By: Kerstin Shamberg
Where can you find a shirt for a little boy with a unicorn on it? Answer: You can’t.
Four years after moms Rebecca Melsky and Eva St. Clair launched Princess Awesome to bust gender stereotypes, giving girls clothing options that honor the full range of girls’ interests – trains, dragons, math, and more – they’re tackling the other side of the children’s clothing store with Boy Wonder, a line for boys.
“My son always tells people his favorite color is ‘rainbow.’ But shirts with rainbows or even just bright colors are only in the girls’ section,” co-founder and Princess Awesome Chief Creative Officer Eva St. Clair said. “As a parent, I think it’s important for his development to encourage him to embrace what he loves rather than force him into a narrow definition of masculinity.”
With five sons between them, St. Clair and Melsky are well-acquainted with what boys want to wear and the range of topics they’re interested in. “My son loves to play tea party and make-believe games with his sister. He loves cats and looking for rainbows after a storm. I’ve never met a boy who doesn’t like those things,” Melsky notes. “Those are things all kids love. They should be on all kids’ clothes.”
Melsky and St. Clair collected survey responses from over 4,500 parents, asking what their boys like to wear, and what they currently cannot find for them. Many parents want clothing that helps communicate to their sons that their gender does not limit their interests. As Dr. Christia Brown, a professor of child psychology and the author of Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue, explains, “The ripple effects of this can be profound: a boy who is affirmed and allowed to be his authentic, unique self grows up to be a man who is comfortable expressing himself, who can embrace those interests and traits that make him unique. Allowing young boys to embrace a variety of interests helps them grow up to be happier, healthier adults.”
This style of parenting is a strong counter to the cultural pressure of toxic masculinity – suppressing emotion and eschewing anything considered feminine (and therefore weak and inferior). Rather than pushing them away from what has been viewed as traditionally feminine, these parents are encouraging their sons to take a view that those things are compatible with – indeed, a desirable part of – having a male identity. “Boy Wonder directly supports this sea of change,” said co-founder Rebecca Melsky, “The clothing communicates to everyone who sees boys wearing it that all the colors and all the topics are for both boys and girls. It’s a completely different message from mainstream gendered clothing that relies on stereotypes.”
Boy Wonder will begin production with a line of seven shirts and two pairs of pants that will include colors and themes currently lacking in the boys’ department: cats, unicorns, rainbows, pink, flamingoes, purple, and sparkles. Made of soft fabrics, with deep pockets and reinforced knees in the pants, the line is designed with active children in mind.
“When people see a girl wearing our dinosaur dress, they often ask her about her interest in dinosaurs,” Melsky notes, “and that subtly encourages the girl’s native interest in dinosaurs and science. Our hope is that when people see boys wearing pink and rainbows, the conversation for those boys will also change to one that affirms the broad range of boys’ interests – not only that they themselves find value in them, but that we adults do too – and chip away, just a little, at the societal norms that breed toxic masculinity.”
Pre-orders can be placed now at boy-wonder.com and the store officially opens in October 2019.