March 9, 2009 in Features

Don’t let apparent lack of interest deceive you

Teen, ’tween boys very attentive to fashion
Samantha Critchell Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

This photo released by Disney XD shows Kelly Blatz as “Charlie Landers,” right, and David Lambert as “Jason Landers” on Disney XD’s “Aaron Stone.”
(Full-size photo)

It takes a lot more effort to get that “I-don’t-care” look than teen and ’tween boys let on. Disney Channel Worldwide found that out when courting teen boys with its just-launched network Disney XD. The boys they studied noticed whether pants were slim-leg or boot-cut, and if T-shirts tout the right extreme sport.

“As much as kids like to be individual, there’s a conformity among the group they’re in,” says Shelley Mansell, costume designer for Disney XD’s “Aaron Stone” series.

“For boys, there’s an eternal search for the best jeans, coolest T-shirt and best pair of sneakers they can find.”

That attention to detail makes teen and tween boys just as fashion-conscious as the girls their age, and retailers are tapping into that market by creating a studied casual look.

Moise Emquies, founder of Mo Industries – which includes the labels Ella Moss and Splendid – recently launched a boys collection called Splendid Mills JR, based on the success of its hipster menswear collection.

“Boys are more complex than entertainment companies have given them credit for,” says Kelly Pena, vice president of Disney Channel Worldwide brand research, who interviewed, watched and tracked preferences of boys around the globe for 18 months.

“They are highly influenced by what their friends like, what their older brothers like, athletes and role models.”

And don’t forget girls.

“You’re around your peers every day and always trying to impress the girls,” says Kelly Blatz, the emerging heartthrob who plays younger than his 21 years as high schooler Charlie Landers and his super-spy alter ego Aaron Stone.

David Lambert, who plays onscreen little brother Jason, is in the midst of that struggle now.

A mere year ago, he says, he couldn’t have cared less about his look. That’s changed now that he’s a high school sophomore, sporting a little bit of a Euro look he picked up while filming in Toronto.

“I think almost every guy would say they dress for the girls, but when I’m with my buddies, I still try to look good,” says 15-year-old Lambert.

Boys will roundly reject anything considered girlie, but they’ll go far to make sure the sticker on their skateboards live up to the standards set by their friends, Disney’s Pena says.

“Aaron Stone” designer Mansell says the wardrobe department researches a variety of sources to find out what’s “cool,” from Teen Vogue to NBA games – and anything relating to surfers and skateboarders carries the most weight.

Surf polos with a well-washed vintage look are a key part of the spring and summer look at mass retailer The Children’s Place, says A.K. LaMonica, senior director of apparel.

“We had been more conservative in what we were offering to them, but we’re finding they are more open to fashion risks,” she says.

Pena thinks boys are a demographic with growth potential.

“I think there’s a huge opportunity for boys, especially in personal grooming,” she says. “I don’t know if companies have tapped into that yet.”

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