4-year-old boy outgrows girly clothes

My Little Boy is Outgrowing Hearts and Rainbows, writes Stephanie Kaloi on The Good Men Project. It was “fun” for her to dress her preschooler in “bright colors” and  what she considers gender-neutral clothing, Kaloi writes. It was “half a political stance and half a frustration with how despondently boring I find most boy’s clothing.”

Granted, my son has worn his fair share of puff sleeves and rainbows, but MOST of his clothing has been boy-leaning, with a dash of glitter on a sleeve.

Boy-leaning with glitter? I don’t think so.

. . .  I was leafing through the racks of a local Goodwill when I saw it: a bright pink sweater covered with multi-colored hearts. I swooned, smiled, and then stopped: Was this too girly?


Now, 4, her son wants to look like a boy. Kaloi will let him, though she seems to be hoping he’ll turn out to be gay so they can have more fun with glitter.  “I suppose this is all part of realizing my kid is getting older, but there’s a real part of me that mourns the loss of freedom in clothing, however temporary it may be,” writes Kaloi.

“Whose ‘freedom’ would that be?” asks Amy Alkon, the Advice Goddess. The “nitwit mom” doesn’t mention Daddy, Alkon adds. The little boy’s only male role models seem to be his preschool buddies.

A commenter known as Conan the Grammarian asks the relevant question: “Did she have a child or a doll?”

About Joanne


  1. D's Squirrel Food says:

    There is nothing in that article that states or implies she hopes her son will be gay.

    • D's Squirrel Food says:

      The nitwit advice columnist also can’t be assed to find out if there are any male role models (like a father, which there is) in the child’s life before assuming they are absent.

      It is a shame that there isn’t more gender neutral clothing available. What Ms. Kaloi considers gender-neutral does appear to be feminine-coded. I guess white, brown, grey, orange, and green just don’t sell.

  2. It’s interesting that she says “even though the kids range between 3 ½ and 5, they still notice this kind of thing.” She doesn’t seem to realize that this is the exact age that they are going to worry about it most. Preschoolers are working very hard at figuring out gender–am I a boy or a girl? What makes us different? What does a boy or a girl do? If I do boy stuff will I accidentally change into a boy? Oh no, I’d better stick with the rules!

    It seems that preschoolers absorb the ‘rules’ and then apply them with great enthusiasm. They will turn their observations into rules (my daughter refused to believe that a boy swim teacher could do the job, for example, because she hadn’t had a boy in her only previous session of classes). They relax later on when they figure out that they can’t accidentally change and that lots of things are for boys AND girls.

    “Pink & Blue” by Jo. B. Paoletti is a very interesting new book on the subject.

  3. Good grief– when my son was 3, he wouldn’t even wear pink socks. Even if they would be entirely covered by his boots, were the only clean pair in his size (two big sisters and a mom who falls behind on laundry), and we’d see no people on our walk, and we were running late.

    I’m shocked that her son went along with her as long as he did? Maybe his dad leaving left him insecure, so that he’d go to great lengths to earn her approval? Because, in my experience, once pre-schoolers hit the “I am a boy” or “I am a girl” stage, they’re…very picky…. about things that reinforce their gender identity….

    • I know how it works. When my two youngest were toddlers, I bought each of them a washable wool blanket – not much color choice so one pink and one blue. My daughter (~ 15 mo) firmly attached herself to the blue one – and her brother (young 3) wouldn’t even touch the pink one – let alone sleep under it.

      • I should have added that boys seem to reject girly colors/styles more than girls reject boy’s stuff – at least, my daughter did. She wore all her brothers’ hand-me-downs with no problem – but I did choose pink/girl stuff when I bought new.

        • I think it’s because, really, girls can get away with wearing anything. A girl in jeans is ‘a girl in neutral clothes,’ A boy in a skirt and leggings is weird…

        • Oh, I often put my girls into ‘boy’ toddler clothes when they were small–but very often, the boy clothes were just plain. There were denim shorts with ruffles and plain denim shorts, for example, and I preferred plain. I was always annoyed at the ‘girl’ play clothes for being so inappropriate for actual play. But I’m not sure how my girls would have reacted to shirts with skateboarders on them as opposed to just plain colored shirts. Having grown up in the more neutrally-dressed early 80’s, when *everyone* was wearing bright colors and denim, I was taken aback at the strongly gendered clothing of today. And the girly stuff was so often so sleazy and horrible! I’m not a fan of all pink and glitter all the time–but small children are very concerned about gender and putting a 4yo boy into a sweater with pink hearts on it (which is ugly btw!) is a bad idea.

          • Crimson Wife says:

            My 4 y.o. DD appropriated her big brother’s robot shirt (he’s only 1 size bigger than her at this point). She does like frilly girly stuff, too (yesterday I was looking for some leggings for my oldest and youngest DD kept asking for “cute ___”). There is definitely more flexibility in dressing girls.

        • My daughter is the same way but *she* is aghast at the idea of a boy wearing pink / frilly things. So my experience is that both boys and girls rejects boys wearing girly stuff.

  4. “In”/fashionable colors change over time and with geographic area, too. At least in the DC area, in the mid-late 80s (IIRC), pastel colors were very “in” for boys; OP shorts and pastel polos, including pale pink, were everywhere and I remember the pink shirts continued to be “in” when my guys were in HS. Guys on the soccer team wore dress shirts and ties on game days and there were always at least a couple of pink or pink-striped shirts, often combined with Madras or flowered ties. That ended, in the DC area, before my youngest son was affected, but he went to college in the south, where pale pink and pale yellow polos and oxford shirts were definitely part of the Southern culture.

    • If you have to dress in office attire, women generally have more fashion choices then men do. Having a lot of dress shirts, I have some in pink, fuchsia, purple, gold, light and dark gray, black, green, etc. Materials run the gamut from cotton, polyester, silk, etc…

      I guess if I wear pink or fuchsia it makes me less able to do my job (not) 😛