Old Navy's ‘Boyfriend Jeans for Baby’ Spark Debate

Rachel Bertsche
·Writer
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Photo courtesy of Old Navy

Baby clothes are getting more and more fashionable (think skinny jeans or North’s fur coat) but one offering at Old Navy has some adults raising their eyebrows. The company’s Boyfriend Jeans For Baby are offered in seven styles, and while the loose fit might be cozy for your little one, the ‘boyfriend’ moniker is making some parents uncomfortable.

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The term ‘boyfriend jeans’ refers to a denim style that has become increasingly popular for women in the last few years. “It’s a relaxed silhouette, the crotch of the jean is dropped, its slouchier, and feels more tomboyish,” Sasha Charnin Morrison, Us Weekly Fashion Director and author of Secrets of Stylists, tells Yahoo Parenting. But the name originally came from the idea that these jeans look like a woman borrowed them from her boyfriend, and that’s what has experts questioning the popular retail store.

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“Really @oldnavy? Skinny Boyfriend Jeans for Babies? You are insane,” tweeted @blakeknight, adding the hashtag #getababyboyfriend. In response to a Jezebel article about the pants, user Allora wrote, “To me, it’s just an A+ example of the way we socialize and hypersexualize little girls at a very young age, and it’s gross. We should notice it, and we should call it out.”

Old Navy did not immediately respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment. 

Child development specialist Dr. Robyn Silverman tells Yahoo Parenting that the “boyfriend jeans” name has subtext that isn’t appropriate for babies or toddlers. “People may wonder, what’s in a name? But when it comes with a name like ‘boyfriend jean’ and it’s directed towards babies, the name is laden with relational and even sexualized messaging,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “While the babies are blissfully unaware of what it all means, parents are once again being told that even the littlest of girls have and should be thinking about boyfriends.”

While Old Navy’s intentions were probably good, they should have thought twice, Silverman says. “What may have been deemed harmless or cute by the advertisers is actually quite inappropriate,” she points out. “No parent wants to think of their baby as having a boyfriend. And they shouldn’t have to, either, for many, many years.”

But Charnin Morrison says parents shouldn’t read too much into it. “It’s just the style of the jean — like saying an A-line skirt,” she says. “Everybody has to take two steps back, breathe, and realize the name has no indication of anything other than a silhouette of a particular style that is a standard for the industry.”

Parents who are looking for a more unexpected style of kids’ clothes might like this on-trend offering, Charnin Morrison points out.  “I think maybe Old Navy was trying to separate themselves with this pant, which isn’t the typical baby jean,” she says.

Mellicia Marx, a stylist for women and children and the owner of Poplin Style Direction, says that while she’s usually hypersensitive to messaging in kids’ clothes, the boyfriend jean shouldn’t be a concern. “I think clothes that say something on them are more problematic than the name of a type of jean, because how many parents say to a kid ‘go get your boyfriend jeans from the closet?’” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “I don’t think a child necessarily knows what style her jeans are, but she does understand when her clothes say something controversial.”

In this case, Marx says, the label is probably there so parents will know how the jeans are supposed to fit. “Boyfriends jeans are distressed or oversized,” she says. “In this case, I think the name represents a style, not a lifestyle.”

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