Mom Courtney Hartman was having a hard time finding t-shirts with positive messages for her son Declan who loved butterflies, dancing, and the color purple, so she decided to create her own. In July 2015 she whipped up her first stereotype-busting design—a tee emblazoned with the words "Mr. Nice Guy"—and her company Free to Be Kids was born.
Way to go, mama! Not only does Hartman's clothing line kick gender cliches to the curb, but her t-shirts are also refreshingly free of negativity and snark. "We offer children the messages that big retailers don't," Hartman explains on her company's website. "For every 'I'm Too Cute To Do Homework' shirt that tells our girls to focus on beauty over brains, we hit back with 'Smart Girls Club.' For every 'Troublemaker' or 'Eat My Dust' shirt that portrays our sons as rowdy and insensitive, we design a 'Mr. Nice Guy' or 'Love Is My Superpower.' We believe passionately that both boys and girls deserve to see, hear, and wear better messages."
She's so right. Because while we tend to hear a lot about addressing gender cliches in girls' clothing, we don't necessarily hear the same thing when it comes to empowering boys.
“Most parents understand these days that it’s important not to limit girls based on their gender,” Hartman told Parents.com. “We know we should encourage their interests in STEM, and give them options beyond pink princess-y clothes. That’s generally accepted. But the conversation about boys has barely begun. Boys have rich emotional lives, the capacity to be loving and sensitive, and interests that go far beyond being ‘Daddy’s First Draft Pick.’ Their clothes should really reflect that. And right now, at least in mainstream stores, they just don’t. It’s all ‘Troublemaker’, ‘Ladies Man’, and ‘I Run This’. And that’s not fair to the boys, or good for them.”
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Mad props to Hartman for trying to flip the script on these negative messages, one woke fashion statement at a time.