This post was originally written in 2011 to point out the stereotypes evident in boys’ clothing. Sadly, much of it still applies today.
Continuing with my discussion of boys’ clothing, I turn now to the brat stereotype, which appears as a theme in boys’ clothing just as often as the warrior I talked about in my previous post.
To find examples of the brat, I ventured out, notebook in hand, to my local Zellers department store. I found t-shirts for school-aged boys with expressions like:
- “Video games all night, sleep in class all day. “
- “I’m busy this week so I can’t do my homework,” accompanied by the image of a calendar with items like “play video games,” “annoy my sister,” “watch TV,” and “rock out to music” listed as alternatives to school work.
- “It’s all fun and games until: my homework ate my dog; it’s time to do my homework; aliens destroy my video games; the power goes out when I’m winning in video games.”
For boys aged three to six, Zellers offers such sentiments as: “Mom’s little monster” accompanied by a picture of a T-Rex, and “Danger—Next Tantrum in 00:05 seconds”.
Other retailers also promote the idea that boys are prone to bad behaviour.
For boys as young as six months old, we have this gem from The Children’s Place. (So nice to outfit your sweet baby boy with an image of the devil in hell.)
The devil makes another appearance in a boys’ shirt from the same retailer.
Zellers also uses the devil-with-a-fork motif in a shirt that says: “I tried to be good but I got bored.”
Baby boys can also be identified as “Super Serious Big Time Trouble” with this shirt, available in infant and toddler sizes, also at The Children’s Place.
The idea of boys as hellions is also seen at Old Navy, in this shirt for babies and toddlers.
Boys can also express their disdain for school in this shirt from Old Navy, featuring Snoopy.
For school-aged boys, there is the implication, from The Children’s Place, that boys are hard to control.
For the record, I tried to find shirts with similar messaging in the girls’ department of various retailers, but there were none to be found.
In an earlier post I talked about associative memory. Given the kinds of images on these shirts (and the warrior shirts highlighted in my previous post) and the fact that they appear only on boys’ clothing, I have to ask, what kinds of associative memories are boys forming from clothes like these?
Fashions like these dovetail perfectly with the messages delivered by film, television, books, and toy advertising, telling boys on the one hand that aggression and toughness are cool and, on the other, that rowdiness and bad behaviour are funny and even expected from boys.
There are other shirts available to boys—some are unadorned and others include imagery of sports—but negative stereotypes are becoming more common in boys’ clothing, certainly in the past eight years since my older son was born.
Surely we can offer more for our boys than these negative stereotypes.