Boys. Why are they so hard to knit for?
Several years ago, I set foot into the thickets of knitwear design, armed only with this Machete of Truthiness: namely, my belief that boys have more adventurous, unexplored tastes in knitwear than we give them credit for.
Now that my Machete of Truthiness has been blunted on the Cruel Realities of the Marketplace, I can feel my confidence waning. Patterns for boys — and for men — just don’t sell very well. I could assume that it’s just my own patterns that don’t do very well, but I know from talking to more established designers that I’m not alone.
Here’s my latest boys’ sweater pattern, Baird, made for KnitPicks’ Independent Designer Program and also available on Ravelry. My lovely test knitter gushed about the pattern in a most ingratiating way and I was so pleased with myself.
Aaaaaand… a month after the pattern’s release I have sold precisely zero copies.
See that fake smile my son has on his face? This is right after telling me, “I actually like this one, Mom,” and right before never wearing it again.
I tell you all of this not to initiate a pity party, but because experiences like this have taught me a lesson. Maybe I have been going about this the wrong way. Maybe the key to designing knits for boys is not to figure out how to “trick” them into wearing kid versions of the garments that we adults like to knit and wear. Maybe the key is to remember that boys are people with their own child interests that overlap very little with the concerns of adult fashion.
What if, in other words, I thought about what boys want — want to play with, want to have in their hands, want in their lives — and figure out how to knit it?
Grown women — and many girls — have been taught to obsess about their clothes. But most boys and men have not. In fact, they are taught to feign as little interest in clothing as possible. This means that those of us who knit and design for men and boys have largely taken the safe route of providing utilitarian clothing. Because guys still need to dress — it’s just that many of them don’t want to have to think about it too hard.*
It’s time for a big think. And then some sketching.
* Of course I know that not all men are this way, and I loves me some fashion maven man. But most men are not that, and if you’re designing you have to take that into account.