Science of Perception: School Style Edition

On any given morning, I have no idea what my kids are going to wear to school. I can’t find clean underwear and eye the matching-but-dirty socks on the floor for a good minute before giving in to decency and looking for a new matching pair in the laundry basket.

The one thing I do know is if it’s a “graphic” or “serious” day.

No, I’m not conscientious enough to keep up with our laundry on a daily basis, but I have a freaking science to the level of clothing formality we tackle Monday through Friday.

It’s a science of perception.

Our definitions?

“Graphic” is a day when the boys wear graphic tee’s to school, usually something with a Marvel character or some game they’re currently playing like Angry Birds or Skylanders.

“Serious” is a day when the boys wear a solid color or striped shirt, often with a collar. Think polos, sweaters, or dressier rugby shirts.

Our targets? Friends and teachers. This is where the science of perception and the definition schedule come into play.

At the beginning of this school year, I inadvertently bought all “serious” clothes for the boys. I found a good deal at an outlet mall and the kids ended up with all solid color polos and striped shirts. We’re not talking button-downs, but we’re not talking Star Wars, either.

They looked stylish and cool, maybe a tad on the preppy side for an eight and six year old, but I had overlooked… basically the entire elementary school culture of clothing.

This would soon come back to knock me on my rear.

Two months into the school year, my eight-year-old climbed into the car after school and said, “Mom, my friends say I dress too fancy. Like a nerd.”

And then my face crumpled into devastation, the weight of which pushed my heart into my stomach. Oh, the drama, we were having it.

I won’t pretend that I don’t conscientiously monitor my kids’ cool vs geek potential. Unfortunately, “geek chic” isn’t a thing, yet, in elementary school, so there are lines to watch. I thought I was watching them.

I’d failed to watch the fancy line. Shoot. Time to hit Target and level this playing field.

Enter the Science of Perception Schedule:

  • Monday:  Serious (solid colors or stripes, maybe a collar) to show teachers that we’re back from the weekend and ready to focus!
  • Tuesday:  Graphic (tee’s with cartoons or cool screen prints) to show our friends that we’re down for that Beyblade battle at recess!
  • Wednesday:  Graphic or Serious because oh mah gah will this school week never end? (in other words, if all has been going well and we just have to shine it on through hump day: Graphic! — but if we’ve wandered off-track and need to refocus: Serious)
  • Thursday:  Serious because we are so close to Friday but do need to stay focused before Friday tests
  • Friday:  Graphic to reward ourselves for studying really hard last night and hit the weekend running! Also: am available for birthday parties this weekend.


Are you laughing at me? Shaking your head at the madness? Or nodding along because elementary school is hard, yo.

No matter the madness behind the science, I’m telling you it works. Like gangbusters. Particularly these last couple of weeks before holiday break? It’s all psychology and I love it.

 • • •

Do you have special tricks to balance your kid’s style? Do you keep your family festively stylish during the holidays? We’re giving away three $50 Target gift cards to brighten the season! To enter for a chance to win, simply comment on this post with a personal tip on how you dress your children conveniently and with style—during the holidays!

A big thanks to Target for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

• • •

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More of Megan on Threadbare Theory:

Ghost Hunting Moms: Haunted Law Firm (watch our first episode)
Adventure Time at Atlantis

Ghost Hunting Moms (introduction to the series)

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Article Posted 3 years Ago
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