Let's Talk Tween

Information and insight about kids ages 8-12 (the "in between" years)

Tween Boys Get Their Swag On: The Snapback Hat Phenomenon

Why tween boys care what they wear

Not too long ago I was sitting around talking with some old dear friends whom I hadn’t seen in a while. We were comparing notes about our children. One of my friend’s mentioned that her son never went anywhere without his snap-back hat. My other friend chimed in with agreement about her son. I was amazed, as I too have a tween boy who never goes anywhere without his snapback hat.

It is certainly common knowledge that once girls become tweens they are particularly attuned to what they are wearing. It is not uncommon to hear a parent of a tween girl lament that the days of shopping for her daughter are long gone. No matter if she is a fashionista or tomboy, a sure sign that the search for identity has begun is reflected in the clothes that tween girls care to sport.

Perhaps however, we underestimate the importance clothing plays in helping our tween boys to assert themselves. Interestingly while tween girls often use clothing to define their uniqueness or individuality, tween boys seem to use fashion preference as a way to reflect that they are part of the main group, one of the guys.

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Tween girls are known to form cliques, while tween boys are known to form larger groups; they run in packs.

No one tells your son his traditional baseball cap is uncool, he just knows. How he knows remains a mystery. It seems the mere awareness of this important fashion accessory is a sure sign that he has entered his tween years.

While kids are considered tweens between the ages of 8-12, boys are generally developmentally about two years’ behinds girls during this stage. Because development in different areas is so variable during these years, it is common to see kids acting like tweens in some areas but not others. Your son for example, may suddenly seem more aware of his wardrobe at age 9 but may seem far from socially savvy compared to some of his same-aged peers.

The snapback hat is a symbol of swag. It tells the world that your son is in the know.  You may note changes in your tweeneage son which seem subtle at first. Before you know it however, your little boy will grow into a little man. The experience is bittersweet at best.

Snapback hats are of course only the beginning of the battle toward independence. It is easy to assume that only tween girls get into the clothes wars with their parents. Tween boys should not be underestimated when it comes to clothing choices. On the road to identity tween boys believe that the ‘clothes make the man.’ They don’t want to just dream it, they have to be it or at least try it on.

The tween years are indeed tricky. Raising a tween boy may sound simple in comparison to what we all hear about how mean tween girls can be. Boys however, should not be underestimated. Tween boys want to get their swag on. Role models such as Justin Bieber have certainly paved the way.

The tween years are often equated with awkwardness. Uneven physical, emotional, cognitive, and social growth contributes to questionable self-confidence and a wavering sense of self-esteem in even the most self-assured children. Material items such as snap-back hats serve as a security blanket, a symbol that your son is just like everyone else even at times when he may not feel that way.

In a short time he will transition to the teen years. He will begin to break away from the pack. He will look for ways to balance his search for individuality with his need to be one of the guys. So enjoy the snapback hat years, before you know it those big brown eyes peaking out from under that wide brim will be asking you if he can borrow the car keys.

Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist and parenting expert specializing in work with tweens, teens, young adults, and their families.

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