The five year-old style icon probably isn't cause for alarm

Like many children born in the mid 80s my pre-teen sartorial options included the sailor suits that my mother took a certain macabre delight in dressing myself and my brother in, a vast variety of leggings paired with scrunchie socks and a permanently falling out ‘hair fountain’ atop my head. Perfect, really, given that I spent much of my time scrabbling up trees, scabbing my knees and generally being a reasonably charming, albeit very grotty child. But was my childhood any more authentic than that of Alonso Mateo, a Gucci Horsebit loafer wearing, Ray-Ban toting five year-old man about town? Well, that depends on both who you are, and how you define a happy childhood. Also perhaps on how much you care about fashion.

The impeccably stylish kindergarten-er has become the latest Instagram street star success. As The Cut points out, the photos of him on his stylist mother’s feed now reach 127, 000 followers. There are more than 230,000 Google images of him doing such things as pensively shoving his hands into his impeccably tailored drop crotch trousers, or actually pulling off a pocket kerchief. He is absolutely adorable. Like any true fashion icon, Mateo is a chameleon; he can do both bonafide dapper in his ankle cropped pants and skinny blazers, and loutish boy band member in beanies and Jeremy Scott high-top sneakers. But is it weird that you really wish your boyfriend would dress like someone who probably can’t read the labels he’s so effortlessly pulling off? Should a kid be wearing labels anyway? And won’t someone think of the children?

Comments on some of the photos of Mateo have expressed concern that the kid isn’t getting to enjoy his childhood; that he is dressed like a ‘miniature adult’. For eminent child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg the photos of Mateo in his designer duds are something that he sees as alarming.

“[T]his is out and out adultification of children. He should be making mud cakes and playing with play doh - wearing shorts and an old t-shirt - not modelling designer clothes - let kids be kids ... who's needs are really being met here?” he says.


It’s a valid point. As anybody who has ever given a toddler a present only to have them be more interested in the box it came with (so ungrateful!) we have to wonder why a parent would bother to dress their kids in head to toe labels other than as a (very cute) status symbol. According to Mateo’s mother it is – mostly – Mateo who picks his looks.

As she told The Cut “I’ll help him coordinate outfits so that they make sense, but mostly it's him.”

But that sentence sticks in the craw, right?  I don’t think the kids who choose to wear their Spiderman outfit down the street are concerned with their outfits “making sense”. Let any kid pick their own outfit unencumbered by thoughts of what ‘goes’ with what, I’d guarantee there would be some quite spectacularly nonsensical, and outright fabulous, outfits. Besides that, clothes 'making sense' belongs in the same ridiculous fashion bible along with "pieces", "anchor" and trouser as a singular.

Even still, for Dr Fiona Barlow, a fellow in the psychology department of the University of Queensland, her first impression of Alonso Mateo’s swag is that it isn’t necessarily something to worry about. Especially since the images are not inappropriate, or sexualising Mateo in the same way that, say, beauty pageants or child modelling can.

“He looks pretty happy; he’s having a fun time. What I see is a young boy and his parents, out and about," she says.

What’s more, says Barlow, while little girls are encouraged to experiment with fashion there isn’t really a lot of scope for boys to have fun with, and care about fashion. In that sense, says Barlow, Mateo and other little boys like him are broadening the “restrictive gender roles we impose on young children.”

Indeed, if we look at fashion as an agent for expressing our individual personalities, then Mateo and his thing for a well cut blazer become not just merely cute, or alarming. They become him, Alonso Mateo, likely the coolest five year-old ever.

In an article earlier this year for the Financial Times about whether we needed to worry about the introduction of a children’s fashion week journalist Vanessa Friedman (who does worry, for interesting reasons) wrote of kid’s clothes,

“[Kids’] fashion, on the other hand, should be—even more than adult fashion—a place of freedom for children to start playing around with identity and perception."

But who’s to say that a bespoke suit isn't the essence of a five year-old, in just the same way that my collection of garishly bright leggings were me as a ragged, tomboy-ish 8 year-old?

While it is tempting to think that Mateo and other pint-sized style icons such as Aila Wang and the Jolie-Pitt brood are having their childhood snatched from them in a haze of ‘Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi Fendi Prada’ (thanks Kreayshawn), it might just be that the kids are not having the childhood that we had. And that’s OK, as long as they’re being kids in their own way. Plus, it's very unlikely that Mateo understands the cost - money and otherwise - of his favourite threads. Hopefully he will, one day.

As The Cut reported, he’s making his own photo shoots with his Ipad, he has his favourite boots, and he knows what he likes. My favourite photo is the one where he’s laughing in the unabashed way that five year-olds laugh. It's a reminder that he's just, and still, a kid. Albeit one that definitely dresses better than all of us, which is probably concerning.


  • He is a little kid now, and presumably his fashion choices are largely led by his mum, even implicitly - let's face it, without prior exposure, how many five year olds say "Let's go to Ralph Lauren to buy some threads Mum". My little girl dresses like Punky Brewster by choice, in a layer of colour and multiple tops, her favourite leggings are too small and have a holey knee, however "I can do the best point in them". My bigger concern is scrutiny - it is all well and good while he is a five year old style icon, however as he comes to be a potentially precocious 9 or 13 or 16 year old, will he have the same "star status" he will come to believe he deserves? Hopefully this is what his mum protects his from.

    Date and time
    June 27, 2013, 10:29AM
    • Alarm? No of course not.

      Ridicule? Fair game I say.

      Lazy Jesus
      Date and time
      June 27, 2013, 11:13AM
      • Is he allowed to get dirty, muddy, jump in puddles, have dogs lick his clothes, do sticky craft, play in sand pits, have ice cream run down his shirt, climb on scratchy walls etc. etc without fear of ruining his expensive garments? Or as a 5 year old does he mostly go clothes shopping, pose in front of cameras and look for approval from strangers….all adult inspired activities? Bless him, but my husband could take some clothing advice from his Mum.

        Date and time
        June 27, 2013, 11:26AM
        • My only reservation would be: Do his parents give him the impression that dressing in anything but expensive designer clothing is "wrong"? If he wanted to play in the mud would it be ok for him to do so in these clothes or at least to get changed into some cheaper clothes and then do so? It's all about balance and too much emphasis on how one looks all the time might make him self-conscious and feel pressured to constantly live up to some kind of standard as he grows older. He should be encouraged to base his self-worth on more than just looks, eg: achievements and/or being a good, kind person.

          Date and time
          June 27, 2013, 2:25PM
          • Some kids really care about the clothes they wear. My son, from as early as I can remember, was determined to dress the way he wanted to. Well before he was 5 he had picked up from movies that men wore suits, and he wanted to wear suits. He had an idea in his head, and he had to make it real. He had friends who never cared what they wore, and while my son has been choosing his own clothes since he was very little, these other kids are still letting mum choose their clothes at 12 years of age.
            My kid takes himself to Vinnies now to get the clothes he wants because you can't get cool and interesting clothes for 12 year olds - unless you want to spend a lot of money, which we don't. The alternative is stuff with skulls everywhere.
            I don't have any problem believing that this 5 year old is genuinely interested in the different outfits he wears. Why hold him up to ridicule for it?

            Date and time
            June 27, 2013, 5:44PM
            • Just checked with my 12 year old boy - he thinks most of the outfits Mateo is wearing in the photos "work, even though some of them might be a bit gawky". He says he would have liked to have most of those clothes when he was 5, and would still like them, in the absence of having his own designs custom made.
              “This is out and out adultification of children. He should be making mud cakes and playing with play doh - wearing shorts and an old t-shirt - not modelling designer clothes - let kids be kids ... who's needs are really being met here?”
              Rubbish. He's playing at being a stylish man-about-town by the look of it. If little girls can be princesses, why can't little boys be princes?

              Date and time
              June 27, 2013, 5:56PM
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