To suit, or not to suit...

So here's the thing. Latvian parents have a penchant for dressing their young sons up in mini suits for special occassions. This isn't an age-old tradition, it's definitely stemming from the Soviet era. On important days of the year - particularly related to things on the school calendar, like the first day of school, last day of school and various seasonal concerts and celebrations - the kids get REALLY glammed up, and the boys (some as young as three!) turn up in suits. The full deal - shirt, shiny shiny shoes, matching jackets and slacks... and even ties. Sometimes even bow ties. Now a few parents and various others may think that this is cute. Well maybe, if the kid is a pageboy at a wedding for once in their life. But mostly I think it's just gruesome. All of these little people who are dressed up like big people - particularly like big-business people. They self-importantly walk down the street on their way to school with their backpacks on, hair spiked and jacket buttoned, clutching mum with one hand and a bunch of flowers with the other. It's just not natural. Making your son into a mini-me on days that are meant to be celebrations for kids not adults. Of course I see the merit in "dressing up" for special occasions - the feeling you get when you are wearing something special., the respect that it shows for the occasion if you do put on your "sunday best". But surely there are other more appropriate ways to dress little children!
Up until now we have managed to escape this small aspect of post-Soviet Latvia - our kindy is "out there" and none of the alt-groovy parents of the kids at our kindy would ever dream of suits on their sons (bar Tiss' freaky best friend who used to wear a bow tie on regular kindy days - bow tie and a buzz cut. No wonder Tiss idolised him). But this year Tiss is also going to a more regular pre-school . Next week the pre-school is holding a celebration of Latvian independence day where the kids will be reciting poetry etc - and Tiss has been notified by the teacher that he is required to wear white shirt, black pants. I queried the secretary about the "dress code": "When Tiss said he needed a white shirt... do you mean he should wear one of the mini-me suits?" And the lovely lady answered, that he needs to wear his best clothes - and yes, suits would be preferable, it would look lovely, but it wasn't necessary if we didn't have one. And you see, I KNOW that all the other boys will probably have the suits on - because last year (at the tender age of 5) they all had the suits on for the Christmas party (see above)!!!!
So I'm in a bit of a dilemma. And I don't even know why this is so important to me. But there's something inside me is SCREAMING about not wanting to put Tiss in a dress suit at the age of six. But as Jem and I agree, who am I serving by not conforming to this standard? Do I just buy him a dress shirt and slacks and not-so-shiny shoes, so that he can look like the "dressed down" version of his friends, and possibly feel out of it? Or do I flaunt the current cultural norms and let him wear and absolutely beautiful traditional linen Latvian shirt (which also has cuffs and a collar): although it's white it's not really following the spirit of the "business dress code" - but in my mind it's a much more appropriate piece of "formal wear" for a young 6 year old? I reckon this is a good option, but I worry that Tiss may be disappointed because he feels that he doesn't fit in. He is a fairly 'different' kid already who has had a bit of trouble settling in, and I suspect it's because he comes from quite a different background than the other kids.... Or do I just stop worrying about all this because boys really don't care what they wear anyway and noone (important) will notice and/or care anyway?
I know it seems like a small concern, and it is. But I just can't step back and get an outside perspective on this one. Mind you, I've spoken to Tiss and he is happy with a linen shirt. Not so keen on the suit anyway. Dunno why I am reacting so violently to the situation! I suppose maybe because it's not an isolated incident, I have to try to formulate our family's "policy" on this kind of thing now, because when Tiss starts a public Latvian primary school next year, it'll be on for young and old. To suit, or not to suit..... thoughts, anyone?

3 Responses so far.

  1. Marite says:

    Tough one! On the one hand, you want him in the Latvian school for the whole Latvian school experience (or just the language?). On the other hand, you have strong views on something as a parent, and should you compromise those views to have your child fit in? And who knows... little kids can be funny- on the one hand Tiss may not care, but, on the other hand, if he is really the ONLY one... I don't know Mook- tough, tough call!

  2. Fifee says:

    Ah, a suit dissident. Hmmm, yes, very hard. This might be a controversial response by me but here goes... You don't necessarily want to impose your own dissenting views on a child, because as you said, who is that serving, you not Tiss. Kids judge each other and once in the school environment things just get tougher. If you don't start him in a suit it might leave an impression on the other kids that will label Tiss as different in a bad way. If you do start him in a suit, then you have some leverage to play around with that in future by introducing more traditional folk elements or just general fashion elements. Also, re your opposition to the suit and preference for the trad linen shirt - do Latvian born Latvians focus on traditional folk costume or is this something that you as a returning Latvian focus on [much like immigrants to Oz stay attached to keeping old tradition alive]. You could argue that by dressing Tiss in the full suit getup you are also tapping into a legitimate form of Latvian culture, a contemporary form - even if soviet influenced. Nothing so bad about that, you are just intersecting with mainstream Latvian culture, unless you really oppose reinforcing soviet influenced behaviour. S0- I reckon go with the flow and do the suit thing this time. That will be an experience in itself! I do find it quite fascinating myself. Then in future go with Tiss's response to this and use that to guide you next time to be a little different..... You may not like the suit but it is after all a suit [although I know it represents more] and possibly not something more ideologically sinister or scary....

  3. ieva says:

    Es gan domāju, ka linu krekls - varbūt vēl ar saktiņu - ir oriģināli un arī piemēroti 18.novembra sarīkojumam. Kāpēc šajā sarīkojumā zēniem būtu jāizskatās kā maziem banķieriem? Padomju skolā, kad mums visiem bija formas, atceros, apbrīnoju meitenes, kam kleitas bija nevis pirktas veikalā, bet speciāli šūtas. Savukārt - Sidnejā tik jocīgi izskatījās mazās skolu meitenes uz ielas, kam bija formas kleitas, zeķes un cepures - tajā karstumā! Tas jau nenotiek tikai Latvijā!

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