BRINGING UP BABY - living - Trash talking tykes' T-shirts

Trash talking tykes' T-shirts

Raunchy messages on onesies, provocative outfits raise red flags

Aug 04, 2007 04:30 AM

Living Reporter

Beer-toting toddlers on YouTube.

Two-year-olds in string bikinis.

Baby boys sporting cotton shirts that tell the world they're a "Playground Pimp," "Bad Ass" or "Boob Man."

A new trend is rocking the cradle of civilization – and it involves the "adultification" of our tiniest, most impressionable citizenry.

Consider comedian Will Ferrell's blockbuster video on YouTube in which he casts Pearl, the 2-year-old daughter of his comedy partner Adam McKay, as a foul-mouthed, hard-nosed landlady, a boozy baby who berates Ferrell because he's late with the rent. In The Landlord, high-tech wizardry provides the baby with the voice of an infant and the vocabulary of a sailor.

Their second effort, Good Cop, Baby Cop, again features the pint-sized protagonist as a belligerent, hard-as-nails police interrogator who babbles a blue streak.

There's more.

The Internet is crawling with websites hawking baby clothing with similarly themed shock value. These companies are filling the market with T-shirts, bibs and sleepers that are sexually suggestive and, often, just plain rude.

Visit for some edgy baby wear with such expressions as "I Only Cry When Ugly People Hold Me" and "Boob Man."

Urban Smalls out of New York says it liberates youngsters from the confines of "cutesy" with clothing that shouts "I Party Naked."

And offers infants a voice with "My Mama Drinks Because I Cry," "He Thinks He's My Daddy" and "If You Think I'm a Mess You Should See My Daddy."

In Toronto, novelty T-shirt printing store Bang-On sells a selection of "edgy" baby clothes that are mostly purchased as gag shower gifts. A black sleeper for a newborn declares "The Condom Broke." A T-shirt reads in neon orange letters, "I'm a Breast Man." The "M" is drawn to resemble breasts.

Apart from all the naughty slogans, there's a lot of infant and toddler clothing, particularly for girls, that's remarkably risqué. Moms and dads are outfitting their children in such suggestive fashions as string bikinis, halter tops and microscopic booty shorts.

"GapKids recently featured a white, crocheted string bikini you'd likely see Anna Kournikova wearing on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue," Lisa Nicita wrote in the July 28 Arizona Republic. "The bikini was for a 12-month-old."

The Republic story prompted one blogger to ask, "Is this an exploitation of the Lolita-complex to the extreme?"

It's bad enough that tween girls want to dress like Britney, Paris and Lindsay. But when parents dress their infants in provocative clothing – that's scary, says Jennifer Johnson, a Toronto mother of a 4-year-old girl.

No 2-year-old is begging their mom and dad to buy them thong underwear.

"Too many parents are treating their children like accessories, like little dogs," Johnson says. As a wardrobe stylist for film, she sees bits and pieces of the trend in mainstream stores such as Wal-Mart and Zellers and in mall stores like La Senza Girl and Siblings.

Patricia Leavy, a sociology professor at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., agrees with Johnson that parents are responsible for this trend. "Parents are the gatekeeper," says Leavy, who specializes in pop culture and gender issues. She finds the trend obnoxious and attributes it to consumerism.

Young parents want to tell the world that even though they have embraced the responsibilities of parenting, they're still cool and maybe even a little rebellious. offers infant clothing with "I'm Your Twisted L'il Sister" and "Daddy's Little Metal Head."

Parents are wrong to think it's frivolous, Leavy says. She suggests the fashion and entertainment industries are complicit in their efforts to blur the lines between child and adult. Movies like Shrek and Ratatouille are adorable, but it's often hard to tell if they are for adults or for children. "The same thing is going on in fashion."

Leavy believes there are repercussions for the child.

She worries that very small children, particularly girls, will develop a taste for these kinds of clothes, that their sense of self-esteem will be wrapped up in the attention they get from dressing provocatively.

"They could get to the point where they only feel good about themselves when they get that kind of attention. The damage is cumulative. These kids start to focus too much on the external."

Her advice to parents: "Take pop culture seriously, particularly around what your child consumes. Children need to be taught how to read media."

And, finally, a simple rule of thumb: Don't dress your infant in slogans you wouldn't want them to actually say – assuming they could talk.

Would you really want your 2-year old to tell grandma he's a "Playground Pimp"?