Today, for example, I went to our nifty new Salvation Army store and bought the kids a ginormous pile of clothes. They will now have t-shirts and shorts and my daughter will have dresses and both will have jeans without rips in the knees although that is a cool look, I will acknowledge.
I never achieved that look throughout my entire childhood. Firstly, I was in Sears Toughskins... those are not Levi's and you can't achieve any kind of cool look with those no matter how hard you try.
At the time, I had my own idea of what cool looked like so that was OK. I had chipped my front two teeth and had to wear silver caps for a year and a half in first and second grades and I knew, positively knew that I was cool because I could pretend to be Lindsay Wagner in The Bionic Woman. I was the bionic woman with my silver caps. I could cock my head to the side and have my super sonic hearing detect bad guys a mile away, the sun glinting off my silver caps. How much cooler could anyone get? So, Toughskins didn't matter then.
Later on in about 5th grade or so, I desperately wanted to have jeans that had rips in the knees. I finally got Levi's (this was before the Gloria Vanderbilt or Chic madness--that came later), but I was growing so quickly that my jeans never got worn through in the knees. They did become floods almost immediately, however.
It was only as an adult that I finally understood the taunt: "Hey Laura! Can you swim?" and then there would be uproarious laughter. "Of course I can swim!!", I'd angrily retort. Well, kids were asking me that because I was wearing floods--get it? Ah. I see. I think I was an easy target in a lot of ways. I don't think I got the nuanced communication that occurs on the playground.
Any way, today I got all sorts of clothes for the kids. Just as I didn't, my kids don't really understand "cool" either except through their own filters. They have very little brand recognition. They have some, but they're more likely to think something is cool because of its color or what its made of, than because it's part of a giant merchandising juggernaut like Hannah Montana or Disney or even Abercrombie and Fitch.
My kids don't really have a uniform. They don't know they must wear this or that to be cool. They know they are cool because my son can do a headstand for minutes on end and my daughter can adopt a spot on English accent.
It's not The Bionic Woman, but what could be cooler than that these days?