What clothes makes your teen feel more comfortable? Is it also jeans and flip-flops?
What clothes makes your teen feel more comfortable? Is it also jeans and flip-flops?

I attended the obligatory annual piano recital for my eighth-grade daughter last night.  It’s a gala occasion held at a church with about 50 or so people in attendance.  Amidst the food and congratulations that followed, a fellow mom came up to me and said, “I’m glad to see my daughter is not the only one in jeans, but at least I got her into shoes.”  (The last part was a veiled—or actually not so veiled– reference to my kid’s flip flops.)  “Maybe someday,” she continued, “I’ll get mine out of that darn blue jacket.”  It’s true, her daughter always wears jeans and the same blue Abercrombie & Fitch jacket everywhere, no matter the season or occasion, just like my daughter always wears jeans and flip flops, no matter the season or occasion.

The sad thing is that until she mentioned it, I hadn’t realized that our two stood apart from the other 25 adorably and fashionably dressed girls.  My standards for nice dress (also known as church clothes in our family) have dipped so low, that I now considered my daughter dressed up when she’s wearing her brown pants, instead of blue jeans, and her church flip flops.  Yes, she has a pair for dress occasions; and yes, they are almost identical to the other Old Navy flip flops she wears everyday, but cleaner—I hope.  And for those of you who are blessedly ignorant about Old Navy flip flops, they are identical to the ones you grew up wearing from Wal-Mart and similarly priced, but come in a rainbow assortment of colors.  We own enough colors that my daughter can coordinate her flip flops with her outfits.  Now, how’s that for fashionable.

This is my fourth child, or more to the point, my fourth teen.  I’m one of the BTDT (been there, done that) crowd, and I understand the progression from security blanket to security clothes.  My daughter feels secure in pants, cute shirt with a cami underneath (no matter how hot it is outside or how little flesh the shirt shows), and of course, flip flops.  My friend’s daughter’s security is her blue jacket and jeans.  As I chatted with my friend reassuring her that her daughter would someday outgrow the need for the blue jacket, or at the very least outgrow the jacket, I smugly (and silently) congratulated myself on keeping clothes in perspective.  As I inwardly smiled at the wisdom gained over four children, my eyes fell on my high school aged son, and I had to restrain myself from going over and pulling up his jeans.  His security, I’m sad to say, comes from very baggy jeans worn with way too much boxer (and not infrequently a little crack when he bends way over) showing.  It drives me nuts!

I would have voted for Obama anyway, but he won me over completely when he said his message for the brothers of America was to “Pull up your pants!”  I even stooped so low during the election to tell my boy that since he couldn’t vote for Obama, the least he could do for him was cover his butt.  Honestly, I saw enough of it when he was a baby, and that was when it was cute.

But even though I don’t like his choice of clothes, when I’m not so consumed with irritation, I realize that they offer him the security of the crowd.  I’ve seen this need in varying degrees with all my children.  I’ve also noticed that the more confident the child, the less the need for security clothing.  One son, who was born self assured, only briefly went through a stage in middle school of wanting to dress like everyone else.  In high school he often shopped at K-Mart and thrift stores by his choosing.  When I offered to buy him something at a more fashionable store, he said that it didn’t matter where the clothes were from–fashion came from the inside.  If you felt cool, you were cool.  Wise words, but not everyone, and very few teens, can pull it off.

I know the flip flops and low slung jeans are part of trying to figure out who they are.  They make my kids feel secure and offer them invisibility in the crowd while they are in the process.  I look forward to the day when they don’t need these trappings to feel secure, but I don’t think there is anything I can do to speed it up.  In the meantime, I’ll periodically buy fresh flip flops and try really really hard not to aim for the wedgie when I yank up those ridiculous looking jeans.


Image credit: Jo and Paul’s pics