In March, Vogue published an article titled “Do Seoul’s Toddlers Have the World’s Most Stylish Hair?” that featured nine street style photographs of the three-feet-and-under set snapped during fashion week. Their hair (pigtails, fauxhawks, an abridged Bieber coif) struck me less than what they were wearing (leather jackets, dandy suits, crop tops). If you squinted at the screen hard enough, warping the scale, any one of these outfits could have easily been worn by a human four times their age. It was too on-trend, too hip, too… totally devoid of the mismatched, misshapen messiness that is practically a rite of passage for kids. When you start off with Givenchy at age 4, what on earth is there to look forward to?
Today, with the steady stream of social media noise and chronic oversharing, the pressure to keep up with the Joneses and their prematurely fashionable brood is stronger than ever. Where two decades ago, parents could get away with slapping some Russell Athletics on their kid and calling it a day, these days, even the smallest embarrassment is one that can be amplified beyond the scope of the schoolyard. The same goes for showing off. It’s no longer a matter of one-upping the other parents in your kid’s classroom; it’s about using your child as a proxy to broadcast your good and/or expensive taste to an ever-rapt and envious number of strangers on Instagram. The result is an increasingly large demographic of parents and children with distorted notions of what normal dressing means at a certain age.
If you want to search for the pinnacle of this phenomenon, look no further than North West, famed progeny of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. North is a child who has been camera-ready since birth, and she has a closet that would be the envy of any adult. She has pink fur, black fur, and cheetah-print fur. There are moto jackets, gold chains, and custom Balmain. She is a darling little thing, and the irrational part of me surface-level-delights at the sight of her. But I have to wonder how dressing children like this at such a young age, before they can even comprehend the value of what they’re wearing, will impact them later on. More important, will it hinder their ability to relate to less fashionably dressed children? The lesson of the haves and the have-nots is one that comes soon enough. Introducing the concept before a toddler can even string three sentences together seems pretty extreme.
Though money and means obviously play a part in this story, they’re far from everything. There are plenty of understated options for the well-heeled and their flock. The importance, whether it’s Kmart or Kenzo, is that the kids still look like kids. In my research for this piece, I fell in love with the children of menswear designer Robert Geller and showroom owner Ana Beatriz Lerario. Though far from social media megastars, this couple clearly understands fashion and design. Geller, for his part, worked with Marc Jacobs before helping Alexandre Plokhov launch the cult-favorite (and since shuttered) Cloak. Before opening her showroom, Lerario was a designer in her own right, and pretty much the Brazilian equivalent of Jackie O. Chic as both are—and they are very chic—their kids do not come across as egregious, striving extensions of their tastemaking selves. No one is wearing baby Céline or leather leggings. Tiger shirts and ice cream cones take center stage. You know, youth.
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Obviously, the way parents raise and dress their children is their own business. I understand the desire to give your kids everything you can in life. But perhaps—at least when it comes to clothes and luxury items—there is such a thing as too much, too soon. We have our whole adult lives to be preoccupied with how we look and how we are perceived by the outside world. Childhood has long remained a bastion of freedom and naïveté to both the exciting and exhausting things that await, fashion included. Children already grow up too soon. They don’t need our help in speeding up the process.
Do you think kids should be dressing in designer goods before they can drive? We’d love to hear your thoughts!