Buying clothes for teenage boys is much harder work than buying for teenage girls because there just isn't as much on offer. Somewhere between 12 and 15 years old, teenage boys become very fashion aware and morph from being compliant wearers of Gap, M&S and polyester football team shirts to mono syllabic style monsters with a great deal of attitude. It's got worse recently and I blame TV like Skins, The O.C and One Tree Hill, where the boys are now super-image concious and act just like girls in terms of getting outfits Exactly Right.
Being clothes obsessed I am secretly thrilled that much discussion now occurs on what is 'cool' and what is not around our meal table, (check vintage-style shirts, long beanies and skinny-straight black or dark indigo denim since you asked) but become deeply panicked when they all look at me as the font of all fashion knowledge where actual shops are concerned.
There just aren't that many for the newly fashion aware teen.Topman is still too big for even the tallest 12 year old and pretty out there in terms of styling (although it is unbeatable for graphic printed T shirts) and Next is never going to hack it (can you see anyone from California wearing it?). Lots of great girl brands do boys stuff (New Look, H&M ) but my discerning teenagers are fabric fussy and are sharp assessors of high street quality. "All the T shirts from Primark shrink on the first wash and then they're too short" states oldest teenage son, "And I hate that cheapy feel of those polo shirts you bought for school mum," (Gap) says middle teenage son. They also wear through cheap trousers super fast due to football/cricket/rugby/cycling/wrestling.
I can not argue with them here as I constantly harp on about buying good quality and investing in longevity, although I was really thinking of me rather than them, at least until they had got through their experiemental stage, no one should spend a lot of money on punk/Camden bondage/skater/footballer/guitar hero until they are sure it's for life. But my boys have started early it seems. So where to go?
Jack Wills has just hit our radar, having opened a very cool new store in the King's Road in the old Deisel store. It's the British version of Abercrombie & Fitch (which interestingly my boys wont go anywhere near), but more British boarding school than six-pack college jocks. The stores are a now a hyped up combo of junk shop and clothes store. I want to buy all the antiques, the boys want to buy the clothes. Perfect really and the new London store has a great cafe on the upper floor to get a quick sugar fix from.
It's going to be too Sloaney for the really cool kids, but for the rest it has a great selection of slouchy hoodies, polos, shirts and jeans with the cut and style they'll know and approve of (currently at least). Jeans are still worn below the bottom but there are nice knickers to buy (great quality jersey) to stop embarrassment (yours, obviously, they couldn't care less).
What sold it for me was the fact that there are blazers, in wool and stripey thick cotton that my boys looked at and actually, momentarily, seriously considered, such was the strength of the in-store styling. (when they were little and still in my control I would try and dress them like Ralph Lauren adverts, in checked jackets and button down shirts. They sensibly rebelled, even at three years old, to this idea). The swing tickets also come with a terrifically practical button card, with FOUR spare buttons. Now there's a brand that knows its customer. And their mum.