Stores push gender-neutral kids clothes, and parents are happy
More stores are offering gender-neutral kids clothes as a larger number of parents are requesting non-stereotype pants, t-shirts, and caps for their little ones.
Stores are now offering gender-neutral kids clothing, and some parents could not be happier. Many mothers like Kristin Higgins and Eva St. Clair were tired of buying pink clothes for girls and blue items for boys.
The pair were frustrated that they could not find clothes with Star Wars designs or with drawings of dinosaurs for girls or cute cats or with cupcakes for little boys.
The two women got together and launched Princess Awesome; the company makes graphic tees for girls with motifs such as cars, truck, trains, dinosaurs, ninjas, and planes. They are not alone. Martine Zoer, who could not find pink shirts for her son, founded the Seattle-based Quirkie Kids and was blasted with emails that read “boys should not wear pink as it would turn them gay,” but marched on with her company, which is now thriving.
The high demands of gender-neutral kids clothes are catching on. Some large retailers are adopting and hoping to cash in during the back-to-school shopping season. Lands’ End and Zara are offering clothes that suit both genders.
Courtney Hartman, who started the Seattle-based Jessy & Jack, said in a statement:
“There is really a sharp divide between what is considered girls’ stuff and what’s considered boys’ stuff…. we have a collection of unisex T-shirts for kids that have robots and dinosaurs, and Free to Be Kids, where a shirt with the slogan, “I’m a Cat Guy” comes in blue, gray and yellow.”
Experts weighed in on the trend. Jo B. Paoletti, a professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland and author of “Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls from the Boys in America,” said:
“I noticed it when buying clothing for my daughter, who was born in 1982, and my son, four years later. By the mid-1990s, pink-washing was widespread, even disposable diapers came in blue and pink. In part, manufacturers and marketers wanted to boost sales to American couples having fewer kids and parents were rebelling against the more unisex fashions like corduroy pants they grew up with. But the change is harmful.”
“It encourages very young children — as young as 2 — to judge and interact with others in highly stereotyped ways,” she said. “We know, based on nearly 50 years of social science research, that stereotyped thinking hurts all of us, whether we are dealing with racial, gender, or any other form of stereotype.”
While parents are happy to dress their children in unisex clothes, a good portion of children’s clothing buyers are grandparents, who tend to embrace more traditional ideas. The expert added:
“Once we get past the cultural discussion, that’s when you’ll see the (major) brands step out. No one wants to risk the chance of rocking the boat.”
Other companies that provide gender neutral clothes include Zara’s Ungendered clothing collection, which produces unisex T-shirts, sweatshirts, and jeans, and Primary that makes dresses, hoodies, and pants.