Mamma, can you write about my Crocs, oh-please-please?” came the most unusual request from my son one morning this week. I say unusual because my little tyke, a sometime newspaper reader, is no fan of this column.
Conversations about my writing over the past year go like this: “What did you write about today?” I reply. And I get one of only two responses: “What’s the point?” and “So boring!”
I am a well-known loather of Crocs. Ever so often I have younger mothers greet me at restaurants with “We love your column, but why do you hate Crocs so much?” They’re plain ugly, why else?
But since I am of the vintage when what my child thinks of me matters more than much else — Crocs has come out with a FIFA World Cup range to cash in on the frenzy. The clogs now come in the colours of the competing teams’ flags and are set to be all the rage among Croc-wearers. My son’s picked England and is most excited about being the first among his friends to have a pair.
This is an interesting week. The boy’s just finished a birthday party. It was Michael Jackson-themed where he instructed everyone to wear black or white. His cash gifts (courtesy Indian grandmothers’ enveloping habits) took us on few mall-trawls. Shopping with him has shown me things I hadn’t yet noticed.
Firstly, all kids have strong fashion tastes. Girls who are fashion victims of pink-purple Disney princesses obviously do. As do boys who gravitate between numbered hoodies and a neat checks shirt. Kids know what they love, even if no one else approves.
A protective parent has a natural instinct to overpower their choices so as to not make them look silly. But I’ve learned that allowing them a bit of their own experimenting gives them comfort and confidence. I’ve loathed my son wearing a T-shirt under a button-open shirt, but it’s his favourite look. I’ve even succumbed to buying him Crocs.
While everyone will love Suri Cruise and Harper Beckham’s high-fashion wardrobe, I reserve a loud cheer for Angelina Jolie whose daughter Shiloh likes boy’s clothes. And for Nils Pickert, a writer from Germany who took to wearing skirts because his young son wanted to dress like his older sister.
Motherhood changes your own wardrobe too. I’m not one of those mothers who are proud to wear short-and-tight anything to prove to the world they’ve still got it. I’m hoping my wardrobe choices have grown up with me. I’m loving the elegance of maxi dresses and full skirts.
The white-shirt-black-pants staple takes me through 8 am PTAs to a working day to an after-hours drink. My handbag has more crayons than lipstick, but I’ve begun to rely on a little black bobby-pin to roll up my hair into a ladylike up-do when occasion demands.
Just like us, children’s tastes and choices evolve from the sublime to the ridiculous to something that’s just about okay. But clothes are not uniform social constructs. Fashion is nothing if it doesn’t tell you something about the wearer’s personality and mood.
Quirky is welcome and inventive is always good. Individuality is the germ of newness and conformity is simply dumb. Even if it takes an eight-year-old’s fashion sense to tell you this, these are life’s valuable lessons.