Something that I noticed in Georgia was the propensity to dress little boys in tights. The tights of course were “boy-appropriate” and blue or green, but they were tights. At first in Georgia, I thought the tights had to do with dancing. Then I realized it had to do with the weather. Boys and little girls were dressed in thick tights for the fall and winter. Due to the cold winters and the potential lack of heating in schools, it made sense to bundle children. I assumed it was a Georgia only thing.
I have not yet begun to teach students in the Czech Republic, but I have a nephew who lives in Prague and I have recently been subjected to videos of classes of kindergarten Czech students. Boys in the Czech Republic also wear tights. Again, they tend to be “boyish” in nature.
Clothing in the Czech Republic is expensive and apparently not as good quality as what is available in the US. My sister-in-law asked me to bring tights for her two children, a boy and a girl, for the winter. I dutifully went to the mall in search of thick tights. First of all, most shops have nice thick leggins, but not tights with the footies. Those are key.
Once I found the appropriately footed and thick, cute tights for my niece and headed to the boys store of the shop. I began my search for boys tights. Nothing. A thought occurred to me. While in Georgia, most of my volunteer friends commented about the boys in tights as an oddity. Americans do not dress their boys in tights (unless they are Peter Pan at some stage and then full on tights might still be a bit of a stretch).
After this minor epiphany I wandered back over to the girls side and looked for some simple solid colored tights. Nothing. I had to scour multiple stores. I came across nearly every available option, but they were too glittery, pink, or full of hearts and flowers. I could not get myself to break the gender barrier and get him a pair of pink and purple stripped tights. Eventually I was able to find one pair of black tights and one pair of white tights for my nephew.
This little adventure made me realize A) Georgia is not the only place where boys wear tights (maybe it is a former Soviet thing??) and B) gender stereotypes are very difficult to ignore, even when realized. I was very worried about what his mother would think if I gave her son flowery tights or what his classmates might think.
In the end of the day Americans are too gender specified and cultural differences can come in the form of boys in tights.