More Than One Message
MORE THAN ONE MESSAGE
by Walt Mueller
*This article originally appeared in Living With Teenagers magazine
It’s summertime. And in case you haven’t noticed, our kids are wearing our clothes. . . . at least some of our clothes. If you’re a parent of teens, chances are you’re a baby-boomer like me. There’s also a good chance that your kids, like mine, are wearing those retro-style T-shirts that bring back memories of our teenage years. . . . specifically those 1970's summers filled with styles we’d rather soon forget! Yes, popular teen apparel spots like American Eagle Outfitters and Abercrombie and Fitch have been selling our kids our t-shirts for the last several months and they’re snatching them up like crazy.
The new versions of our old clothes are very similar to the styles of thirty years ago. They are fairly snug fitting. The sleeves can be long or short. The preferred colors are pastel shades, but brighter colors aren’t off limits. Faux logos are standard fare. They are usually stamped on the front of the shirt and they feature fonts, characitures, and sayings that elicit nostalgic memories of our own teen years. They might feature an ad for a summer vacation or camp destination. Perhaps they advertise a neighborhood gathering place, social event or food. Messages about the wearer or to those looking at the shirt are not uncommon. And while the shirts are big sellers among both genders, they’re most popular among teenage and pre-teen girls.
While each shirt is unique, there’s a common thread that some of us older folk might miss if we aren’t paying close attention. Many of these “new old” shirts are loaded with double-meaning. The second meanings are usually sexually charged or suggestive. A recent scan of the A&F and AEO websites yielded the following examples that just scratch the surface:
“Tenacious Tina Burlesque Review” (American Eagle Outfitters)
“Get Shucked” (American Eagle Outfitters)
“Tired of the same old? Need a stud?” (American Eagle Outfitters)
“The Torpedo’s and Dick’s Anatomy” (American Eagle Outfitters)
“Kiss My Sash Beauty Pageant” (American Eagle Outfitters)
“I got an A+ in French” (American Eagle Outfitters)
“Fanny’’s Full Moon Lounge: Dance Your Booty Off” (Abercrombie)
“There’’s no place like Honeysuckle Pond to take a dip.” (Abercrombie)
“I lit Jack’’s lantern.” (Abercrombie)
“Always welcome at the No-Tel Hotel: See Frank for magic fingers.” (Abercrombie)
“Famous Squeaky Springs Cabins” (Abercrombie)
“Camp Big Bare” (Abercrombie)
“Apple Bobbing Contest in the buff: How about them apples?” (Abercrombie)
“The Eager Beaver Lounge” (Abercrombie)
Is this trend a passing fad? Or is it indicative of deeper issues and shifts in today’s emerging youth culture? Here are some of my thoughts on what these shirts can tell us about our culture and our kids.
First, modesty is no longer a virtue. Clothing styles have long been a matter of concern. The decline in modesty has left kids oblivious and shameless as they are more and more willing to expose every nook and cranny of their bodies - either by leaving them uncovered or covered too tightly. But the evidence of immodesty is no longer proven just by the clothes on the kids. Now, it’s the messages on the kids’ clothes.
Second, the popularity of the shirts among pre-teens is alarming. The fact that acceptance of negative sexual messages and the willingness to find it all funny before they reach the teen years is sad. It is evidence of the power of marketing and peer influence to sell not just product, but a worldview. Sure, there are those younger kids who don’t have a clue what they’re wearing. But sadly, the truly naive are few and far between.
Third, don’t look for the trend to end anytime soon. Already, a look at teen clothing indicates that the not-so-subtle messages are expanding beyond t-shirts to the once-hidden world of underwear. Major retailers are now selling girls’ panties with similarly suggestive messages.
Fourth, while the fashion statements are cause enough for parental concern, we must be addressing the underlying attitudes and issues. Sure, we must screen our teens’ clothing and say “no” to those garments that are inappropriate. But don’t count it as a victory if all you’ve done is kept your kids from wearing the messages. Their initial willingness to wear those clothes should drive us to address the root values that have led them to believe the messages or to fail to see them as inconsistent with Christian faith.
Love, modeling, discussion, and prayer should combine in a strategy God will use to change the heart first. Then, we can rejoice when those changed hearts decide it’s time to change shirts!
The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding grants permission for this article to be copied in its entirety, provided the copies are distributed free of charge and the copies indicate the source as the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. For more information on resources to help you understand today's rapidly changing youth culture, contact the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. ©2004, The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding
The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding grants permission for this article to be copied in its entirety, provided the copies are distributed free of charge and the copies indicate the source as the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding.
For more information on resources to help you understand today's rapidly changing youth culture, contact the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding.
©2004, The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding