What Not to Wear, Part Two: Kids and Teens Dish on Brands & Style

Here is a part two of a study we conducted with Nickelodeon that was featured in Nickeldeon’s Kaleidoscope in Kidscreen™ magazine. The topic of this study was “What Not to Wear, Part Two: Kids and Teens dish on brands & style”.

Author: Nickelodeon (2/17/2009)

In last month’s Kaleidoscope, we reported on the importance of fashion and style in a kid and teen’s world. Armed with an understanding of what this means to them, part two of our fashion & style report takes a look at the role brands play and differing kid perspectives on creating a personal style.

Shopping from girls’ and boys’ perspective
A girl’s desire to shop sparks around age 10. Aside from the social experience of “hanging out at the mall,” girls take a genuine interest in shopping for clothes. But boys draw a distinct line between using the words “shopping” and “buying.” Boys associate the word “shopping” with girls and the actual experience of being in a mall, not the act of purchasing. But when shopping is simply rephrased as “buying,” boys become more interested.

When it comes to actual spending, boys largely buy clothes on a need-to-have basis and typically purchase clothes with mom, not their friends. Interestingly, while boys may not necessarily enjoy the shopping experience, they have strong opinions about what they do and don’t like to wear and, therefore, feel the need to take an active role in what mom buys for them. Girls also typically purchase clothes with mom. Not surprisingly, however, they typically have the opposite reaction to their male counterparts and thoroughly enjoy the shopping experience – casual browsing, active buying or socializing with friends at stores or malls are all good to them.

Attitudes towards brands
Kids and teens are very aware of fashion brands and what they stand for. When asked about brands, respondents tended to say brands aren’t important to them. Although despite what they said, quantitative data shows that 71% of boys and 68% of girls think brand-name clothes are important. In fact, kids in middle school (ages 11 to 13) are interested in various different brands and use them as ways to connect to friends. And, because kids are actively searching for places to fit in, their brand choices are well-thought-out and they tend to gravitate towards brands that are pre-approved by their peers.

Boys often need personal experience with a brand before they become loyal, whereas girls are more likely to experiment or purchase brands based on name and reputation. Moreover, girls commonly use the brand name when talking about their accessories – a behavior that isn’t necessarily practiced when discussing their clothes. For example, they’ll often refer to items as “My Juicy bag” or “My Ugg boots.” Premium or higher-end brands such as Juicy Couture and Coach are very popular with girls in this category.

Clothing and self expression
Clothes, aside from their obvious representation of personal style, are catalysts for self-expression. Kids and teens named items such as hoodies, jeans, sneakers and t-shirts among their favorite things to purchase. Especially popular among kids age six to 14 are t-shirts with humorous or catchy phrases and shirts that represent their interests and experiences. These types of tops serve as conversation starters and tell others “about me.”

Teen girls also named items such as jeans and jewelry and hoodies as things they couldn’t live without. As to why these items are so important to a girl’s wardrobe, the word versatility comes to the forefront. Teens, in particular, are increasingly encountering situations/occasions that require them to dress nicer or interact more with adults and they appreciate that certain items can meet all their needs, whether causal or dressy. As one 15-year-old girl said, “I absolutely cannot live without my hoodies. They can be worn in so many different combinations that they are an absolute necessity in my wardrobe.” A 17-year-old girl, meanwhile, contended, “I can’t live without my jeans because they match with everything!”

Fashion & style wrap up
Kids and teens are actively involved in their personal style and it is something they are in control of and comfortable with. Exploration of individuality and experimentation with styles and brands is very important to tweens and teens as they look for ways to fit in and stand out all at the same time.

As we conclude our Fashion and Style report, keep an eye out for Kaleidoscope in the April issue of KidScreen, where we will report on what activism means to kids and teens and how it manifests in their worlds.

Source: Nickelodeon Kids and Family Research (December 2008) and Touchstone Research (November 2008). Quant Sample size: N = 500.


Nickelodeon has utilized our online panel/community management capabilities and technologies for numerous innovative and ground-breaking research projects including Nickelodeon’s acclaimed Kaleidoscope studies published in Kidscreen™ magazine spanning several years.


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