You know how, when you go shopping with a kid, they always wander off and then crop back up with something in hand and a pleading expression plastered across their face? That is Girl Child’s special M.O. So it came as no surprise last weekend when she sauntered over with a screen printed T-shirt dangling from her arm that I “had to see.” It was who was on the t-shirt that raised my eyebrow. It was Marilyn Monroe.
Now mind you, this Marilyn Monroe fanaticism is new. And it wouldn’t have bothered me as much if it wasn’t based solely on the way the woman looked. If she could name a movie, rattle off some facts, imitate her breathy version of the president’s happy birthday salute, I’d be a little more on board with her newfound fan status.
I think, whether you’re an adult or a kid, if you’re going to wear someone or something or even some saying slathered across your chest in billboard-style fashion, you need to know who or what that person or thing or saying stands for. Who are they? Why were they popular? And how come people want to wear him or her or it or them across the front of their bodies?
It hasn’t just been Marilyn, though. Several weeks earlier, she found me in an aisle at Target, a Beatles T-shirt swinging in her hand.
“Uh huh. Name me three Beatles songs,” I asked, acknowledging the shirt but looking really skeptical.
“Awww,” she smiled, knowing full well she couldn’t come close to an answer. “I like the shirt. It looks vintage.” She wasn’t expecting a pop history quiz to determine her purchase. She should know her mama better than that, though.
What you won’t do, I told her, is have an appreciation for things that look vintage without actually liking and knowing the inspiration behind them. As a general rule, you should never wear anything on your person that you couldn’t talk intelligently about if some inquisitive stranger walked up to you and asked you a question or made a general remark.
I remember when Che Guevera shirts were all hip, and people who I was pretty sure were hearing his name for the first time in their lives were rocking his face like it was born to be a fashion statement. Eventually, he got a shout-out in a Jay-Z lyric, but that still didn’t spark a stampede to local libraries or the internet to find out more about Che the man. Folks were happy to wear their little trendy Guevera tees with blissful know-nothingness.
But I couldn’t let The Girl be one of them. There are history lessons even, much to her chagrin, in fashion. To her credit, she has shown more than a growing tolerance for black and white movies (which I love) and old, grainy-sounding tracks—I play a lot of John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, and old school R&B, even though some of it is way before my mother’s time, much less mine. But I’m proud she’s at least showing an interest in the greats of yesteryear, even if that interest had to be sparked by a Target t-shirt.
Do your kids have a taste for vintage?
Image via jasminast/Flickr