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Could Tom Ford, design genius, creative polymath and one of the world’s most stylish men, have had a wrong opinion when it comes to fashion?
In a new interview with WSJ. Magazine, Ford, 60, discussed his approach to parenting his son Jack, nine, particularly since the recent death of his husband and partner of 35 years, fashion journalist Richard Buckley, in September.
“You know, I don’t let Jack wear shorts to school, and the other kids are in shorts,” he said of the typical primary school attire in Los Angeles, where he lives. “I’ll say to him, ‘You’re never wearing shorts to school. Don’t ask again. Not happening. When you turn 18, you can wear whatever you want.’ It was only recently that I let him wear T-shirts with stuff printed on it.”
I can empathise with Ford. A lot of childrenswear is unattractive, garish and badly made. I don’t want my 15-month-old twins wearing much of what’s on offer either, and spend far more time than is strictly necessary trawling second-hand and designer childrenswear sale sections for chic, understated, heirloom-worthy gems worthy of my progeny.
When they are old enough to have opinions about what they wear though, I’m not going to be issuing them with any blanket diktats, like a ban on shorts or polyester Disney princess dresses (a phase, I’m told, like Peppa Pig, is inevitable). For a start, I’ll probably lose that war, and I prefer to pick my battles. I’m not inclined to waste my precious time and energy on clothes when it’s better spent on getting them to do their homework or wear sunscreen.
The other reason is because there is great value in experimenting with fashion from an early age. It’s all part of working out who you are and how you want to be seen by the world around you. I consider myself lucky to have had parents who really didn’t mind what I wanted to wear, as long as I was happy, and it’s given me a certain confidence in putting an outfit together. Nor am I afraid to try something new as an adult today - it’s how we learn, and life is nothing if not a continual learning process.
I’m not alone in this approach. When Sienna Miller was interviewed for Stella earlier this year, she said she also feels she benefited from a little sartorial trial and error. “I like how experimental I was,” she said. “Some of the pieces [I used to wear] are really cool, and then some are just an absolute, complete shambles. I don’t know what I was doing. But I was 21 years old, and it was fun.”
Victoria Beckham shares that perspective when reflecting on the matching outfits she and her husband would wear on the red carpet in the late 1990s. “We didn’t know about fashion, we were just having fun with it - which to be honest with you, is kind of the way it should be,” she told Jimmy Fallon in October. “I really wish I had the courage to do it more now.”
For his part, Jack has pushed back against the tasteful Lacoste tops, jeans and Adidas Stan Smiths that his father buys for him. Back in 2016, Ford told GQ that then-four-year-old Jack only wanted to wear black: “Jack, black doesn’t really look good on little children. You need to wear some colour,” he remembered telling his son, adding that they compromised on grey, instead.
Also off the table - at least outside of the home - were light-up dinosaur shoes: “What does Dada say about the dinosaur shoes?” Ford said he’d ask his son. “They're tacky,” Jack would reply. Tom, I’m with you on that one.