One of the most grating things to read or hear about a newborn is that he’s “ALL BOY.” What does that even mean? It’s as if the parents wish they could hang a picture frame around its junk. All boy. Please.
I also hate what this has done to children’s clothing. Boy clothes are all footballs, cars, and firetrucks in various shades of green and blue. None of which I care about. None of which Dad cares about. None of which the infant child himself could POSSIBLY have an opinion about. I confess that sometimes I hope for a female child just so that I can have more fun with the clothing.
Anyway, I digress. Last week I read a fascinating article called “When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?” all about the history of children’s clothing in the last couple of centuries. The article begins with an image of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a child with long locks and a big white, frilly frock. Back then all children dressed in white dresses for practicality. Boys didn’t get their first hair cut until 6 years old. Basically all children looked like what people today would describe as feminine.
Then manufacturers learned that personalization was the key to selling more clothing. Pink and blue arrived on the scene, but the genders as we know them to day were often reversed. “Ladies’ Home Journal article in June 1918 said, ‘The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.'”
As expected, there was a feminist backlash against gendered clothing in the 1960s. And rightfully so. Clothing has always had a way of demeaning women, making us more sexy but less mobile, less comfortable, less able to do and act and be.
According to the article today there is also more demand for neutral clothing options. That may be true. But there’s also a disturbing amount of “funny ha ha” boys clothes. Take for example this Amazon search for “baby boy clothes.” Among the expected camoflauge print and vicious animal (shark, albeit a cute one) is the ever charming “I am a Boob Man” shirt. Near it you’ll find “I drink ’til I pass out.”
Another Amazon search for “baby girl clothes” has mostly (ugly) floral options and a couple outfits featuring a meek food-based animal (the dairy cow). Interestingly, the page features the same camo print as the boy’s page but also has a baby doctor outfit. Not a costume but a little two-piece layette with a printed stethoscope. Awww. Want.
Anyway, it’s interesting. It seems that there is a sense that if we dress boys in “feminine” clothing they’ll turn out gay. But really if we think that dressing them as anything, including a wee little surgeon, will have any effect on their future behavior, we’re deluding ourselves. When it comes down to it, baby clothing is an expression of the parents’ tastes and hopes for the child. I want a little surgeon. Other classy folks might want a boob man. And in that way, I think you can influence your child’s behavior. Not how you dress them. But how you raise them.