Hand-me-down clothes & the needs of the second son

A package should arrive tomorrow full of new school clothes for my boys.

This is a pretty common purchase in middle class America in August. Back to school shopping is a tradition. Certainly I grew up with a replenished wardrobe every year at this time, ready to show up in a new classroom sporting unblemished shoes and a fresh favorite outfit. My brother also met September with new sneakers and the latest cool t-shirts in his closet. My mother took meticulous care of our appearances.

But I didn’t follow in my mother’s footsteps. I’m no match for her as a housekeeper, and I didn’t take my kids to the mall for the annual sales. I just replaced what was worn out or outgrown. Usually that meant almost every purchase was destined for DS1, who’s older by several years and has been consistently bigger at similar ages.

This year, I’ve done something a little different in my shopping. Ten of the 15 items in the package are for DS2.

Wardrobe for boy

New clothes for DS2 . One pair of jeans came from a local store, hence 11 items.

He’s the second son.

He has grown up wearing his brother’s hand-me-down clothes.

I thought I should offer him more this year, and here’s why. Continue reading

Men, consider trying a tunic or dress before you fall for the romper trend

Rompers—or, the specifically male garment being promoted on KickStarter as the RompHim™— should not become the next hot trend in men’s clothing. Elle magazine posits that I’m not accepting of this trend because of my underlying sexism.

Am I disturbed by men in traditionally feminine clothing?

Nope. Quite the opposite. I believe in function first for clothing.

Some of humanity’s first articles of clothing were tunics, clearly the precursor to the modern dress. These are clothes for “humans,” not for men or for women specifically. They do a great job of protecting sensitive skin from sun exposure, and they simply and serviceably provide as much modesty as one prefers.

playful boy tunic

Put a baby boy in a tunic, and he’ll just keep playing like a comfortable little boy

Kilts predate miniskirts, and were designed for men when women wouldn’t dare to show so much leg. And that beachwear? Does the bottom really need to be called “bikini,” or is it just a reinvention of the loincloth?

Dating back to my teenage discussions of school dress codes, I have always advocated that the only fair policy allows all students access to all pieces of the accepted uniform, including girls in pants and boys in skirts. Anything else is inherently unfair.

Our noun, uniform, obviously relates to the adjective and its definition of “sameness.” Where there is no practical reason discernible for variations, it’s fair to assume they are derived from social constructs of questionable value. Next, ask the question: do we need to differentiate this piece of kit for males or females?

If the article of clothing doesn’t specifically encase a body part (brassieres and athletic cups being the obvious examples), I personally reject any notion that the object is sex-specific.

People should wear clothing that suits their need for comfort and personal expression within social standards for professionalism, modesty, and hygiene. Let the naturists bare their skin in accepting company. But please, if nudity is allowed by law, include a provision for mandatory towels on shared seating surfaces…

The man isn’t the problem; the romper creates problems

My problem isn’t with the man in the romper. I object to the wearing of a romper by  adults who have productive work to do. They are fiddly garments to manage in public life.

I speak from experience. I bought a chambray romper in the 1980’s, when I was a young teen. Wearing it generated more thinking about what I was wearing, allowing less time for useful activity. I thought it was cute, but it wasn’t very practical.

Fashion isn’t inherently a bad thing, but most of us have to balance style with getting things done. Most of us should be thinking about more than how we’re wearing our clothes.

A Kardashian or fashion model has time to wear a romper. All that’s required of these professions is showing off the garments worn, presumably generating interest in the consuming masses.

James Bond/Sean Connery wearing a romper (Goldfinger, 1964) in his down time also seems reasonable. We all know his romper’s going to come off the minute the Bond Girl walks in. (You can see Connery sporting his baby blue knit romper with gold belt buckle in the Elle article I mentioned in paragraph one.)

But rompers are ill-suited for people who need to, say, take care of their own bodily functions in public restrooms. They  actually present less challenge to men than women in this regard, because many men don’t fully remove their lower garments to urinate.

A man who never needs to defecate, however, doesn’t need a romper; he needs a doctor! Does any man really want to wear clothes that will have to come all the way off—or puddle in their entirety on that dubiously mopped subway station floor—in order to take care of his necessary business?

baby doll diaper

Rompers for baby

Without snaps at the crotch, a romper is an impractical garment. With snaps at the crotch, the degree of infantility becomes creepy. Tear-away clothes should remain the province of strippers. A snap-crotch should be ensconced beneath another layer of clothing, like on a bodysuit, lest a wardrobe malfunction make one the next viral video sensation.

“Whoops! There go my romper’s crotch snaps!”

It sounds like something former congressman Anthony Weiner would do. No one wants to be that guy.

Rompers, jumpsuits, and coveralls share similar traits. There’s a reason they are best suited as over-layers to protect regular clothing beneath, removed once the messy work is done. They also have a place as specialty garments like spacesuits (with toilet built in!) or formal wear (which isn’t designed to be practical anyway.)

Try a dress before you buy a romper

Men, if you want the freedom of a garment that extends from shoulder to hemline, consider just wearing a dress. Call it a tunic if you don’t think men should wear dresses. You can buy one for a lot less than $119 (RompHim™ suggested retail) and you’ll have more fabric options.

Romper man mayhem sketch

Make sure a romper fits this crucial measurement

As most women have discovered for themselves, if your thighs rub or you want more coverage, it is far more comfortable to wear leggings or fitted shorts beneath a dress than to bind up the skirt of one’s dress into a romper. Be aware: the crotch length on a romper is often not quite a perfect fit for one’s body, so you might feel an annoying seam in a sensitive place. Ouch!

It isn’t a sharing of our feminine freedom to make men discover these romper facts for themselves. Women who’ve worn them are being selfish by not sharing the reality with men considering buying them. Or, maybe, a lot of women do find this idea funny, because of sexism or a bit of cruelty.

There’s a reason romper trends in women’s fashion drift in and then go away. Wearing a romper is inconvenient, and they aren’t really cute enough to make up for it.

If rompers were so great, they would remain popular over time, like wearing pants. Surely everyone can agree that women, once “allowed” to wear trousers, have never shown the slightest inclination to give up these most practical garments.

Supporting men in their desire to wear rompers feels to me like convincing men they should try pantyhose. That would be mean, because pantyhose suck. They’re expensive and disposable, because they run (develop holes) with normal use; they don’t breathe so they’re unhealthy for your body; and they can be downright painful to pull on.

Gentlemen, I support your right to wear a romper, but I sincerely hope you’ll try a nice, sensible dress first, for your own sake.