes, really.

Apparently, Gap thinks my five year old son, who still has training wheels on his bike, should now “Live 2 Sk8” and have “Mad Skillz.” He does not. He is also not “Silent But Deadly,” as alleged on another shirt I found on the Old Navy website. I sincerely hope he will never be either of those things.

Amidst all the bones and bikes and balls, I managed to find a few Star Wars and superhero tees, which I added to my basket, and then I decided to take a look at the polos. Big mistake. More skulls. On the polos, for crying out loud! I cajole (okay, bribe) my son into wearing a collared shirt two or three times a year - for Mother's Day brunch, the occasional christening, maybe school pictures if I'm feeling brave - and I don't really want him sporting a skull to any of those events. I was never a big fan of the teddy bears on the Baby Gap polo shirts - I found them a little too cutesy, especially as my son got older - but to go from teddies right to skulls? A little jarring. How about a dinosaur or, better yet, nothing?

I know. Some of you are asking “what's the big deal about a few skulls and skateboards?” I've asked myself the same question. And I think the answer is that all these phrases and images just seem a bit grown up for my taste. Maybe I'm too much of a straight arrow, but I think skulls are just plain morbid and morose, and not something I want all over my little guy's clothes (except perhaps on the occasional pirate ship). To me, skulls represent death, threat and rebellion; putting a skull your shirt feels like the equivalent of giving people the middle finger, a way to tell people that you're angry AND alternative. I recognize that I'm grossly generalizing and brushing with some very broad strokes here, but these are the associations I have - I just don?t identifyskulls with anything good. The skull and crossbones is the symbol for danger, after all, isn't it? And, perhaps this is a product of living in New England, but I don't know many five-year-olds who skateboard or dirt bike yet. Most of my son's friends are still learning how to ride a two-wheeler and figuring out how to actually get somewhere on their scooters.

All the attitude and adolescent themes on boys' clothes feels to me like the male equivalent of push-up bikinis for seven-year-old girls. Why do retailers (and apparently, some parents) think our kindergarteners should dress like teenagers and little adults? I'm alternately amused by the ridiculousness of some of the kids' clothing I see for sale, and alarmed by the reality that there are children actually wearing these grown-up clothes made in miniature.

What is the hurry for our kids to grow up? Childhood already goes by so quickly. I, for one, don't want my son to dress like a rebellious teen, at least not before he's actually a rebellious teen. For now, I'll be stocking up on solids and stripes and hoping that all the skulls and subversiveness are a thing of the distant future for us, if at all.

And now, while I go listen to “Return to Pooh Corner,” please talk amongst yourselves. Do I need to lighten up? Am I overreacting or do you agree that a lot of children's clothes are not really appropriate for children?

Thanks so much, Alix! Love ya girl, can't wait to see the New Kids with you!

(If you're interested in being a Boy Genius! just send me an email!)