My 8-year-old son, Holt, is obsessed with fashion and style. I’ve never seen such a fashion meltdown, like I did earlier this week when my son was acting like he was model Linda Evangelista who famously uttered one of the most memorable quotes in the history of fashion that, “We have this saying, Christy Turlington and I… we don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.”
Well, change that word from “day,” to “school day” and meet my son Holt, who, earlier this week, had a meltdown of epic proportions, refusing to leave the house to go to school, because of his mask. No, it wasn’t because he hates wearing masks. He just hated the mask I had given him to replace his most favourite mask, which was entirely black and featured two eyeballs, that he had lost.
“I don’t like any of these masks,” he cried as hard as I had ever seen him, in his entire 8 years of life. “I want the ones with the eyeballs! That one is so cool! I hate these ones!”
My son plopped himself down on the floor in the hallways and refused to budge. I begged. Then I yelled. Then I screamed. Then I threatened to take away his iPad for three days. Then I tried to bribe him, with my hoarse voice after so much yelling over his crying, “You can order anything you want off Amazon under $30 if you get up and go to school now!” Not even that worked. Apparently the 15 other masks that have been purchased for him weren’t up to par in his fashion mind.
A little background about Holt: By the age of three, he was already picking out his own outfits, dressing in hoodies and long basketball shorts, always picking out funky socks to match his outfits. He loves to layer, dressing in a cool t-shirt over a long-sleeved shirt. He loves wearing colours that work well, like purple and gold, or orange and blue. He owns more hoodies than Drake and more basketball jerseys and matching long shorts than an entire team of basketball players.
At 8, he is also obsessed with the status of his hair, always asking to try a new hairstyle, usually based on a sports hero. He is just as obsessed with footwear, like Carrie Bradshaw in a Sex and the City episode, who admitted she had more than 400 pairs of shoes.
I, too, over the last five years, have spent so much money on expensive haircuts and shoes, usually from Nike, including one incredibly funky pair, where one shoe is red and the other is blue. This is what happens when you say, “Which pair do like the most?” Of course my stylish and fashion-forward-obsessed-with-clothes-son always picks out the most stylish pair, which also usually happens to be the most expensive pair.
But never did I imagine that retail therapy with my 8-year-old son would be something we would bond over. I always imagined that my now teenage daughter and I would bond over clothes and fashion, spending afternoons together shopping at malls and having lunch. I’m not saying it’s the only reason I was thrilled to have a daughter, but it is certainly one reason that many women crave a daughter so badly, so we can play dress-up, propping our adorable baby girls up on a couch, dressed as if they were heading off to their first debutante balls —lots of ruffles, lots of lace, lots of adorable flower headbands.
But, nope. I may probably be the only mother who had to plead with my daughter, when she was around my son’s age, to shorten her school uniform skirts. Before the start of each school year, I would beg, “Please, Rowan, let me get your skirts hemmed. I’m begging you! Just to the middle of the knee!” It was all for naught. From pre-school up until Grade 10, my now almost 17-year-old daughter insisted her school skirt be no higher than shin level.
Coupled with the thick grey uniform leggings, my daughter looked like she was going on a field trip to Pioneer Village to churn butter, five days a week, for years. My daughter also refuses to get her ears pierced, grow her hair longer than her neck, and in her 17 years, we have never spent an afternoon shopping for clothes.
Although she does have a ton of fashionable clothes, from Holt Renfrew or Nordstrom’s, I still have to ask, “Can you at least run a brush through your hair?” almost every time we leave the house. But now I have my son to fill the years I missed bonding with my daughter shopping. Who would have thought this? (My daughter really doesn’t give a shit about clothes, always preferring some sort of adrenaline-inducing experience for us to do instead.)
Thanks to COVID, there aren’t too many options for mom-and-son activities that align with my comfort level in being public spaces. It was also getting costly ordering him clothes online, as he stood beside me screaming, “I like that one! No, that one! And I like that one! And that one. Can we order them all? Please, please, please, please?”
And that’s how I found myself at Walmart a couple of weeks ago with my son, on a mother/son bonding outing. There is no Walmart less than a 40-minute drive away from where we live, but I thought, “This could kill a few hours!” I also thought, “And he can pick out a ton of clothes! Walmart’s cheap!” And that’s exactly what we did.
As my daughter stayed home studying (snooze) I stood back and watched my 8-year-old son go, thoughtfully, through every aisle of the boy’s section, taking his damn time, thinking, “Did he just see an ad in GQ or something?” He not only looked at all the clothes, he felt the material. Since every item he put into our cart cost between $9 to $25, I let him go on a shopping spree. We spent at least 45 minutes in the boy’s section, and walked out with 5 hoodies, a fabulous bright orange fall jacket, three matching sweat outfits that even I thought were pretty fashionable, and a camouflage long-sleeve shirt and matching flip flops. He was so into shopping for clothes, he didn’t even want to go to the toy section.
We had such a fabulous time. I can see many of these “bonding” retail outings with my son in the future.
Interestingly, there’s not much out there about boys who are into fashion. When you google it, hundreds of stories come up, with headlines like, “My son wants to wear dresses,” Or, “Is it okay to let my son wear dresses?”
My son has never asked me to wear a dress. He would be repulsed if I asked him to try one on! He’s just a pint-size metrosexual (do we still use that word?) He knows that wearing a funky pair of striped socks, to grade three, elevates his style and, no joke, at age 8, he’s as dapper with his clothes and hair as David Beckham, often wearing sunglasses and beaded bracelets to accessorize (although I don’t think my son knows what “accessorize” means.)
I did finally find a funny article titled “My Son Is a Fashionista & We Have Outfit Battles Daily.” This mother also happens to be a fashion editor and writes, “My son is a fashionista. Or has the term fashinoisto been coined yet? Whatever the correct term may be, my son is very particular about what he wears.” Unlike this fashion editor, however, she encourages her son to wear what she thinks is fashionable and wants a say on what he wears, unlike me who knows my son will come down, having dressed himself already, looking as if he has his own personal stylist hiding under his bed (I should look!)
“God forbid I suggest a white tee right now,” this writer adds. “He hisses that it is autumn, how can I expect him to wear white during the darker seasons? Who taught him to say this? Have I created a style monster?…Where is my power? It is stuck somewhere between letting my boy be true to who he is and my natural instinct to say ‘I’m sorry sweetie, but monochromatic green is just not your color.’” She delicately makes suggestions and uses reverse psychology to get the end result to be exactly what she wanted her son to wear all along. “I know,” she writes, “I am a horrible person.”
Meh. I love shopping for clothes with my son. It truly is a bonding experience. But now I have to run out, to buy my son a handful of new funky masks. He refuses to attend grade fucking three without a mask that doesn’t match his outfit.