They’ve started again this year. Target has a Snoopy shirt that shows the beagle holding a box, proclaiming “OKAY, BUT FIRST PRESENTS.” Another has a cute sloth on it and reads, “Hangin’ around for the presents.” It's for girls, so of course it's glittery and pink. No peace, joy, or goodwill to other humans to be found; just the naked greed of ripping into presents under the tree. But coming from big box stores where humans are actually wounded and injured trying to obtain coveted Black Friday doorbusters, that's probably fitting!
Oh, the holiday shirts are coming. A popular one for boys is, “Dear Santa, I can explain.” As if bad behavior is cute. As if bragging about that bad behavior is cuter, and aw shucks, boys will be boys, and bad behavior is an essential part of boyness. This is the Christmas version of “troublemaker” shirts, and is that really a label we want to apply to our sons? These shirts never seem to have girl versions, either, reserving their troublemaking / Santa-explaining for boys only. While the message isn’t appropriate for either gender, it shows how the culture of toxic masculinity has infiltrated even holiday shirts. Next we’ll be seeing matching boy/girl shirts that say “Naughty” and “Nice”. Oh, wait. You can buy those already on Etsy. (True story.)
There’s the “Dear Santa: Leave Presents, Take Sister” shirt at Walmart, which isn’t listed in the girls' section at all. And while no, we don’t really want our young sons meeting someone underneath the mistletoe, we also don’t particularly need Grumpy Cat proclaiming “NOPE!” about the whole affair.
And if you’re not Christian at all? Oh, good luck. Target sells an adult women’s Hanukkah ugly sweater, but nothing for kids. In fact, the only thing we could dig up, other than specialty Etsy shirts, was a Wal-Mart-sold Star of David t-shirt that started at a youth small. They were also vending a “Hanukkah sweater” type kids’ shirt, if you look. But that’s it.
We knew we could do better at embodying the joy of the season in graphic tee form. We knew it.
But here's the problem: for a company of our size to sell even one holiday tee is an uphill battle. You get maybe a month and a half to market and sell the thing, and then poof! The season is over. Hope you made your money back. Here at Free to Be Kids it usually takes us several weeks just to get the word out about any new design, so time was not on our side. When you're little, tripling down on this strategy is a straight up terrible idea.
Plus, we knew we wanted to create a Hanukkah design to stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters after this flagrantly anti-Semitic year. But only 2.2% of Americans are Jewish. That meant only one in 50 people who would ever see our Hanukkah shirt would potentially consider buying it. Even if we had a year to market it -- which we don't, because Hanukkah starts December 12 -- this was an objectively awful business decision. Try pitching that to a VP at Wal-mart.
But here's the awesome thing about running your own tiny business with a team of amazing humans: you get to make questionable business decisions and do things from the heart if you want to. You get to sidestep debates about shareholder value and put your own values into action. So we took a risk. We went full throttle on launching a holiday collection. It felt important, and we did it with gusto. We released three positive Christmas tees, and one super happy Hanukkah design.
Are we going to break even? Who knows. It's mid-November and the jury's still out right now. But either way, we really couldn't be prouder.
Because we all need a little more love in the world -- especially around the holiday time. And putting a little more love into the world, one t-shirt at a time, is what Free to Be Kids is all about. We think it’s time to kick negative clothes to the curb and choose something more gentle, more kind, more in tune with peace and love, with harmony towards our fellow humans. It’s what we want to teach our kids, after all.
The holiday season is a time for giving, not greed. The holidays are about sweetness and love, not presents. We want goodness and joy, not cutesy naughtiness that isn’t actually cute at all. We need more love in this world. We need more helping hands, more happiness, more merry and bright. We need to keep shining. And we need to teach our kids that, like the shamash candle that lights the other eight candles on the menorah, when we give our light to others, we are not diminished by it. Our own light doesn't dim at all.
So here’s to a holiday season of peace and joy. Here’s to a holiday season of love and gentleness -- no matter how your family chooses to celebrate.
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We design and create baby and kids clothes with positive messages and nary a gender cliche in sight. We believe clothes send a message, and our mission is to spread positive messages one fashion statement at a time.