Vault News

The Indianapolis Star Logo

The Indianapolis Star, August 18, 2006

Baby clothes get rattled

New infant garb expresses some grown-up views

Even before he could talk, Liell Lloyd Hostetter was making a statement.

The 11-month-old from the Near Eastside has no idea who Charles Bukowski is, but little Liell sometimes wears a tan T-shirt depicting the contemporary author best known for his dark stories of pain and survival.

"Anything you put on a child that age is an expression of his parents. It's just something fun," said Liell's father, Demian Hostetter, 32, who purchased the T-shirts online for $15 each, including one that reads: "My mommy drinks because I cry."

Fashion watchers call the clothing "toddler 'tude," and "tyke trash." Soft cotton T-shirts in military drab and Gothic black are giving parents -- especially dads -- an alternative to conventional baby wear. The expressions run the gamut from subtle ("Rock Star") to sarcastic ("I already know more than the president"). Some are edgy: ("Sucka Free Baby" or "Jr. Pimp Squad").

Local boutique owners say their customers look for T-shirts that are middle-of-the-road, not offensive. They want a shirt that is unusual and funny, said Stephanie Marr, manager of Haus in Broad Ripple.

"They want something that brings a smile," said Marr. The store sells brands such as Babywit and Lucky Fish, including an "Elmo is my homeboy" tee ($27).

"We sell to a lot of people in their early 30s and people shopping for shower gifts," said Marr. "It's just a different look for a little one."

This summer, Wolfgang's Vault, an online site for concert memorabilia (www.wolfgangs, jumped on board, launching a new line of soft cotton vintage concert Ts for the cool and drool generation. The collection features bodysuits commemorating concerts by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Prices range from $22 to $30.

"The trendy looks are inspired by a socially conscious generation of baby boomer grandparents and their younger offspring," said Marvlyn Harrison, spokeswoman for California-based Tutti Bella. The online distributor sells such hot brands as Rowdy Sprout, Phonic and Small Audience. The distributor recently sold out of a Kingsley "Pots and Pans" T (depicting a skull and crossbones) modeled by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's newborn daughter in her first publicity photos.

"This generation of parents is more into the relaxed rocker grunge look, and they want the same for their babies," Harrison said. "They look for an alternate way to dress their infants and it's more a roll-out-of-bed look that still has style."

Jared Parsons, 31, defended his line of Pimpfants clothing when the Web site Drudge Report published the headline: "Ho clothes of kids."

"The look isn't provocative; it doesn't expose skin, but we're trying to give options," said Parsons, who launched the Oregon-based Pimpfants line in February.

"We're selling more than funny sayings. Everything is custom-made and it's about fresh styles and comfort," said Parsons, the father of three. "What might be funny on an infant doesn't work on a 9-year-old. That's why our clothing only goes up to size three," said Parsons, whose line is influenced by his urban skater upbringing. The clothing, ranging from machine-washable tanks ($18.95) to two-piece velour track suits ($45.95) is available only online ( Parsons plans to expand into department stores this year.

Not all parents applaud the grown-up look for babies.

"I think it depends on the saying, whether it's cute or not. I've seen some T-shirts that are offensive, especially those with sexual innuendos," said Catherine Scherschel, 32, Irvington. Her newborn, Christopher, wears a lot of yellow and green hand-me-downs from his older sister. "You have to be careful not to make a child appear older than they are."

Yet Hostetter, Liell's daddy, defends his choices.

"You see so much pink and blue and typical baby stuff that it's nice to have him wear something different that makes people look twice."

By T.J. Banes

Back to Vault News