Fiona McCade: New clothes do not maketh the child

Fiona McCade
Fiona McCade
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What do you think is the rarest material known to man? Platinum, maybe? Diamonds? Iridium? Astatine? Jadeite?

Well, if you said any of those, you’d be wrong because, let me tell you, the rarest material on this planet is intact, second-hand boys’ trousers, in sizes two to ten years.

Basically, boys of this age invariably trash their pants during play, paying special attention to the delicate knee area, which is usually shredded within weeks. Thus, it is once in a blue moon that a desperate mother will find such a prize in a charity shop or jumble sale because hardly any survive their first owner.

I can barely describe the incandescent joy I feel when finding a decent pair of charity shop pants, complete with knees, for my seven-year-old, and I always thought that other parents were equally dedicated to the search for these fabled garments, but apparently not.

For serious bargain hunters like me, a new survey by Marks & Spencer makes grim reading. In fact, if you care even slightly about the planet and the sanity of the people on it, brace yourself, because this is shudder-making stuff.

M&S asked 1,000 parents of children aged one to five about their attitudes to clothing for their offspring and some of the findings are depressing indeed. For example, 20 per cent said they never accepted hand-me-down baby clothes because they only want their child to wear brand-new stuff; one-in-eight babies under one have more than 100 items of clothing; more than 50 per cent of respondents had thrown perfectly good clothes in the bin, rather than passing them on to deserving causes; and 60 per cent complained that seeing well-dressed celebrity babies, such as Harper Beckham, made them feel pressurised into spending more and more lavishly on clothes for their 
own kids.

Now my head has stopped spinning, I understand why I can never find decent used trews for my son – they’re all in a landfill site somewhere because they weren’t the sort of thing the Beckhams would buy.

Maybe it’s just my canny Scots blood, but I find this really difficult to understand. What have the lifestyles of the rich and famous got to do with us? A nice pair of trews is a nice pair of trews, whether or not they would pass muster chez Victoria and David. So long as they have knees, who’s complaining? I keep wondering, where was this survey conducted? In the VIP box at Old Trafford? Can it really be that ordinary people are genuinely this mad?

It’s not like I dress my child like a tramp. After all, I’m extremely conscientious about making sure all his trousers have a full complement of knees, but there are more important things to spend money on, and ensuring that my child looks immaculate is way down my list. I prefer to have an adequately-dressed child who has nice books and toys (yes, often second-hand) and eats very good quality food. No point buying a designer bib if all you can afford to spill down it is cream soda and deep-fried MRM. Gucci, Gucci, goo.

Babies aren’t generally known for their fashion-sense and small boys have scant regard for exquisite tailoring, so why waste expensive stuff on them? Because, of course, this has absolutely nothing to do with the kids and everything to do with the parents and their sad lack of self-worth.

Unfortunately, they’re bringing up another generation to believe that new automatically means good and that posh clothes somehow guarantee respect. It’s ironic that, at my son’s school, the two best-dressed boys are also the worst behaved. They always look absolutely beautiful, but nobody will play with them. Ah well, at least it means the knees of their trousers will always stay neat, clean and resolutely intact. Trouble is, given the mindset of the family, once the trews are too small, the mother will probably bin them. Maybe if I tell her that Victoria Beckham always gives her kids’ clothes away to deserving causes, I might be able to pick up a bargain or two? And maybe if Victoria Beckham genuinely made a point of doing that, it might make some wasteful families think twice?