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Tweens and Fitting In: Wearing Brand Name Clothes May Be Worth It

Middle school raises so many new questions for parents. Why does my daughter talk endlessly about her peers? Why won’t my son talk at all? Should I worry about social media? Do I really have to buy that $30 t-shirt from American Eagle?

At a recent speaking engagement at a private school, I shared with an audience of middle school parents my experience of transferring from public to private school in 6th grade. One of my most prominent memories from this event is desperately wanting Guess Jeans.

My parents would only buy cheap knockoffs from TJ Maxx. Through my 12-year-old eyes, not having the right brand of jeans looked catastrophic. And it only intensified my anxieties about being new, being different, and being inferior to the kids at my school.

After my talk, a mom raised her hand. She asked me whether I would recommend that parents buy their kids the hot brands to help them avoid becoming insecure or potential targets for social aggression.

My answer is sometimes.

Wearing Name Brand Clothing and Social Pressure

Though I think it’s developmentally important for kids to feel uncomfortable and to learn how to cope with that discomfort, a few well-placed name brand items can ease the rocky social path of adolescence.

The number one job of an adolescent is to develop an identity among his or her peers. Brand names, when not used as a social crutch, can provide a foundation on which kids can build feelings of normalcy. Wearing brand name clothing is important to teens. I do not recommend buying your child every popular and expensive brand you can get your hands on, but if you can afford it, buying two items in a popular brand can help your kid feel at ease. If you can afford it, shoes and jackets are my pick for where to spend money on your kid’s attire. Your kid can wear these every day. They can get lots of “social cred” without breaking your bank on an entire wardrobe of brand names.

It is important that we recognize the social pressure of teenage style.

The effects of exclusion and self-doubt can endure long after kids are grown. On the other hand, we should be careful we don’t raise our kids believing that the right brands translate to popularity or personal satisfaction. Take seriously your child’s need to fit in, and steady that with your desire to avoid over-indulgence. Together you will strike the right balance in the battle of the brands at your home.

Michelle Icard is the author of Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years. Learn more about her work with middle schoolers and their parents at

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