Parenting tips: Let your kids experiment with style, fashion

When I was a graduate student at Florida State University, I worked late nights in the documents department in the library, where I met a number of smart, beautiful women who utilized the extensive microfilm collection.

One evening, I happened to be sporting a shiny, dark blue Adidas sweat suit with a white mock turtleneck and white sneakers when a particularly attractive woman approached, eyeing me from head to toe. I proceeded to accost her with some witty line, but before I could respond, she flatly stated that I did not match.

As the son of a professional visual artist who takes great pride in my ability to coordinate color schemes, I was stunned.

"I do match," I said defensively.

However, she pointed out that although I had an admittedly nice Adidas sweat suit, it did not match my Nike sneakers. She was serious, and the encounter spiraled into a vapid discussion about clothes.

Now, my 8- and 11-year-old sons are at the point where they must match not only color schemes but logos as well.

I am proud that my sons care about how they look, but I don't want them to become obsessed with trivial fashion pursuits.

However, I do want them to know how to dress appropriately for the right occasion.

My grandfather owned his own barbershop, cut hair for more than 50 years and wore a shirt and tie to work every day. I grew up wearing a suit to church like my father every Sunday.

However, times change and my oldest son often prefers a more casual look for church. My youngest son not only wants to wear a suit, but he wants to have a pen in his shirt to emulate his father.

Nevertheless, both of my sons are neat young men who care how they look, but as a parent, I must recognize that they have their own, distinctive styles.

For example, my oldest son likes to wear his hair neat but longer. I prefer a shorter cut, even though I once had the coolest high-top fade this side of the '80s version of Will Smith.

I remember my mother saying on the way to hear the symphony one evening that I looked like Frankenstein. But my father seemed to understand my swag. He looked at my mom and said, "Honey, I hate to see grown men look ridiculous because their mothers never let them experiment as a kid."

As I watch my sons come into their own, I must thank my father and my wife for reminding me to let our kids grow up and establish their own definition of style while offering our guidance and creating some boundaries along the way.

Keith Berry is a married father of two who lives in the Westchase area.

Parenting tips: Let your kids experiment with style, fashion 09/11/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 4:36pm]

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