How To Use Menswear To Keep Your Children Safe

The other weekend, my wife and I took our two boys to the Bronx Zoo for the first time.

I hadn’t been to the zoo in probably twenty years, but I went fairly frequently when I was younger. A lot had changed!

Two changes I noticed were that there were no paper maps and the signage in the park was horrendous! I have a pretty good sense of direction, but navigating the zoo was a total nightmare! I was half expecting to encounter a minotaur in the center. Luckily there were plenty of zoo employees sprinkled throughout the park, so I was able to ask them directions.

What’s every parent’s nightmare when taking your kids out to a crowded public space (especially one that’s confusing to navigate)?

Getting separated from your kids!

In environments such as those, it can be very easy to become separated, which can be incredibly stressful (and even dangerous) for your children. But there are steps you can take with what you’re wearing to help your entire family stay safe.

Now, before you dismiss this article as the paranoid rantings of some frightened country bumpkin in the big city, remember that my wife and I are both native New Yorkers (my wife is from Brooklyn). These are just simple, common-sense tips that everyone should use.

Before we parked the car, I pointed out to my boys what my wife and I were wearing. I told them that it was important that they remember how we were dressed in order to quickly spot us in a crowd. Now, obviously, my wife and I were watching the boys like hawks (more on that later), but it’s helpful that they also make sure to keep their eyes on us.

The key here is making sure you dress in a conspicuous and easily identifiable way. Remember at summer camp when all the camp counselors wore the same color shirt on camp trips so that any kid could quickly identify someone who could help them? It’s the same concept here.

If you’re dressed the same way as all the other dads (ie generic, dark t-shirt, shorts, sneakers, baseball cap) your kids are not going to be able to figure out where you are at a glance. They might even absent-mindedly follow around another adult thinking they’re you! That actually DID happen to me when I was a kid.

For our zoo day, I wanted to make sure my boys could spot me quickly if we, God forbid, got separated.

I decided to wear a polo shirt with fat navy and white stripes. The stark contrasting colors made me look like a zebra and I knew that other people in the zoo probably wouldn’t be wearing anything similar. I opted for a wide stripe shirt, since thinner stripes can blend into one color at a distance.

I also wore my Panama fedora. It was a hot, sunny day, so the Panama was a practical choice for the weather, but it served the added purpose of making me easily identifiable in a crowd. Nothing makes you stand out more than a big hat!

My wife wore a bright green dress with zebras on it (it’s the dress she wears whenever we go to a zoo). Not only does the dress look great on her, but it, again, makes her very easy to spot in a large group of people. No one else in the zoo was wearing a green dress. She also got tons of compliments on it (as she always does!).

In addition to making sure you’re wearing something easy for your kids to spot, make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear! It’s an unfortunate world we live in where we need to worry about scooping up our children and running for the nearest exit, but that’s where we are. If you’re out in a big crowd with your kid, don’t wear flip-flops or sandals or anything you can’t run at full speed in.

For our zoo day, I opted for a pair of boots. Sure, it was a bit warm, but they were good for walking a long distance, and I knew I would be able to run easily in them.

When out in public with my kids, I also wear 5-pocket pants, whether they are jeans, or casual chinos. The reason why is because I will usually take my wallet out of my back pocket and pop it into my front pocket, and 5-pocket pants can secure the items in your front pocket better than pants with slash front pockets. I have been pick-pocketed before, so I now take the simple precaution of keeping my wallet where I can more easily see and feel it.

If the gentleman who tried stealing my wallet on the Bronx-bound 6 train in 2011 is reading this, thank you for your contribution to this article.

Not only do my wife and I dress in an easily identifiable way when we take our kids out in a crowded place, we also dress our kids using the same logic.

If we are going out to a place like a zoo or museum or amusement park, we dress the boys in similar outfits (or as similar as we can manage that day). Dressing them the same way means we only need to remember one outfit in the unlikely event we need to inform other people what they are wearing.

Those relatively similar outfits will be something unique and easy to spot. We’ll put them both in bright red or yellow shirts, or their shirts will have some memorable design. Usually, the boys will be wearing hats of some sort. For this trip, we were a bit limited since we were visiting my in-laws that weekend and had to resort to what we had packed. But we did our best.

Also, since we have two children, my wife and I will establish who is watching which child before we leave. Usually, I will watch over our oldest son and my wife will watch our youngest son. The reason why is because it’s easier and safer to focus your energy and attention on one child than both of you splitting your attention between two children. If, during the day, we need to swap kids, we will explicitly state “Ok, I am watching Younger Child now” so that each of us is clear on whom we are supervising at any given moment.

You can more effectively watch over one child at a time as opposed to constantly shifting your focus between multiple children.

With all this being said, it doesn’t mean that going out in public with your children can’t be a fun sartorial experience for you. On the contrary! You can wear whatever you want as long as it’s easy to spot in a crowd. Bright colors, bold patterns, and big hats are all fair game! What fun!

Now, go out and build some memories with your family, safe in the knowledge that, at the same time, you’re embodying the most important role of a dad…


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