Monday, 10 October 2011

The strange taxonomy of children's clothes

Since having M I've become aware of a whole new area of children's clothing.  It's not the blue stuff, or the green stuff, or the brown stuff, although there's plenty of that.
No, it's the crabs, and the whales, and the bears, and the lions, and the tigers, and the snails...

Why?  Why don't these feature on my daughters' clothes? Well, obviously, I now realise, it's because they're boys' animals...

Before I had children I had no idea that animals were, or even could be, divided by gender (other than the obvious, is it a boy sheep or a girl sheep? sort of division).  But it turns out they can. Someone, somewhere, has sat down with a list of animals and, Noah-like, sorted them out.  The list probably looked something like this:

Boys' animals:
Reptiles and amphibians (all sorts), insects (all sorts except butterflies),  lions and tigers (but not, it appears, leopards), hedgehogs, alsatians but not most other dogs, crustacea (all sorts), bears, sharks and whales, aardvarks, dragons.

Girls animals:
Cats, rabbits, horses, most farmyard and domestic animals (though I remain uncertain about goats), all small rodents (except rats.  Rats don't seem to feature strongly on children's clothes of either gender); dalmatians, dachshunds and yorkshire terriers, butterflies, fish (other than sharks) but not crustacea, seahorses (do they go with horses or fish, do you think?), birds (all sorts except parrots), zebras, unicorns.

Parrots, giraffes and elephants, turtles and most Australian mammals appear to be unisex.

But honestly, who decides this stuff?  And what on earth are the rules?

ps The eagle-eyed among you may notice I've changed the title of this post.  I woke up this morning and decided it wasn't very me. Not sure if that's allowed, but I've done it anyway...


  1. I think there are 'rules' about which animals are for which gender but I am not sure if they are written down anywhere. Maybe in childrenswear style guides.

    As an illustrator I was always advised about certain things. Flowers could NEVER have sharp, pointed petals - as these would be seen as 'angry' and for cards and gift wrap DOGS DON'T SELL. That appeared to be the golden rule. I had to do cats morning, noon and night. And though it's not quite as prevalent today as it was 15 years ago, there are still an awful lot more cards out there with cats on compared to dogs. I can't remember anything else that stuck out.

    And you forgot ladybirds - def. girly. As it turns out I was just about to post especially for all the strange people who find my blog by Googling 'boys in tights' as Hamish has some new boys tights featuring bears, foxes and racoons. But I might hold off a bit and do a bit of investigation for you into this topic.

  2. True - all insects are boys other than butterflies and ladybirds (the clue is in the name, surely) and, now I think about it, dragonflies.

    But the illustration stuff is fascinating. I'd have thought, given that we are, allegedly, a nation of dog-lovers, dogs would sell. I wonder why they don't...

  3. Dinosaurs. They're for boys.

  4. True. Although my girls are quite into them at the moment and I am rapidly discovering that I don't know my compsognathus from my heterodontosaurus (although I can reach some conclusions about the latter's teeth).

  5. Hello again, I asked a couple of friends about this yesterday and both think they're are 'no rules' which surprised me. Both seemed to agree that the styling and colour of the motif can alter which gender it is for and gave examples with hedgehogs and so on but I remain unconvinced.

    One of them is a designer at Thierry Mugler and is looking at this more through a womenswear perspective where anything goes and gave examples of next Spring/Summer Prada collection which features a vintage car motif (which is quite pretty). My other friend is meeting with someone who works in childrenswear prediction next week and is going to ask her what she thinks.

    The only other conclusion I could come to is that animals are split into gender categories determined by their ferocity. Sharks - boys / dolphins - girls for example. And insects can be split by ickiness - worms and other things I don't want to touch can go on boys clothes, pretty things that I don't mind too much ladybirds, butterflies and the occasional buzzy bee (dragonfly at a push) are welcome on girls clothes.

    And now I need to stop thinking about this before my brain melts.

  6. Fiona - I am properly impressed by your dedication to the cause!

    I have to say I disagree with your friends. I simply can't see anyone putting a ladybird on a boy's t-shirt or a shark on a girl's. I think you're absolutely right about the ferocity, but I also think it's properly silly.... I might set up a campaign to have rottweilers on girl's clothes and bunny rabbits on boy's....

    Can I count on your vote?!

  7. The post is talking about cloths and brand name cloths.Thanks for this useful post.

    baby clothes online & shabbos robes


I know. I'm sorry. I hate these word recognition, are you a robot, guff things too, but having just got rid of a large number of ungrammatical and poorly spelt adverts for all sorts of things I don't want, and especially don't want on my blog, I'm hoping that this will mean that only lovely people, of the actually a person variety, will comment.

So please do. Comments are great...