Parents of boys, think twice before you throw khakis and jeans into your shopping carts during back-to-school shopping. Ask yourself: Will your sons really wear them?
If you have a son who protests any kind of pants or shorts with a snap, clasp, or button and prefers the words "elastic," "pull-on," or "soft," you are not alone... and according to anecdotal evidence from other moms, he's not likely to change.
While these days it's not unusual for a child of either gender to demand soft pants, as the New York Times noted last year, the boy backlash against jeans is remarkable because for so many years, jeans were synonymous with boyhood. "While some girls also eschew jeans, it is a particularly comic phenomenon that part of a generation of boys — reared by dads raised in Sears Toughskins and in an era in which tightly woven Carhartts became a fashion trend — won’t do denim," writer Dionne Searcey said.
Alex Techet, the mom of 2-year-old triplets in Newton, Massachusetts, told TODAY Parents that her son Henry has worn his soft, red pants — "the same two pairs!" — since March of last year. "It is all he will wear," she said. "They are RED FLEECE — thick fleece. He wore them in the Fourth of July parade. He wore them to the splash park. He wore them to the playground countless times in 85-plus degree weather. He wears them to church every Sunday. They are his everyday pants, his dress-up pants, his get-dirty-in-the-mud pants."
Though Henry prefers those specific pants, Techet has been able to convince him to wear just one other item of clothing on his legs: his sister's red watermelon leggings, also very soft.
Leggings are becoming the answer for other moms too. "My boys love 'cozy' pants," said Tamara Reese, a mom of four, including three boys, in Cleveland, Ohio. "My guys are skinny, and we have a hard time finding slim 'cozies,' so my 3-year old rocks him some neutral leggings."
As boys grow older, they don't necessarily change their sartorial minds when it comes to choosing soft pants or elastic waists. But instead of fleece or leggings, many older boys choose silky athletic shorts or sweatpants as daily wear. "My 8-year-old will ONLY wear soft pants too. He won't let a button or a zipper anywhere near him!" said Rebecca Whalen of Noblesville, Indiana.
"The only time my 15-year-old son wears long pants is for baseball or for some sort of costume — and the shorts he favors are those slippery basketball ones. We are cleaning out his closet after a growth spurt — anyone want some pristine jeans?" said Michaele Kashgarian of Livermore, California.
What is it with boys and soft pants? It's as simple as it sounds, TODAY Tastemaker and child development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa told TODAY Parents. "For most boys, this is solely a comfort issue," she said. "Why worry about fashion — or even pockets — when you can wear clothes that feel like pajamas all day?"
But parents do worry about what to dress their opinionated sons in when it comes to dressing up for nicer events where sweatpants won't fly, like a wedding. Leigh Rawdon, a mom of two young boys herself and co-founder of Tea Collection, a clothing brand for children, notes that Tea's selection of tailored-but-soft knit pants for both boys and girls was a sort of happy accident.
"I'm not sure we even knew how brilliant it would be to make a knit pant that looked great for school or parties or Grandma visits but was also extra-comfortable for picky kids — especially boys," Rawdon told TODAY Parents. "But we hit the bull's-eye. We have sold more of these pants than we could count."
And though it can be frustrating to watch brand-new jeans gather dust in their sons' closets, it should not be hard for moms to understand why boys love soft pants so much. As Whalen said, "I figure it's just like me and my love of yoga pants!"