The kids in our neighborhood are hipsters in the making. Their t-shirts feature snarky sayings or pop-culture icons; they wear Tom’s shoes and Herschel backpacks. In fact, they look a lot like their parents — not just their hair and eye color, but the whole sartorial package. The kids are mini-versions of the parents.
I guess that can be useful in a crowded place. If they get separated, it’s easy to remember that a misplaced daughter is wearing the same striped t-shirt dress and boots that you are. I’ve seen families use this strategy at Disney World. Each one wears a red t-shirt with their last name on it, or a cute phrase, like “Jones Family Spring Break,” making it easier to count heads and keep anyone from straying. They look like a unit, except for the teens who seem mortified that they’re wearing what amounts to a prison uniform.
I remember having fun dressing my kids when they were little. Adorable outfits from the Gap that mirrored the grown-up clothes (khakis and t-shirts) but had a twist for kids like an elephant or giraffe on the shirt. Colorful tops and bottoms, fun socks and tiny shoes. The clothes were comfy, had elastic waistbands, and generally lasted for a few months before they were outgrown.
Beyond everyday kids clothes, there’s the remarkable subset of clothes for special events. Tiny dresses for a flower girl, a fluffy concoction for Easter, little three-piece suits for ring bearers, or natty shorts sets. These outfits look so cute on the mannequin, but I wonder how long they’ll have it on before there’s a smear of a melted chocolate down the front or a grass stain on the seat. Let’s face it, kids are hard on their clothes. Even durable denim gets busted out knees, and shirts display evidence of the most recent meal. Why do we think this will be any different with special occasion clothes?
We have a picture of my brother, at about three years old, wearing a gray Eton suit with short pants and red knee socks. He’s got a grin on his face and for that one second looks immaculate. I’m sure that five minutes later the jacket was off, the shirt untucked and one of his shoes was missing. But it’s the memory reinforced by the picture that endures. We only remember that shining moment when everything looked perfect and we want to recreate that with our kids. So that’s why someone is going to buy a pale seersucker pair of shorts with matching bow-tie and cap plus suspenders, wrestle their son into it and take as many pictures as possible before he rolls in a mud puddle.