Every morning, I see a dad walking to school with his two young boys. The children have to be twins. How do I know? Both kids are always dressed identically right down to their bright blue jackets, light-up sneakers and Spiderman backpacks. And nothin’ says “twins” like two children dressed completely alike. So why do I bring this up? Because it drives me crazy.
Let me be fair, I have always thought it was odd when anyone dresses alike, not just multiples. While traveling in Australia a full decade before I gave birth to twins, for instance, every time a tourist bus would pull up, dozens of identically dressed Japanese couples would emerge! If a man wore tan dockers, a white polo shirt and a yellow argyle sweater vest, his wife would inevitably have on the same outfit right down to the penny-loafers on her feet! (Hey, it was the 1980s.) For me, there was a certain oddness to it. Why did they do it, I wondered? Was it easier to spot your significant other while on a crowded tour in an unfamiliar city? Or was it something more? Were they trying to prove to me that they were so in love that they were one in the same? Did they finish each other’s sentences, too? I didn’t know. But I’ve never forgotten it.
When I ask other parents of twins why they choose to dress their multiples alike, their usual response is, “Because we’re proud of our twins and want everyone to know.” Makes sense but wouldn’t you be proud of them even if they were born as singletons? And why does dressing them alike prove your pride?
Twins get plenty of attention regardless of the clothes they wear. They don’t need more. In fact, when twins wear the same outfits out in public, it often comes at the expense of the other singleton children within the family. When I see twins dressed the same, I think one thing: Mom and Dad have put their twins’ celebrity before the children’s individuality. You may think that the practice is cute and harmless (and for the most part, it is) but it merely perpetuates the myth to the world at large that twins are entwined soul mates. And therein lies the rub. We want everyone to view our twins as individuals but yet we confuse the public when we act differently by dressing our twins the same.
So will you harm your young twins if you dress them alike? Of course not, especially if they’re babies or toddlers. Dress is just one component to the whole identity formation package. Yet it’s the habit of dressing twins alike that can lead to challenges as it subtly conveys to friends, family, and the guy on the street that you don’t mind if they see your twins as one being. And the longer it continues, the harder it is to break the habit. Not just for the twins themselves but for outsiders who now expect identically dressed twins to be the same.
Clothing choice is a strong component for identity formation as it’s an outward presentation of ourselves and it contributes to an internal sense of who we are. Just ask Lady Gaga or even Michele Obama. Or check out the hundreds of websites on the Web devoted purely to style. Clothes are an expression of who we are. Period.
Of course many readers may point out a few times when dressing twins alike is practical. For instance, if you’re going to a crowded amusement park, it would make some sense to dress your young twins alike, say in bright yellow t-shirts, so that you can more easily keep track of them. But what about dressing alike for the yearly family photo, the one that gets slipped into your Christmas card? Not my personal style but then you knew that already, didn’t you?