The fashion industry is no stranger to controversy and debate, and the issues only seem to be presenting themselves tenfold in children’s fashion. Children are excited and happy by life, and they often want to express themselves by wearing the best thing they can find. What that happens to be depends entirely on the child in question, but the matter is always the same: children have their most fun sense of personal style when they are small. They are just discovering the world. Everything is new and exciting.
Children should be given the freedom to express themselves without being limited by their parents. While these fears are not unfounded – strangers and other kids can be cruel, especially to those who are obviously different. However, parents fearing what other people might think will rub off on their child and hamper their growth in terms of personal expression. Some may fear being accused of cultural appropriation, for instance, an European child who should want to put on a kimono. However, it should be noted that children do not understand the implications and merely want to copy what they see on the tv. While strangers might feel the need to point out that parents “should know better”, why should they limit their child’s creativity based on what the public says? Style should not be hampered by gender norms or social stereotypes as it will curb creativity.
Another alarming factor is the fact that kid’s fashion is so gendered even in this modern era. A little boy should be able to ask for a purse, or a little girl to wear a suit, without it becoming a broadened debate – and without there even being any options in stores that allow for these stylistic choices that are not labelled as belonging to the opposing gender. Will Smith – an actor – was applauded for allowing his son to wear a skirt. His son, Jaden, believed that wearing skirts could help “give kids the freedom, to give other people the freedom to think out of the box for themselves and not feel like in doing that that they would be bullied or be attacked in some way”. He also wanted to be cool and be seen as an innovator who wasn’t afraid of blurring the lines.
Fashion is all about personal expression and self-presentation, and yet the fashion industry has built an empire around gendering styles that take away that sense of personal expression. Further, the gendered options are so wildly different from one another that it is almost ridiculous.
This concept of men – even little boys – having dreary colour and style options is not something that males were born wanting. For some reason, the fashion industry has made an empire out of celebrating the female form and shoving the male counterpart into a dizzying array of neutral and dark tones. This is not only disappointing, but frankly silly. In the animal kingdom, for example, the male gender of the species is often more colourful, louder, more astonishing to look at. Where, then, did we go so wrong?
Children especially are at their most creative ages when they are little. It is not at all uncommon for a child to want to wear something exciting that makes them feel happy and good about themselves. And yet, we have created this environment where it is premeditated that they shop in the sections labelled “boy” or “girl”, depending on their gender. There are thankfully some brands that are deliberately angling away from this gender-biased notion, but for the most part modern fashion has a long way to go to [rightfully] bridge the gap. The men of our species do love colour, that is no word of a lie. They are surrounded by it.
So why then, do we insist on reserving bright colours and the array of styles for females? Why is there even a gendered label on clothing at all? These are questions that, though they may be near impossible to adequately answer, deserve solutions now (or yesterday, or the day before that, or the year before that, and so on). The fashion industry has come a long way, making positive changes all the time. Gender-biased fashion must be the next big change. We live in a world that strives to realign with complete inclusivity, and fashion must be top of the list when it comes to wrongs to right. And hopefully, the day comes when the men’s section in any clothing brand carry the same array of colours and various styles.