Today, parents aren’t just faced with a dividing line across colors, but a whole parade of animal mascots that are similarly separated by gender. Girls get bunnies, butterflies, and unicorns. Boys get dinosaurs, sharks, and bears. Girls get T-shirt slogans about sweetness, cupcakes, daydreams, and best friends. Boys have clothing emblazoned with text and imagery related to champions, airplanes, superheroes, and toughness. The ability to determine a baby’s sex before birth, a facet of prenatal care that’s only been routine in the Western world since the 1970s, has exacerbated these divisions. These days, it’s fashionable for many parents to hold “gender reveal” parties in which they announce the baby’s sex, long before he or she is born.FEATURED VIDEO
While little girls are often at the center of backlash against gender-oriented marketing, little boys also face real constraints, but they tend to get less attention. That’s part of why Hartman, of Jessy & Jack and Free to Be Kids, makes T-shirts that say “Love is my Superpower,” and “Kind Like Daddy”—meant to be worn by everyone, but designed with boys in mind.
It’s difficult to overstate the cultural power that clothing wields. What a person wears isn’t just seen as a reflection of their style and values, but a window into that person’s identity. For children in particular, the link between what you wear and who you are is especially strong.