Call Me Crazy, but I Think Little Boys Belong in Suits

little boy in a suit
The author's son Blaise, age 7

It started at Easter. I'd always been particular about my kids' clothes, but I was especially particular about Easter, when -- because we live in the South -- all three of my boys must wear seersucker suits. Not jackets -- full suits. This was no problem for my 5- and 7-year-olds, both of whom had a seersucker that fit. But neither had ever worn a size 3T on Easters past, so there was nothing to hand down to the baby. Nada. Zip. I started Interneting, and I found a suit that wasn't just seersucker but Eton -- you know, the jacket-and-shorts-with-kneesocks combo Prince George rocks so hard? And that's where it all began.

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I didn't tell my husband, who might have objected to my purchasing the suit on the grounds of money, affectation, and general formality. Instead, I just bought the damn thing, which came with a sweet little peter-pan collared shirt. I bought socks. I bought shoes. And on Easter morning, I kitted my 3-year-old, Sunny, out, adding a pink bow tie that matched his brothers', and thought: Oh my gosh, that's the cutest thing I've ever seen. Then, suddenly: I need more of these things.

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My husband admitted the cuteness. But he rolled his eyes all the same. He thought it was a one-time thing.

He was wrong.

Luckily, eBay and Etsy were there to provide. Because other than, like, two companies with exorbitant prices, no one makes Eton suits anymore. I found a brand-new green one on sale for $35, and began snapping up teensy collarless jackets from the '50s, '60s, and '70s. I decided my 6-year-old was young enough for these shenanigans if he wore a regular dress shirt instead of a rounded peter pan collar like Sunny. And with the babies dressed up, the 7-year-old obviously needed some three-piece suits -- not just for special occasions like Easter, but every Sunday.

If I were a #girlmom, no one would think twice about this. I could get obsessed with expensive little dresses and accessorize them all with giant bows and gloves and handbags and shoes. I'm personally friends with at least two women who own closets and closets full of tiny bubble dresses and accessories to match every single one. Girl moms do things like this all the time.

But if you're a boy mom, you're supposed to stuff your son into a cheap, scratchy suit, clip on a hideous tie, and cram on some shoes that may actually be sneakers. Better yet, put him in a polo and cargo khakis, and forget about it. Anything else smacks of the effeminate or the straight-out weird, right? Wrong.


The author's son Sunny, age 3
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When I walk into church every Sunday, people nearly fall out of their pews staring and cooing. "They. Are. So. CUTE!" a woman in the choir squeals every single weekend. Older people, in particular, love the kids dressed up like it's 1958. They stare at them, and cluck over their outfits, and ask where in God's name did I get hold of these things?

Dressing them every Sunday has become an Event. I decide what they will wear earlier in the week, down to their bow ties and suspenders. On Saturday, after the farmers' market, I iron three tiny shirts, three jackets, two pairs of shorts, a pair of pants, a vest, and possibly a tie or pocket square. This takes over an hour. I actually find it soothing.

I drape everything on teensy hangers, then lay out shoes, socks, bow ties, and suspenders -- all chosen to match their jackets. I know, I sound obsessive. But if I were ironing dresses, setting out hair bows and tights and kitten heels, then selecting from a nearly identical collection of ornate white cardigans, no one would think I was anything but normal. 

Sunny hates bow ties and generally throws a screaming fit when I try to put one on, which affords me ample opportunity to wrestle on his socks and shoes. I clip on the tie even though he objects, because he doesn’t mind after five minutes, and because it's integral to his outfit. And because, mostly, he's mad the bow tie isn't yellow. The other two are more staid -- I'd say resigned -- until they're dressed and told they're cute. Then they perk up and grin and pose. My oldest says he likes dressing in a three-piece suit. "It honors God," he told me solemnly when I asked. My middle son says he likes the Eton suits because "they're slippery." I have no idea what that means. The 3-year-old, when asked, informed me that "Me like it."

My husband is ambivalent. He was perfectly happy to tote our kids to Mass in standard-issue khakis, horrible ties, and sneakers. Even that could seem overboard to him: Polos and khaki shorts -- cargo shorts -- looked fine. We're Catholic. We're not known for our sartorial flair. He also recently began objecting to the sum of money I spend on tiny vests and jackets. "Don't they have enough?" he complains. I have been issued a strict moratorium on the purchase of suspenders and bow ties. 

But I'll dress them this way for as long as I can. Blaise is in three-piece suits until he goes to college or I go broke buying them. My tiny 6-year-old has another few months before he'll transition to suits himself. The 3-year-old has a good two or three years in Eton suits, depending on how quickly he grows.

If one of my boys protests strenuously and wants to look like his peers, we'll have an honest, sit-down talk. I don't want my sons to feel like freaks. I want them to feel adorable, cute, and special. I want them to learn how to dress differently, but with flair.

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