Jet Fischer-Sanchez, 3, wears a graphic T-shirt available at Spaceboy Clothing on Market Street. He's the son of Spaceboy owner David Sanchez. / WILLIAM BRETZGER/THE NEWS JOURNAL
By MARGIE FISHMAN The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal
The graphic tee, a mandatory accessory for hipster irony, is perhaps the cheapest form of self-expression.
And express it does, with messages like "I like boobs," "Cuter than baby Jesus" and "What happens at grandma's, stays at grandma's."
But these hipsters aren't unemployed twentysomething philosophy majors who favor beards and unicycles.
These hipsters wear onesies.
"A lot of the stuff for babies is tacky," says David Sanchez, owner of Spaceboy Clothing in downtown Wilmington, Del., and a father of two young boys. "This is cuter than OshKosh B'gosh."
Sanchez is referring to a red baby T-shirt littered with skulls that his 3-year-old son, Jet, pairs with skinny baby jeans and a striped knit cap (the cap is intermittently thrown on the floor). The shirt, personally designed by Sanchez, sells for $15 at Spaceboy, where baby garb is stacked inside a drum.
Jet also sports tattoos like his father, though Jet's are the press-on variety.
"He looks like a mini version of him," notes Jet's mom, Ramona Robinson.
FYI: Teddy bears are out. Black is the new baby blue.
Hipster moms and dads, who possibly went through a goth phase in college or attended rock shows religiously after graduation, are all grown up and ready to impart their fashion sense on kids too young to argue.
Call it punk, call it retro, offbeat clothing and accessories for babies and toddlers have exploded in popularity over the last five years, according to several online retailers who specialize in rockabilly and death metal garb for youngsters. Several sites have been launched by stay-at-home moms on the West Coast and in urban centers. These entrepreneurs were tired of all the dull, cliché baby merchandise available to them. Customers gobble up the goods, particularly in Australia and Western Europe, where moms' groups pool orders.
"It's a way to make a statement," says Laura Brown, owner of Aberdeen, N.J.-based Kiditude.com. "I don't know if the parents are reliving their youth or saying my kids' clothes are better than yours."
Brown does a brisk business in infant band merchandise, like a Def Leppard or Pink Floyd T-shirt paired with a CD of lullabies inspired by the band. She also carries a "So Not a Princess" plaid skull onesie for $17.95 and zebra crib boots for $27.95. Gene Simmons' enormous tongue sticks out on a pair of baby socks.
Generations X and Y are all about rejecting authority, which includes what their parents made them wear, says Brown. Her products are a hit for baby showers.
"They want to give the gift that makes an impression," she says. "They want people to go 'ooh.' We treat our dogs like accessories, why not our kids?"
On Etsy, a popular online retailer for homemade goods, searching under "punk baby" yields more than 7,000 items, including a cherry blossom hair bow with a dead Hello Kitty in the center.
Even mainstream outlets like Target, Old Navy and The Children's Place recognize that it's no fun to look like everyone else in the playground, hawking hot pink shaggy vests, leopard fedoras and glitter guitar T-shirts.
On a recent weeknight at Babies "R" Us in Newark, there were two racks of Amy Coe rocker merchandise, including a onesie depicting a skull in an Indian headdress on clearance for $8. A safe distance away, Heidi Klum's Truly Scrumptious line featured pink velour tracksuits.
"The average person doesn't think skulls represent death right now," explained Ashley Salas, who owns Sugar Babies boutique near Seattle and operates an online store, shopsugarbabies.com.
The rocker baby category constitutes 60 percent of Salas' total sales (she sees an uptick right before Halloween).
Her target market is not just the rocker mom. Soccer moms are taking baby steps into anti-establishment slogans and bondage blankets (red plaid flannel with black vinyl corners) available at some retailers.
Salas calls it "tasteful punk" or "watered-down punk," though she admits that grandmothers will bypass the entire section of the store.
Rosalee Lester started Babywit.com in 2003 because she had a sense of humor and refused to dress her kids in "uninteresting creatures."
Now living in Portland, Ore., Lester caters to a Hollywood clientele. When Beastie Boys' member Adam Yauch died earlier this year, sales spiked on baby T-shirts featuring the rap group.
Lester even carries dresses, T-shirts and onesies proclaiming "My dad is a hipster douchebag."
"I don't think you'll see that in Target," she says.