SmackDown: Should Kids Wear Skinny Jeans?

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Should Kids Wear Skinny Jeans?

Are skinny jeans for kids a denim do or don't? Illustration by Christopher Healy

Skinny Jeans for Kids Aren't Cool.

by Amy Hatch

Last time I checked, my daughter's back-to-school shopping list didn't include "items that can help put her self-esteem in the basement," and that's why we'll skip the skinny jeans this year.

When I saw the Wall Street Journal story on skinny jeans for toddlers, I had that "smack the forehead" moment. The story even shows with a graphic how the jeans are designed to "closely mimic the shape and style" of their adult counterpart, the denim trend that has so many women squeezing themselves into a dark-wash sausage casing.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me first say that I am one of those women -- I own not one, but two pairs of skinny jeans. But here's the thing: I am a fully- grown woman who has had 39 years to grapple with -- and come to terms with -- the notion of her own body image.

I'm not a 5-year-old girl like my own daughter, who is not a stick-thin baby waif, but instead has a muscular physique. She's beautiful, healthy and strong, and -- for the moment, anyways -- blissfully unaware that the rest of the Western world sees her as flawed. Not to mention that I'm disinclined to dress her like a miniature hootchie mama. It's bad enough that I can barely find a pair of jeans for her that doesn't ride so low that her underwear shows.

Now, she also has to contend with the fact she already doesn't fit the societal label of "skinny."

According to the Media Research Network, the research group Anorexia Nervosa & Related Eating Disorders Inc. found that one out of every four college-age women has engaged in unhealthy methods of weight control, including skipping meals, excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, fasting and laxative abuse.

That number is staggeringly high. And now, we are starting even our toddlers off with the idea that they can -- and should -- sport the label of "skinny." The idea that they're just kids and that the message won't be absorbed is misguided at best and, at it's worst, dangerous. Any parent of a toddler can tell you that kids understand a lot more than we give them credit for.

And just why are we making clothing for little kids that mimics what adults wear? So often we bemoan the fact that our children, especially our girls, are growing up so much more quickly than ever before. We worry about teen sexuality, pregnancy and the objectification of our young women as nothing but sex objects, and then we set about creating a piece of clothing --for babies, no less -- that is designed for maximum sex appeal on adults.

We're hypocrites, too, pointing fingers at celebrity kids like Suri Cruise and her high heels, tsk-ing and judging her famous parents for decking her out like a miniature grown-up, and then we turn around and do the the exact same thing. The only difference is that we don't have to contend with the paparazzi.

Besides that, what ever happened to dressing kids like kids? I'm no puritan, and I love fashion-forward duds. I'm not advocating a return to Peter Pan collars and ankle-length skirts, but outfitting children in the exact image of adults and then expecting them not to adopt a precocious attitude makes no sense.

Recently, a major women's retailer was caught with their Photoshop showing, when an unedited image of a model showed up on their website next to the edited one. In the second, doctored photograph, the beautiful model's body was altered drastically to make her appear almost painfully thin. Women expressed their outrage over the image, taking the business to task for perpetuating the beauty myth in such a severe and obvious way.

Dressing babies and toddlers in skinny jeans does the exact same thing -- it sends a message, both to our children and to those who market to them -- that that you can never be too thin.

And that is just not cool.

Skinny Jeans Are Just Cute Jeans, People.

by Lesley Kennedy

I'm not gonna lie. I love shopping for my kids even more than I love shopping for myself. Cute headbands. Cute shoes. Cute dresses. Cute shorts. And, let's cut to the chase here: Cute skinny jeans.

Oh, I said it. Skinny jeans on kids are not too grown-up, they're not inappropriate and they don't send the wrong message. They're just cute. Like, really cute. And I'm not about to stop buying them because folks are balling their fists up and shaking them in air -- positively outraged that the popular denim trend has trickled its way down to the tot market.

"You're making 5-year-olds body-conscious!" they cry. "How dare you make my little girl worry about being skinny so soon!" they bemoan.

Please. My daughters, ages 5 and 3, are not concerned about their weight. They don't know what a diet is. They certainly aren't wondering if their butts look big when they pick out their clothes each morning. And let's talk about how "skinny" these jeans actually even are: I don't know about your kids, but slim-cut styles still hang off my girls and need to be belted to stay up most of the time.

My 5-year-old, a fashionista in training, goes from uber-girlie princess to copying iCarly to skateboard chic -- all in the course of one afternoon.

My 3-year-old? If it's not a dress, she won't wear it. But, occasionally, I'll convince her to wear pants underneath, and, seriously, if there's anything more adorable than a little girl wearing a dress over slim-cut jeans, I've yet to come across it.

You see, for kids, skinny jeans are simply jeans. They have absolutely nothing to do with sexiness or weight or body image, but everything to do with skateboard culture, comfort and -- yep -- looking cute.

And it's not just a girl thing. Skinny jeans are the must-have denim for boys today, too. But do you worry about boys becoming bulimic because of their jeans? No, you just send them off in their cool pants and Vans slip-ons and smile at their good fashion sense.

I think it's the name "skinny jeans" that gets people riled up. Thank goodness designers didn't decide to dub their latest versions of this style that's been around for decades "cigarette pants," as they were called when Audrey Hepburn and Sandra Dee wore them in the '50s and '60s -- can you imagine the outrage?

Because if it's not the name, shouldn't leggings stir up the same sort of anger? Did folks go crazy when girls started wearing them again in recent years with ... well, practically everything? They're certainly more form-fitting than skinny jeans, but they're totally accepted.

I bet if skinny jeans were called "skater jeans" people would see them for what they really are: slim-cut denim that's trendy and cool, super fun when done in bright colors and offered in a unisex silhouette.

When I see my kids in skinny jeans, I'm not thinking Lindsay Lohan -- I'm thinking Lindsey Vaughn. Skateboarders, BMX riders and other X-Games and Olympians have worn skinny jeans for years because, not only do they look good, they stretch and they are easy to move around in. Also, since they fit close to the body, there's no need to worry about baggy pants getting caught in spokes or wheels.

Fashion with function? Sounds like the perfect combo for kids' clothing to me.

Look, your daughter is not going to turn into Britney Spears just because she picks out a slim-cut pair of jeans. And, if you hate the trend, haven't you figured out that if you just sit back for five minutes, those five-sizes-too-big baggy jeans belted way down around the hips -- or, heaven forbid, the stonewashed pleated and tight-rolled styles I wore as a kid -- will soon be back in style?

Now, when that happens, you'll really have something to complain about.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.