The kid’s got style
A preschooler with a flair for fashion gets our single dad thinking about where style comes from – and does it matter?

If you know anything about the Italians, you know that they make amazing food, have a great history, sometimes the play decent football, and they all love their mammas very, very much.

Also only in Italian there exists an expression ‘fare bella figura’. It literally translates to ‘make a good figure’, but is used to describe that innate sense of style (among other things) that Italians seem to be born with.

One of Maddi’s little friends attended her birthday party recently, and it being a typical Highveld spring day, the kids braved the still freezing pool water and took turns cavorting in the pool to see who could turn blue the fastest. One little boy came unprepared, sans costume, but the lure of several blue monkeys splashing around the water was just too much and after a quick word with his Italian mamma, he dropped his shorts and hopped in.

I was the lucky adult who ‘volunteered’ to freeze my proverbials off with the blue monkeys and supervise the chattering troop. The thing about the little Italiano that I think most of the men noticed, was his undies. No, not in that way.

This little dude was wearing a pair of Giorgio Armani haute couture briefs. And guess what, he pulled it off. I mean this kid was a typical 6-and-half-year-old. He was gawky, skinny, full of wide-eyed innocent energy... and he was wearing Armani (who knew Armani made little briefs?). How cool was this?

Regrettably none of the 5-year-old girls cavorting in the pool with him were able to appreciate his sense of ‘La bella figura’. But it was clear to all the adults that his mamma, who was herself suitably, flying the bella figura flag for bella Italia, was raising this boy to be mucho stylisimmo.

It’s a different sense of knowing. It’s a subtle statement of the norm (his mother’s norm), that which comes naturally, which has been handed down through the genes and DNA of centuries of Italians before him. He just knows he is cool because his mamma reinforces it in everything he does, even in the briefs she buys for him. It made me think about the culture that is all too common in impoverished communities.

When I was a kid growing up on the Cape Flats, when you went to a party, you made damn sure, or rather your parents made damn sure, you were dressed to the nines.

Whatever fashionable label was en vogue at the time, you would be covered from head to toe with it. But there is a subtle difference. I’ve been to the ghettos of Napoli, which is strangely similar to Mannenberg, with one subtle difference, the Neapolitans innately know how to make poor look super cool without trying.

Should we be instilling a sense of style in our kids, or should clothes be sensible and off-the-rack?

Read more by Marlon Abrahams

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