I grew up poor, and at a very inconvenient time fashion-wise. You see, I come from the era of preppy, the land of Izod polo shirts and flat front chinos. This was the uniform of choice for my popular, well-to-do classmates and everyone sort of followed their lead.
When your single mom is struggling to put food on the table and trying to keep the 20 year-old family car running, it’s hard to successfully argue that a fuchsia Izod polo shirt was a necessity.
But it was.
Sixth grade was a social and cultural turning point for me; a time when the social hierarchy was becoming firmly defined and any tags (i.e. loser, geek, popular) would most likely stick heading into high school. High stakes…and not a good time to be caught in a knock-off.
Cash-strapped as we were, it was hard to scrounge up enough money for the fancy clothes and shoes (L.L. Bean moccasins with the leather laces curled), but I managed to acquire four coveted pieces for my preppy wardrobe: light beige khakis, dark beige khakis, a navy Izod polo and a pink Izod polo.
For the duration of sixth grade my fashion strategy entailed finding new and different ways to mix and match my paltry cool clothes. Pink + light beige one day, Navy + light beige the next. I flew under the radar for the first half of the year, blending in (or so I thought) with the other fashion icons…
That is, until I got called out.
By the uber-popular rich girl (her dad was an orthodontist!)…
…who must have had about 1,000 different Izod shirts (I never saw the same one twice).
There I sat one day in class, blissfully unaware of the whispers and stares, focusing on a bit of schoolwork. Suddenly, Ms. Uber-Popular My-Cup-Runneth-Over-With-Izod-Shirts Rich Girl approaches, stands defiantly over me and declares (with a self-satisfied smirk), “You wore that shirt yesterday. And those pants. Do you, like, have more than one shirt?”
You know the rest. Sixth grade = purgatory from that point on.
Flash forward to today. We’re pretty stable financially, doing OK with the mortgage and getting the car payments in on time. The kids are needing of nothing, but wanting of much. When my girls ask for certain luxuries (i.e. a pair of Toms or an iPhone), my knee-jerk reaction is always the same: what in the world does a [insert age here] year-old need with an iPhone/pair of tall UGGs/Abercrombie parka? I sit comfortably in my bubble of parental self-righteousness, aghast that my children believe they’re entitled to such things.
Then I remember Ms. Uber-Popular Rich Girl.
The pressure of fitting in sometimes (always) includes wearing/carrying the coolest, latest ‘it’ thing. In our day those Izod shirts represented something more than just the newest fashion fad. They gave us status, allowed us to fit in and blend with our surroundings, which is especially important in middle school. The last thing anyone wants to do in that h*llhole is stand out. Standing out invites scrutiny. Scrutiny can sometimes bring on that conspicuous feeling of being different, strange or – gasp – geeky.
While I remain skeptical that a child needs $300 boots to get through middle school, there is a part of me – the scrawny, two-shirts-and-two-pants-owning poor kid – that understands their plight. Their iPhones and UGG boots are my Izods and Chinos. I get it.
Knowing all of this, what can a budget-conscious parent do? We want our kids to fit in and sail through those tough middle school years, but enabling the million dollar wardrobe to facilitate it seems like overkill (and assaults my common-sense approach to parenting).
How about this: let’s start an underground grass-roots campaign to make Garanimals cool again. After one music video (featuring Taylor Swift in a Tiger set of matched top and bottom) and a quick $50 trip to Sears, we can sit back, relax and enjoy the ‘fashion’ frenzy…and buy some UGGs for ourselves with the savings!
Anyone know how to get in touch with TS’s agent?