Ladies with an attitude. Fellows that were in the mood. Don’t just stand there; let’s get to it. Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it. Midweek List. List. Oooh, you’ve got to let your words move with the music. Oooh, you’ve got to just let your grammar go with the flow. Ooooh, you’ve got to Vogue. Vogue. Vogue. Vogue. Vogue. Does this intro breach copyright rules in several countries around the world? Possibly, but provided the fine is under £5 it’ll be worth it, as manipulating Madonna’s words has unleashed my inner Gok Wan and got me in the mood to talk fashion, or more specifically baby clothes, sweetie.
Those sounds you can hear are my friends chortling and making comments like “ill-fitting shirts that haven’t been ironed”, “denim shorts”, “that monstrosity with the Japanese symbols”, and “boat shoes with a hole in them”. But let them laugh, because I’m not here to give you my unique slant on men’s fashion. So why on earth am I here then? Good question. I’m here to attempt to make your parenting life easier by running you through 13 things I’ve learned about baby clothes. Warning: contains mild poop references and bitching about the way my wife says Primark.
1. Socks with grips are far superior to socks without grips
If you don’t believe me; get two (preferably of your own) children and dress one of them in smooth-soled socks and the other one in sticky-soled socks. Done this? Great, now cajole them into embarking on a run over a safe and cushioned surface that includes at least one change of direction. Done that? The kid in the grippy socks fell less and finished first, didn’t they?
2. There are Clarks outlet stores
This is not a drill. Repeat: this is not a drill. Clarks Outlet stores do exist and what’s more they sell the shoes you spend £32 on every four weeks at around half that price. Our nearest parental saviour is in the Hatfield Galleria, but my old friend Google reliably informs me that these glorious establishments are dotted around the country in places like: Ashford, Birmingham, Blackpool, Dewsbury, Glasgow, Gloucester, Livingston and London.
3. Primark is heaven on earth for parents
Not when you are actually there, obviously. Along with your wife persistently calling the shop “Primarche”, the setting foot in the store part of the Primark shopping experience is a living hell. But when you escape from the scrambling masses, put your bags down, regain the feeling in your fingers and cast an eye over your prodigious haul, you soon realise that you’ve managed to buy 53 items for £90. The best thing about this exaggeration? It’s not an exaggeration. I’ll show you the receipt, if you like.
4. Go ballistic in the Next sale
The sun rises and the sun sets. The tide comes in and the tide goes out. My bubby demands to be let out of his high chair and then runs into his corner to poop. Christmas Day ends and the Next sale begins. In a world filled with uncertainty it’s important to know that some things never change, especially when those things allow you to dress your child in fairly trendy, nice-looking, half-priced clothes for 12 months. Key three words in that last sentence? For 12 months. I’m serious. If you’re not filling your basket with clothes that fit your kid’s current and future sizes, then you’re not doing the Next sale right.
5. It’s important to have a system
I used to think that shoving all the stuff my son had been given in larger clothes sizes on the top shelf of the wardrobe and hoping I remembered them when he got bigger was an effective system. Then came the great ‘Oh no, he’s too big for his incredibly cute shirt and bow tie combo’ incident. The gory details of said scene are far too disturbing to publish on a family website, but I can reveal that it involved tears, finger pointing, an unflattering comparison to an ignoramus and several hours spent making extremely sure that every item of my son’s clothing was divided by product type (e.g. cardigan), sorted by size and then stored in a specific place.
6. Grandparents love dungarees
So what’s the problem? The problem is that dungarees are really difficult to pair with patterned T-shirts. And the solution is to make sure you always have a decent number of plain or sparsely hooped T-shirts in his wardrobe. Simples.
7. Nurseries and child minders don’t like poppers
Our son’s nursery manager is relatively relaxed when it comes to rules. But there is one thing she won’t tolerate. And that thing is… trousers that feature the unfathomably small and devilishly difficult to do up buttons more commonly known as poppers. And do you know what? She’s not alone. Due to the fact they complicate nappy changes, these designs are barred by loads of child minders and nurseries. So there’s something to think about when splashing the cash on your son or daughter’s autumn/winter collection.
8. Hat sizes are random and difficult to judge
I’m not saying that buying a child a hat without having them try it on first is the more foolish than a foolish man eating a foolish pie bought from a foolish shop on a foolish street in a foolish town in a foolish country. But I do think it’s my civic duty to inform you that in the last five days my son has comfortably worn hats that say 3-6 months, 18-24 months and 2-3 years on the label.
9. Babies hate putting stuff over their heads
If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to make my son cry it’s attempting to extricate him from his grandparents’ house. If there’s a second thing that’s guaranteed to make my son cry it’s my wife going to work. And if there’s a third thing that’s guaranteed to make him cry it’s trying to pull or push a jumper over his head. I can’t do anything about problem one or two, but for problem three there’s Mastercard. Sorry, I meant to say hoodies and cardigans. Always, always shun jumpers for hoodies and cardigans.
10. Debenhams cater for slimmer babies
With one notable exception, our son fits into clothes aimed at his age range pretty well. And that notable exception is – duh, duh, duh, set expression to shocked – Debenhams. For some reason, this popular department store’s clothing is too slender for him to wear his actual size, so we have to plump for the next size up. It’s not a big deal, but I figured it might be worth you all knowing. Oh, and while I’m on the subject of freaky size stuff, I have no idea why nappies suddenly go from having a fairly limited range to notionally fitting any kid that falls between 8kg and 16kg. I do, however, know that our son’s poop tends to breach his nappy’s walls more often when he is close to the upper or lower ends of the size spectrum. So put that in your nappy bin and twist it.
11. Darling, you do “do” baby clothes hand-me-downs
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate that there are certain items, like short-sleeved vest tops, that everyone prefers to buy first-hand. But if you’d seriously rather pay £7-£10 for a new jumper, pair of trousers or jacket than accept a previously worn one from a friend or family member, then you are either made of money or more foolish than the pie-eating foolish man from foolish town I mentioned above. I mean, let’s face facts. Your kid isn’t a brand. He or she is a toddler, who spends most of their free time rolling in the mud, sitting in puddles, eating sticks or regurgitating food.
12. Some T-shirts will never escape the wardrobe
I don’t really have anything funny to say about this. I just want to let you know that not forcing your son or daughter to wear the dull, purple, green and black striped long-sleeved T-shirt that’s been hanging in the wardrobe since last Christmas doesn’t make you a) an ungrateful so-and-so or b) a bad parent.
13. Bandana bibs might make your kid look like a cool Wild West gunslinger…
…but when it comes to performance, traditionally shaped bibs wipe the floor (and, more importantly, your kid’s chin) with them every single time.