Kids clothing is a hot topic, and I’m not talking about that goth/punk store in the mall. With young kids rapidly outgrowing last year’s everything, parents are pretty much constantly shopping for new clothes to outfit their tykes, big and little. An increasing number of kids are disillusioned with the gender stereotypes supported by major clothing labels for kids—robots and superheroes for boys, unicorns and flowers for girls—and some entrepreneurial parents are fighting back by launching their own lines of clothes for youngsters that bust stale gender norms wide open and allow kids simply to be who they are.
Finding a pink shirt for your son to rock shouldn’t be a big deal, according to a growing class of parents who don’t want their children to suffocate under the weight of strict gender-based stereotypes. Clothing design is an issue that spans well beyond blue vs. pink, but as one of the most visible indicators of gender, especially for young kids, clothing is the battleground on which the next gender equity war will be fought.
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With a growing community of literal mom-and-pop clothing shops, kids are starting to have some unique options. Among the emerging clothing lines, founded by parents who have been inspired by their own children, there are a few shining stars worth watching.
Handsome in Pink is a brand for boys and girls that seeks to combat the gender/color associations that are the most troubling. HIP also has some cool motto shirts to empower girls, like “Forget Princess, Call me President” which comes in a variety of color combinations.
buddingSTEM is a Kickstarter-funded venture set to launch later this month, with science and technology-themed clothing for girls that isn’t just stylish, but is designed to allow girls to run and climb freely – something lots of “girl” clothes just don’t do.
Princess Awesome is a hotly anticipated brand that has already garnered a ton of media attention, since they raised over $20,000 with their crowdfunding campaign. Their sciencey-yet-girly designs rely on cool prints like rainbow-hued Pi symbols, a charming “She-Rex” dino, and a cute floral design with hidden ninjas.
Quirkie Kids is a brand with a very specific mission: take back pink! They offer pink T-shirts for boys and girls, as well as shirts in a variety of other colors, all with gender-inclusive themes like space, skulls, dinosaurs, and cute animals.
This goes well beyond an attempt at making it socially acceptable for a boy to wear pink or for a girl to have a rocket ship on her shirt. From an early age, societal norms tell children what they can and cannot do, based on their gender. Because clothing is such an outward representation of gender, it’s troubling for kids to grow up in a world with such a strong binary divide. These parent-founded companies are raising awareness and offering alternatives to fill a demand in the market, which is an amazing feat. However, offering pink shirts for boys and dino-themed gear for girls doesn’t entirely solve the problem. Although it directly attacks color/gender relationships by targeting specific colors and objects, this approach still emphasizes that girls and boys aren’t the same. And, alternatives like this don’t even begin to address issues that children with non-binary gender identities face. That makes us wonder why we have to have “boys’ clothes” and “girls’ clothes” at all. Can’t we just have clothing for kids?
Images via buddingSTEM, Handsome in Pink, and Princess Awesome