Clothing Teen-age Boys

Shopping for kids clothing gets a little dicier when the kids reach the teen years.  The occasionally wild swings in the growth rate makes purchases a hit/miss proposition and my response is to keep things simple.  The everyday wear is cheap enough at Kmart that I’ll hit there for jeans and shirts, supplemented by hand-me-downs from friends with boys older than my own.  But one of the things for which I’m responsible is teaching the boys how to dress appropriately and that means that they have some basic and decent items for events such as church, school concerts and more formal occasions.  That also means that I have to show them how to pay attention to the details so that they don’t come off looking like Jethro Bodeen.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe that any quality dresswear is available at Kmart.  So how do I match decent clothing that’s also inexpensive for a boy who’s going to last in it for a maximum of 6 months, if that?

After our end-of-school lunch with Mom and the kids, we split up in the mall; my wife and Eldest went to look at bathing suits while the boys and I browsed in a music store.  After we finished, we went to the department store bathing suit area to pick up the ladies.  Middle, who’s now 13, and I wandered to the Men’s Department and after eyeballing him, asked him to try on a plain men’s blazer.  My appraising eye is still decent and he went into a 36 jacket, although the sleeves were too short so I moved him up to a 36 Regular.  As he tried on the blazers, I asked him to do certain things to ascertain if it fit properly and I also made it a point to explain why he was doing these things. 

  • Lift your arms in front of you like Frankenstein.  How far up along the wrist do the sleeves ride?  Let you arms hang naturally at your side.  Does the sleeve come about halfway between the bottom thumb joint and the wrist?
  • Button the top button of the jacket – you typically don’t button both – and look in the mirror.  Does the material lay naturally around your midsection or does it appear to be tight?
  • Turn around and keep the jacket buttoned.  Does it appear to be tight and stretch ("span") across the back?
  • How far down along the torso does the jacket hang?  Teens are notable for some call the colt stage since they can grow disproportionately.  In Middle’s case, he’s got a long torso and disproportionately long arms that grew ahead of the rest of his body.

 How do I reconcile my belief that he, like all teens, needs to have some truly decent clothing and the recognition that this blazer was on sale for $90 and he’ll be out of it in months?

The plan is to make one or more visits to Goodwill in the next week.  In my experience – and some of my own clothing comes from there – the dress clothing tends to be gently used and in decent condition.  The men’s clothing typically comes from guys who have outgrown it themselves but has been cared for in its previous use.  We’ll drop by several times and search for a 36 Regular jacket that has held up well and pick it up for about $7.50.  If I can keep on top of Middle so that the jacket continues to be in decent shape, it might go to Youngest when he’s older.

That assumes that their the same torso/arm proportions.  If they aren’t, then it’s back to Goodwill again.

When the guys have finished growing, then we’ll take them out for some new, high quality menswear.


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