How to dress a teenager

The test of a parent's patience is watching their kids get dressed

When I became a mum a decade and a half ago, I could barely wait for the day when my son would be able to feed and bathe himself and I could spend a full day at the office. No one told me then what a fool I was. Teenagers can barely feed or bathe themselves. They will never eat freshly-cooked home food, it is almost as if they cannot swallow anything if it doesn’t come out of a Zomato paper bag. But the real angst of being mum to a teen is shopping with them.

The test of a parent’s patience is watching their kids get dressed or shop for clothes. Their choices defy every sense of logic, aesthetic, form, function and comprehension. Sometimes I think I would be better prepared if I had a daughter. She would simply dress the way I did—rebellious and attention-seeking. Most teenage girls follow one dress code: itsy this and bitsy that. But I thought dressing boys would be a walk on the beach. Sports clothes, bulky sneakers, and a hoodie over everything (damn you, Kanye). It is all of the above, but mixed with a bottle of anxiety and a bucket of adventure.

A model in a HUEMN hoodie | Courtsey Instagram@_huemn A model in a HUEMN hoodie | Courtsey Instagram@_huemn

A couple of weeks ago, mine decided he did not want to wear T-shirts any more and wanted to buy some shirts. So off we went to some high-street shops. In the midst of our mall trawl—where all stripes, checks, dots and florals were vetoed and only dull plain shirts okayed—we spotted an Adidas Original store. “I need a track suit,” I was informed. The shirt shopping was promptly dropped even as we went on to try some incredibly stylish sportswear, including Beyonce’s new Ivy Park drop. The boy then emerged from the trial room wearing a shiny red tracksuit that was more Ranveer Singh than Kanye West. “Do I look like Santa?” he asked. “More like a drug dealer,” I offered. He bought it.

Last week, the boy’s school took him on a scuba trip just off the coast of India (damn you, Modiji). We are now back to the shops for scuba gear and something called aqua shoes, the purpose of which I am still trying to figure out. Packing was an immeasurable pain, everything he wanted in his suitcase was a Nike this and an Adidas that. “Whatever you throw in your bag, please know there is a damn good chance you will never see it again,” I repeated a few dozen times. Three kids sharing one room, a day on the beach, school- trip packing means one must be prepared to lose a lot of belongings. I won. But four hours and a canceled outing with my friends later. So technically, he won.

A friend who has a teenage daughter offers the best advice when dealing with their fashion choices. “Just drop everything and run,” she says. Her daughter went to Amritsar on a school trip with a suitcase filled with long coats, mittens, head gear, and puffer jackets. “She wore none of it, got a sore throat and called me croaking from miles away when I can’t do much,” said my friend, resigned.

The Teen Magazine says, “While a carefully picked outfit can instill lots of confidence, societal expectations and ideals can also foster negative outcomes, leading to feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt among teenagers. The fashion choices made by teens can signal their group affiliations, helping them form connections with like-minded peers. Fashion becomes a language through which teenagers can find a sense of belonging, helping to build friendships, romantic relationships, and social networks.”

They know nothing. The only way teens dress is to dismay their parents.