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Gender-Neutral Clothes Are Great But Where Are The ‘Cute’ Boys’ Clothes?

Jan 24, 2018

The first several years of my daughter’s life, I railed against the obscene amount of pink, sparkly clothing marketed to girls. I didn’t have a problem with the colour pink, generally, but I hated that it was such a dominant colour for girls. 

The absence of pink options in boys’ clothing only perpetuates the myth that parents need to buy their sons boy-ish clothing

Thankfully, I found stores that offered other options — brown shirts, grey cardigans, black winter boots. I gathered them all and gratefully dressed my daughter in them, with occasional pops of colour and sparkle and cute characters.

When I found out I was pregnant with a boy, I assumed some things would be easier. There would be no pressure to wear dresses (or not), accessorize or style his hair. Shopping seemed like it would be straightforward — it would be pants and shirts or sweaters. And, since I wasn’t picky, I was perfectly happy to pass along any of the neutral-looking clothing that was left over from my daughter.


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In fact, the older my son got, the more willing I was to put him in whatever fit that was already in our house, and that I therefore didn’t have to spend money on. I began to feel oddly defensive, though, after taking my new son to visit a friend one day. It was getting chilly and I was planning to wear him in a carrier, so I decided to put some baby leg warmers on him that used to be his big sister’s. They were mostly white, but had a smattering of purple and pink hearts as well. It didn’t bother me in the least, so I didn’t think twice about it.

Even images like rainbows or lollipops are never found on boys’ shirts. Why?

When I arrived, it was the first thing my friend noticed. She scoffed at my reasoning — that he was six months old and didn’t care either way — and told me that if I didn’t get him a pair of leg warmers that were more boy-ish, then she would get them herself.

I continue to pass along girls’ clothes to my son whenever I can, and sometimes that means he wears pink running shoes with sparkles (my daughter begged for them) or pastel rainbow mittens or something with a character seemingly deemed “for girls.” What I simply cannot understand is why these types of clothing — these fun, vibrant, funky clothing articles — are almost completely lacking in the boys’ section of any clothing store I’ve visited.


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I’m not talking about plaid shirts with a stripe of pink in them; I mean pink monsters or cars or some glimmer or shine. Even images like rainbows or lollipops are never found on boys’ shirts. Why?

[My friend] told me that if I didn’t get [my son] a pair of leg warmers that were more boy-ish, then she would get them herself.

There’s been a fair bit of progress in recent years, as far as girls’ clothing is concerned. You see more statements about being smart than about shopping on shirts, and even in the girliest of stores you’ll find a wide array of colours that aren’t pink. The boys’ department of any clothing store is rife with gender stereotypes, however. My son adores trucks and dinosaurs, but he also happens to love dancing, and his favourite colour is purple. And some sparkle never hurt an outfit.

Gender-neutral clothes are a wonderful thing, obviously. But the absence of pink options in boys’ clothing only perpetuates the myth that parents need to buy their sons boy-ish clothing while their daughters get the more neutral styles. If you’ve ever met a little boy who doesn’t like rainbows or ice cream cones, or would prefer a truck over a lollipop, let me know. He clearly hasn’t tried the right lollipop.

Article Author Glynis Ratcliffe
Glynis Ratcliffe

Glynis Ratcliffe used to be an opera singer, but after her daughter begged her to stop singing and be quiet for the millionth time, she decided to use her inside voice and write instead. Two years later, this mom of three writes regularly about parenting and mental health for online publications like Scary Mommy, BLUNTmoms, Romper, YMC and The Washington Post, as well copywriting, editing and ghostwriting for anchor clients in various industries. Find her on Facebook, Twitter as @operagirl and her blog, The Joy of Cooking (for Little Assholes).

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