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All parents were once nudists

March 15, 2013

I do feel sorry for parents who have to dress their children…. I don’t know what I meant by that. I suppose nudists have that particular part covered (so to speak), but then again they have difficulties you and I wouldn’t know the first thing about. That’s just assuming you are not a nudist, since I know I’m not. Whilst it’s perfectly fine for me to be sitting here in my pyjamas typing to you, there’s something a tad odd about the idea of you sitting there reading it, butt naked on a beach somewhere.

It must seem alien, in a time when you can walk around with your trousers hanging off your bum, that there still be a concept of rules in fashion. People of a certain age must just think that anything goes, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Being responsible for the dressing of other, smaller peoples must be like a nightmare come true.

You can go one of two ways with clothing children; pay attention to fashions and spend half your life following them, or get on with your life and do as you will. The problem with the latter is that it usually renders bad results for the children.

When you’re a kid you have no choices – firstly because you are given no choice and secondly because you wouldn’t know what to do with one if it was offered to you – so for five or six golden years, you are crawling around in pink bonnets or little white cardigans with cutesy cats in pretty bows on the front and none of your friends say a thing because they’re all dressed in equally ridiculous garments. This is presumably because parents, being the odd creatures they are, think this array of hideousness is somehow cute.

Then, one day, that sort of thing just isn’t cricket any more. It has to be jeans or death. Designer jeans or death. Exactly the right shade of blue. Matched with a T-shirt. That fits perfectly. And isn’t too bold. No frills. And certainly not second hand. That poses a problem for people living normal existences where children tear clothes and chew the buttons off of shirts for no apparent reason.

So parents buy less and less appealing clothes, often because those are the cheapest. Some of us made it all the way up until preteens without ever mentioning to them that lilac tracksuit bottoms were not made for anyone except 1980s middle-aged, slightly overweight American women practising aerobics alone in front of the television. Parents are still in control of the buying choices of kids like us and very much have their own ideas about what the word “sensible” means.

This is why, anywhere on the space-time continuum, human children will always sport gigantic school rucksacks which are big enough to hold the individual carrying them, which is just as well, since he will almost certainly want to hide in it after a few short weeks at any secondary school. This bag may also have more pockets than Hagrid’s coat and be lit up with a merry chain of Christmas lights and birthday badges.

It’s funny, because to me, “sensible” does not involve sending children into a den of the most malevolent creatures known to man dressed in items of clothing that make the blandest individual stick out like a sore thumb (this being said in a country where school uniforms are the standard order). At the best of times you would be amazed what does stick out – apparently, royal blue football socks are significantly different to navy blue football socks.

There are some things, though, that are obvious. As far as coats are concerned, let’s not pretend that anyone has ever thought that fluorescent orange is an acceptable colour to wear while traveling in the daytime with both feet firmly on the ground and moving at the speed of a typical teenage shuffle. Just because buttons have fallen off certain shirts, that is not good reason to replace them with giant safety pins designed for nappies, or one extremely conspicuous brown button that fell off an old tartan dress at a jumble sale.

I think parents sometimes make the mistake of thinking children appreciate their individuality, or like a nice variety of clothes. Well, no. Until they can pick their own clothes for their own developed tastes, what they ideally want is a row of six pairs of plain blue or black jeans appropriate for their sex and the same deal for shirts. If you don’t understand brands or don’t want to buy into them, fair enough – plainer is better anyway, since brands go in and out but plain is always, quite indisputably, plain. It would take the most creative bully in the world to find fault in the most timeless, featureless set of clothes imaginable. The best way is get a bunch of those kinds of things that fit well and, if they came from charity or Asda, lie about their origin.

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From → British Culture

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