On Dressing Boys

23:40 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

I've read what feels like a hundred posts on dressing little girls recently, complaining about how girls clothes have trashy slogans and they aren't empowering our future young women in any way. I agree with much of the sentiment behind these posts but I'm sick and tired of boys' clothes being held up as a shining example of how our girls should be dressed. I have two sons and a daughter and I buy their clothes from a range of places. Budget dictates that it's a good mixture of the supermarket and my primary loves, the Skandi-chic brights of Maxomorra, JNY and DUNS of Sweden. I love the latter three brands but finances mean that I'm only going to be buying key pieces from their collections for my three each season. I'm generally building the rest of their wardrobes from the high street.

With a few noticeable exceptions, I like Zara and Little Bird by Jools Oliver at Mothercare , there's a real lack of inspiration in boys clothing on the high street. For all of the mums I see preferring a grey 'epic' slogan t-shirt from the boys' section for their daughter, there's a mum combing the girls' section for something to dress their son in - not sparkly, available in a relaxed cut and a colour which doesn't come from the high street 'sludge palette' that boys clothing is generally drawn from.

When Little E was tiny I visited our local ASDA superstore. I wanted clothes for him and I was greeted by this:

A photo posted by Pippa Ainsworth (@redrosemummy) on

That's a whole aisle of clothing for baby boys in various shades of baby blue and white. There are no other colours. Yes, the girls' aisle was pink-dominated but I also spotted peach, green, grey and blue there too. I'm left questioning if I'm being in some way unreasonable in expecting not to have to dress my baby boy in blue. I visit other stores and find other colours available but they're all muted - mustard, burnt orange, khaki, brown, navy. Rainbow brights are apparently not for boys on the high street.

As little boys grow so do their clothes and then, oh, the characters. Apparently no little boy wants to dress in anything which doesn't have a face on it. As babies you get Mickey Mouse and Tigger, designs that are rehashed every season. I see virtually the same clothes on sale for Little E that I ignored when Bud fitted into them. For older boys it's Avengers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, endless Minions and dinosaurs. The clothes that aren't licensed still have faces on them and those that don't have irritating slogans. I don't want any of my little boys to have their t-shirts proclaiming 'little monster' or 'here comes trouble' or 'handsome, just like my Daddy'. All three of these have been bought for Bud, none of them have been worn.

Clearly, I'm the mother of a girl too. The new mum who said I wouldn't dress my daughter in pink and, you know what? It's pretty hard to avoid dressing a little girl in pink but there's so much choice on the high street that you can always manage it if pink really isn't your thing. If you don't like sludge colours for boys you're going to really struggle. LM happens to really suit bright pink and she does wear it but this is mixed with a wide and varied palette of other bright colours, we don't tend to do pastels. Those colours really aren't available for her brothers. Yes, there are some irritating slogans and a lack of branded clothing showing strong female characters and I really bemoan that, having said that we've just bought LM an amazing Rey costume from Sainsbury's so they are out there and I'd much rather have the bright basics available for girls than those for boys.

Last week I was in Next looking for baby boy clothes and I happened to wander into the girls section after being bored almost to tears by the navy blue sailing boats which are the pinnacle of their collection for Spring/Summer (guess what was on last year's Spring/Summer baby boy clothes?) I happened to notice that the girls have a range of basic, block coloured leggings and patterned long sleeved t-shirts starting at just £2:50. There is nothing in this price bracket for boys and that's similar elsewhere too. The reliance on branded, character clothing makes boys' clothing more expensive (due to the licensing) and most stores don't have comparable basics to the leggings and t-shirts for girls. A pair of leggings for a girl, in five colours, will be £2:50, boys have the choice of two pairs of sludge coloured joggers for £4:00. Of course the cheap leggings have to have some kind of trim or addition which makes them unsuitable for boys, in the Next case, a small lace trim around the bottom of the leg. It's perfectly acceptable for a girl to wear a navy blue dinosaur t-shirt but not for a boy to wear a pink pony tee. That's a whole kettle of fish that I'm not opening in this post but I find it difficult to get cross about limiting girls when, in my experience, girls have almost endless choice as they can acceptably choose from the boys range too. End of season sale rails are barren of boys' clothes, making it impossible to get a bargain there. More baby boys are born every year than baby girls yet girls have twice as many clothes on offer.

I absolutely agree that there are some unpleasant slogans on girls' clothing, but there are on boys' too and, if you don't like the slogan on the girls' t-shirt there will be twenty more to choose from that will be much more wearable. I can honestly say I don't even notice the slogans on girls' clothing these days as I generally avoid writing on clothes, I have a good eye for choosing high street pieces for my girl and she has the wardrobe to prove it. With boys you'll be back to choosing between Hulk and Iron Man as usual, you'll find me combing the aisles for something bright, comfortable and without any writing or faces on it.

I'd love to see somewhere on the high street make a stand and offer a range of unisex, brightly coloured clothes - t-shirts, leggings, hoodies, jeans and jogging bottoms. No characters, simple patterns, if any. Boys and girls at primary school age are generally, pretty much the same size and shape, there's no need for this demarcation between the two clothing ranges. I'm sure they will cite a lack of demand but I know lots of people feel the same way and they would all buy from it if it was available. I can't believe stores are really concerned about losing sales by clothes being passed on from brother to sister instead of same sex siblings and that's the only real reason I can think of not to offer this range. I'm supportive of all of the campaigns against the slogans on girls' clothing which prioritise beauty over brains, I really am, but I'm tired of boys being forgotten about too

Where do you buy your children's clothes from? What do you think of the high street's offering for boys?