Is your son’s obsession with wearing superhero shirts and costumes becoming a problem? Is he pushing to wear these clothes at school?
Boys, just like girls, need to dress up. Once a year at Halloween doesn’t cut it. Nor does wearing athletic uniforms or Boy Scout uniforms alone help them to fantasize and explore themes of power in healthy ways. Interestingly, teenage boys and young men are starting to wear these superhero shirts more often, usually at the gym, when out for a run, and casually hanging with friends. Men in their thirties and forties are expanding their wardrobes to include wearing more fun clothing, such as outrageously colored socks and ties.
One student I work with told me he feels more comfortable and more secure handling the social and academic pressures of high school wearing his superhero shirt beneath another shirt or sweatshirt. On Fridays, which is a creative dress day at his school, he can wear a superhero hoodie with cape. His public school is large with many many different types of kids and has a very healthy open, inclusive culture. It’s never been a problem and it seems the students (and teachers) can’t wait for Fridays!
But maybe there are times when the desire for wearing superhero clothing grows into an obsession. If you are concerned, try this technique. Set up a rule that your son wears the superhero shirt only on certain days of the week. Perhaps start with Monday, Wednesday, and Friday being “superhero” shirt days, but Tuesday and Thursday aren’t. Then reverse it, so that only two days a week are allowed. Then move it to one day a week – Fridays is good because it trains a child to hold back the urge all school week and gains control over it.
Boys and young men – in fact all people – need to embrace something (fantasy-wise or through positive imagination) that empowers them, and makes them feel safe in a world that feels more and more out of control these days. Keep in mind these simple rituals serve a larger psychological purpose for everyone. We’re all feeling rushed, sidelined by high demands, and worry a lot of about keeping up.
Maybe it’s time we adults play dress up too!