Jack Buckley Ford is only four, yet he has everything a boy could wish for. Doting parents, endless toys, several homes, fabulous holidays, stellar friends and a lifetime supply of Percy Pigs, a sweet to which his dad is particularly partial. But there is one thing that Jack Buckley Ford does not have, and that is freedom – the freedom to wear his favourite little pair of light-up dinosaur shoes.
“What does Dada say about the dinosaur shoes?” “They’re tacky”. “And when are we allowed to wear them?” “On weekends.” So quoth Jack’s dad, Tom Ford, in a recent interview, explaining what happens when Jack tries to wear the hapless shoes to school.
I realise that at this point, I am supposed to send Tom Ford to the naughty step, where he will sit, chastened, while I lecture him on the psychological harm he may be doing to his beloved boy. Jack is not, after all, Naomi Campbell. He is not being sent down a catwalk while the fashion corps takes careful notes about the cut of his trousers. He’s a kid. And kids should do kid things, and wear kid things while they are doing them. Like light-up dinosaur shoes.
Manners maketh the man, not Bonpoint smocks and Boden cardies – those just single us out as having a certain sort of taste, and the money to fund it
But that would be disingenuous, seeing as in the past, I’ve been guilty of exerting a similar form of wardrobe control over my own kids. I don’t like light-up shoes either: if I had the choice, it would be brown desert boots and Saltwater sandals all the way. Sure, when someone gave my youngest a Frozen top, I let her wear it. But only to bed. The kitschness of Hello Kitty I can live with: fuchsia leggings with purple hearts on, not so much. Hearts, rhinestones, garish flowers, gratuitous embroidery and anything made out of fleece = bleurgh.
I know my kids aren’t dress-up dolls: they are two girls with their own free will. As someone with a controlling mother, I also know how important it is to let them be themselves, sartorially or otherwise. I remember being in my mid-twenties and my mother lambasting me for wearing ankle socks (“surely you’re too old for those now”). It was quite funny at the time, but also bloody annoying, which is why I try to curb my own controlling nature. My younger daughter, 6, has a truly minging pair of leggings – one leg is spotty, the other stripy, with ruched ankles and a cat’s face printed on each knee. I’d love to incinerate them, but I let her wear them. And then I walk ten feet behind her, so no one knows we’re related. (Joke.)
Judging by the tasteful greige tones on all the other kids I see, I’m far from alone in my controlling tendencies. The Wardrobe Police (Junior Division) are everywhere, not just chez Ford in Mayfair. Why do we do it? Is it that more women are having kids later on in life, when we have more disposable income to dress them how we want to? Are we being swayed by celebrities, who latched on years ago to the idea of kids as brand extensions? Is social media to blame, with its attendant pressures on every part of your life being curated and gorgeous? Or are we just shallow, vain and permanently anxious that our kids reflect well on us as parents?
Manners maketh the man, not Bonpoint smocks and Boden cardies – those just single us out as having a certain sort of taste, and the money to fund it. Parents should never feel betrayed when a child becomes his or her own person. Children will always become their own people: parents are just there to help them. Which is why this Christmas, I’m going to let my kids run amok in all their tinselly, glittery, heinous Santa-jumpered glory. Although the light-up shoes are still a no-no.