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Discuss: Hello, Kitty

 

Recently, actress Charlize Theron took on an important fashion topic, grown women who wear Hello Kitty.

“I’m pretty amazed by Hello Kitty. Here’s why … I see so many women in their 30s walking around in Hello Kitty [expletive] and nobody’s concerned for them,” Theron said. “It’s the one teenage iconic thing that’s okay for 30 year olds to have.”

Truth be told, I’ve never been into cartoon characters.  For the whole of the 1990s, girls and women in my hometown were decked out in Tweety Bird and Tazmanian Devil attire.  And if you were to stroll through an mall out West today, you would see women in Looney Tunes, Mickey Mouse and other cartoonish attire.

Since moving to D.C., I see less of Tweety Bird but I see a lot of Hello Kitty.  Just last night, I was standing in a very nice restaurant when a woman reached for her cocktail and I noticed that she was wearing a Hello Kitty diamond ring.  A quick Google search revealed that the ring is diamond encrusted and costs $4,250!

In Japanese culture, it’s common for women of all ages (and even some men) to embrace cuteness as part of the national culture.  It’s called kawaii.  But this isn’t Japan, and cuteness is easily mistaken for a immaturity–especially if the Hello Kitty fan drops two months salary on a kitschy bauble.

So here’s the question: How old is too old to wear cartoon attire (even pajamas, or is there no upper age limit in place?  And if I could have a follow up, why do so many women still wear Hello Kitty and the like?  What do they hope to achieve?

And if there are any men reading this, do you find the cutesy cartoon thing attractive or would you turn and run the other way?

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    32 comments

  1. K says:

    Interesting topic! I think any age is innappropriate – even kids. Honestly, I have childhood memories of wanting sneakers with cartoon characters on them, or shirts, and I remember my mom saying how “trashy” it was and not allowing it. I look back now and all I can say is, Thank you mom. I have an association of clothes with cartoons on them not so much as “immature” but as basically, trashy…and not to start something even bigger, but it screams white trash to me…

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  2. Emily says:

    I think cartoons on pajamas, boxers, comfy tees, and other lounge/home clothing is fine. If it makes you smile while you're doing laundry, why not? As for the ring, I don't think it's any less valid as a statement ring than these https://www.caphillstyle.com/capitol/2010/8/12/10th-commandment-august-12.html. The price is her business and I will just assume that she could afford to blow the money and it made her happy. It's kind of cute, so more power to her!

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  3. A says:

    I don't think people are necessarily trying to achieve something by buying Hello Kitty gear, aside from having aesthetically pleasing objects and clothing. Not everyone thinks about the message they're sending with their clothes and cares enough to go against their preferences. Others deliberately wear clothes that are unflattering to prevent street harrassment.

    Being in D.C., women in politics, government agencies, lobbying firms and nonprofits need to be taken seriously on the job. However, women in fashion, arts, entertainment, child-related industries, cute industries (like a cupcake store) or jobs where they work behind the scenes where nobody interacts with them have more freedom. It's pretty common for grown women of East Asian ancestry and other women who appreciate cute accessories to pub a decoration on their cell phones. When speaking with people in Japan about the topic, they say that Hello Kitty is for kids, but other characters are viewed as more appropriate for adults.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  4. RMS says:

    Like the first commenter, my Mom steered me away from cartoon clothes when I was little. I had plenty of Disney Princess and My Little Pony toys and accessories, but never really got into the Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt trend or Hello Kitty anything. Like with any other clothing print or accessory, I don't necessarily judge a person for what they wear in their down time or out with friends, but I would be hard pressed to take a woman seriously at work if she was wearing a Hello Kitty ring.

    As for whether guys find these cutesy styles attractive, has anyone seen the How I Met Your Mother Episode where Robin's co-anchor speaks and acts extremely cutesy? The guys on the show agree that there's something attractive about the cutesy personality early on, but it goes too far when Ted goes to pick the girl up for a date and she's legit dressed like a 10 year old. He just kind of turns around and says he can't do it. I found that to be pretty interesting.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  5. Katie says:

    I'm normally a seriousish person and I like to joke with my family that I want a Hello Kitty themed house…but it's a joke. I think it would be kind of funny to have a house or apartment which is decorated befitting a 20-something and then see a Hello Kitty toaster.

    Back to your topic, it really depends. As a professional, Hello Kitty is off limits to me in my work wardrobe because of my job. A friend of mine is a manager at a video game store, so she could wear Hello Kitty and it wouldn't seem out of place. I have no idea why some women are obsessed with Hello Kitty, except for infantilism and “cuteness.”

    Recently, I've noticed a trend of cartoony (Hulk, He-Man, Transformers, etc.) men's shirts, which is similarly childish. Where do we draw the line?

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  6. e-liz says:

    the only thing worse than hello kitty/cartoon-printed anything (clothing, jewelry, purses) is glass dolphins hanging from a rearview mirror. both scream 'WHITE TRASH!' trash so loud, it hurts the ears.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  7. Aunt_Pete says:

    I like Hello Kitty but I think there's a place for whimsy. The office isn't it. A nice restaurant isn't it. The privacy of your own home…sure, why not? I own three items: a pair of well loved lounge pants (black with silver Kitty outlines), a small notepad that I write my grocery lists on, and a keychain that's still in the original packaging.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  8. K says:

    e-liz – hysterical! totally second the dolphins. Also, “princess” license plate covers…or any car accessories that have anything to do with being a princess. I think the “princess” facination is equally as juvenille as hello kitty.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  9. kelly summers says:

    I also do not care for cartoon characters, especially on grown women. However, there is just SOMETHING about Hello Kitty. I love her. I think HK stuff is adorable. I can't bring myself to buy anything because my husband would probably shun me, but I can't say I don't want to. I like Aunt Pete's idea, having some items in the privacy of your own home. I would totally rock a pair of HK pajamas in my apartment. I would not wear HK jewelry to work… I'm on both sides.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  10. ~M says:

    Hello Kitty etc. is totally inappropriate in most settings. If someone has something at home and it's a jokey thing etc. that's fine. I have a major problem with wearing cartoons, having pink frilly crap all over your office, and bumper stickers proclaiming the driver as “Daddy's Princess.” They're all symptoms of the infantilization of women. It's everywhere and it disgusts me. I avoid pink and sparkles (although your blog has broadened my horizons on sequins) because they have become signposts of little girls and princesses. This display is often unconscious, but it is everywhere. The best example is the cutification of breast cancer. The idea of “raising awareness” of a life-threatening and often life-ending disease by telling the world the color of our bra is insulting. I am proud to be a woman and have no desire to be confused for a 29-year-old little girl.

    Now, having said all of that, maybe people are trying to reclaim something or maybe they just love what tweety bird stands for like I love that my scarves remind me of places I've visited.

    A third point is that it's none of my business what someone else wears and it's nobody else's business what I wear. You could make the same argument that American women made in the 60s and 70s and that Muslim women are making today, “Get your hands and legislation and rules out of my closet.”

    Finally, I'd like to point out that the term “white trash,” while I assume it wasn't meant to be in the above comments, is extremely offensive. By specifying that something is WHITE trash, the underlying statement is that everything that is not white is trash.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  11. amy b.s. says:

    i think there's a very fine line (very fine). there's an episode of satc where carrie wears a mickey mouse tee with a blazer and i've alwasy thought she looked so hip and cool and cute. but i'm really not sure where that line ends and what makes it okay and what doesn't. i have to say though, i'm not down with hello kitty in any way.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  12. alex says:

    Maybe it's an unfortunate consequence of young women's Zooey Deschanel-ification, but I like having a bit of whimsy in my life. Whenever I reach for my bright pink Hello Kitty mug or put on a Hello Kitty bra/panty set underneath my going-out clothes, it makes feel just so cute and pretty.

    I would never wear anything HK to work, however. My sister sent me an Edible Arrangement that came in a Hello Kitty container, once, and I was so embarrassed having it at my desk!

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  13. CynthiaW says:

    I, too, love Hello Kitty for some reason and would consider some pajamas or something (if it wouldn't totally turn my husband off, which it would), but out in public? Just, no. And I work in an elementary school and could probably get away with it at work on casual day.

    I do have a couple of HK folders and pencils, but, again, I work in an elementary school, so it's not a heinous offense like if I worked in an office. I love some of the Hello Kitty watches, but I wouldn't wear them anywhere but work and I haven't even been able to bring myself to buy the HK compacts at Sephora.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  14. CynthiaW says:

    I should also add that I didn't even enter a contest to win a weekend trip in the Hello Kitty suite at a pretty posh hotel – because I knew that my husband would rather jump off a cliff than stay in a HK room…..

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  15. Jennifer says:

    I think it's the same as wearing ANY obvious brand or logo, something about the brand or how other people perceive it appeals to you. In the case of hello kitty, it is the imagined association of youth and fun and frivolity. In reality, I agree with the other comments that out in public it is trashy and juvenile. I am very opposed to paying for any piece of clothing that advertises for a brand through, which can be a minority opinion as the brand and logo gets more expensive.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  16. MG says:

    I've got to agree with e-liz on this one – wearing cartoon character ANYTHING, especially after puberty, is trashy…Hello Kitty on grown women is the equivalent to men wearing Ed Hardy, or wearing a hoodie to the bar on a saturday night…

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  17. VA says:

    A woman has the right to wear/spend her money on whatever cutesy accessories she likes. But I also have the right to judge the hell out of her for it 😉

    Seriously, though, an adult out in public wearing something with a cartoon character emblazoned on it is sending a message. And that message is not “Look, I'm whimsical!”, even if that's her intention; it's “I'm juvenile!”. Perception is reality.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  18. K says:

    On the 'white trash” comment – didn't mean any offense, and to be honest, I've never really thought about it that way. To me, it's a phrase I've heard used by people of many different races, and I'm not going to “explain” it, everyone knows what it is. I don't know any better “phrase” for it. I do agree with a lot of what you said -M, ESPECIALLY about the breast cancer thing. Like, bracelets that say “i love boobies” and stuff like that does not help, they only make a serious illness seem silly and frivoulous.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  19. A says:

    How timely–at lunchtime I saw a girl wearing this sweater at Eastern Market: https://www.shefinds.com/files/2011/11/Hello-Kitty-Longline-Cardigan.jpg

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  20. renee says:

    i'd say that about 10 is the age to stop wearing cartoons, hello kitty included. it drives me crazy and i have NEVER seen a grown woman, regardless of her age or ethnicity, where she is wearing the item (aside from maybe a costume party), or the price of the item ($4,250 rings included), look not ridiculous wearing hello kitty.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  21. EK says:

    Cartoon clothing doesn't reflect the way I see myself or the way I want to be perceived by others. I don't care what anyone else wears at home, and I think accessories (notepad, keychain) are a more appropriate way to keep cartoon images around, but it's still just not for me.

    I love the phrase “Zooey Deschanel-ification” above – I don't really understand the trend toward infantilization, but I do think she's a part of it. I don't think there's anything wrong with “acting your age,” and grown women getting decked out in cartoon attire seems as off-kilter to me as an episode of “Toddlers and Tiaras.”

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  22. MJ says:

    Just wanted to add a giant +1 to EVERY point that ~M wrote. Thank you for all of it!!

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  23. MegamiTenchi says:

    You know, I was a girl in the 90s and I completely blocked out how in style the Micky Mouse and Looney Tunes stuff was… :shudder:

    Suffice it to say, I struggle with the Hello Kitty sensation. As a little girl of six it was okay, but at sixteen, and especially at twenty-six, I recognized it was time to do away with childish things. I may be tempted by that rhinestone Hello Kitty mirror at Sephora (you know, the one Michelle Phan has been flaunting in her makeup videos…), a way to try and mesh the childhood memories of playing with my mother's makeup as I put on my knew Chanel lipstick. But I can't take myself seriously at all when I try to imagine it sitting on my vanity next to Dior perfume and vintage diamonds!!!

    What is amazing about Japan's culture is that it's okay for everyone to be themselves (some aspects obviously more private than others), but there is a market for absolutely everything- from kink fetish to wanting a diamond encrusted Hello Kitty ring, they really do have it all. They've created some insanely cute things, but then… it's also a trend right now to photograph yourself licking a door handle? 0_o Kawaii? Taihen da to omou…

    For me the question is why? Why does a woman have this need to not just enjoy a childhood icon, but glamorize it, and spend real money on it? If you are spending the kind of money I would drop in Tiffany's on Hello Kitty jewelry, all so you can say, “Isn't it fun?” I'm standing here wondering what happened to your definition of fun.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  24. Whitney says:

    I never got the whole wearing/collecting cartoon character craze, but I was a pretty serious kid who hit puberty early and grew to 5'8″ by the time I was 14. Hello Kitty, Tinkerbell, Minnie Mouse…all would have looked as ridiculous on me as a young teen as they would now as a grown woman. Now, my best friend at 14 was a petite blonde who was often described as “cute” and “adorable”, and I do believe that she wore cartoon characters on her clothing and accessories through college and nobody thought twice about it. I think that women infantilizing themselves is kind of pathetic, but, then again, I've never been called “adorable”. Maybe if a woman is used to being praised for being so cute all her life, it becomes part of her identity and she'll try to hold on to those characteristics long after it's really appropriate, especially living in a culture that basically promotes the idea that you should look young and beautiful at all times if you want to be relevant.

    January 6, 2012/Reply
  25. Courtney B says:

    I generally don't like anything cutesy but I have to agree with others that there is something about Hello Kitty. Luckily I have a niece who is 12 years old. So instead of getting myself HK stuff I just buy it for her. However I can't say that I see many women in their 30's wearing HK stuff. If it's pajamas or something that's not worn in public why not? It's not for me but to each their own.

    January 7, 2012/Reply
  26. melipr80@yahoo.com says:

    I say if u like it go for it. If it makes u feel good who the hell cares about what people think do you!

    January 7, 2012/Reply
  27. elz says:

    Ugh, no. Cartoon characters are like hairbows, not to be worn if you are in double digits (unless you are cheerleader, then you kind of have to). There was a chick in law school who wore character clothing. Not cool. NOt professional. Not acceptable. Also, how does any guy take you seriously when what you put out to the world is a cartoon?

    January 8, 2012/Reply
  28. dalia says:

    I don’t care what other people wear, especially in a non-professional environment like a restaurant. Some of the most effective, intelligent, hardworking women I know wear clothing I would never consider, be it homely or overly revealing. You can never judge a book by its cover! I do try to look nice, and secretly rejoice when a colleague with whom I am competing wears things that make her look like a college student. The feminist in me avoids anything cute or frilly, but I guess some people can pull it off.

    “White trash” is a phrase referring to poor, uneducated white people, originally coined by black slaves. Every subculture in the US has certain pejorative phrases to reference poor, uneducated members of that culture. The only people who should be offended by the phrase white trash are said trash. It seems clear from ~M's comment that she does not intend to defend the hillbillies. In that case, it is important to note that her logic is flawed.

    “By specifying that something is WHITE trash, the underlying statement is that everything that is not white is trash.”
    Logic extended…

    By specifying that an animal is a free-range chicken, the underlying statement is that every animal that is not free-range is a chicken.

    By specifying that a mother is an overbearing nag, the underlying statement is that every mother who is not overbearing is a nag.

    Neither of these statements make sense, nor does her hypersensitive defense of imaginary trash. As a mother, I am especially offended that ~M thinks that all mothers are nags. However, I’ll overlook it, since “I assume it wasn’t meant to be in the above comments.”

    January 8, 2012/Reply
  29. Emma says:

    I slightly agree and slightly disagree on HK stuff being trashy. Where I live, in the middle of no-where Idaho, the majority of our population is trashy, VERY trashy. I hate the Mickey Mouse anything, unless it's for my 18 month old boy, Tweety, Sesame Street, etc. Hello Kitty CAN be trashy but my mother (53) adores it! She isn't flashy, we are far from white trash, and in fact are quite well off. I believe I'm commenting because these comments are missing one thing… I believe my mother loves some cutesy little girl cartoon character because she is young at heart and is sick all of this time. She has a liver disease that will never get better and she feels older than she is. She has gone through an abusive, drunk upbringing and survived. She has also dealt with my father, her husband, committing suicide and leaving her to raise me,11 years old, all alone. My point being, do not judge someone by what the like or wear, maybe it is the only thing that makes their heart smile in this cruel world.

    January 12, 2012/Reply
  30. Swan says:

    First, and foremost, I must say that to say that to specify that a cartoon character clothing worn by an adult screams trash is prejudice, let alone to specify it as “White Trash” is about as bad as saying that wearing a “Malcolm X” shirt is for “Niggers”. Believe me I'm not prejudiced my best friend is black, I just find it hard to believe that a carton character could invoke this much racism. Secondly, to each their own. I personally like Hello Kitty, although, even if I didn't, what would give me any right to say anything about what anyone but I myself wear. In my opinion these women who wear makeup and 6in stiletto pumps to work scream that they are a bit insecure in their physique and their looks. I am almost 40 and I am proud to adorn my favorite character, which even at my age changes from time to time. Thirdly, as for men and their judgment call, they spend just as much time and effort on their vehicle, right down to the fuzzy dice that they hang from the mirror, and we shan't discuss what time era or age group that's from. None-the-less my point is people who have the money to spend how they want should be allowed to, and we should be secure enough in who we are to let them. I agree that in a court room a Hello Kitty shirt may not be the best choice but if women can wear the amounts of makeup they do then why not a ring, especially one with a price tag such as the one in this article.

    January 12, 2012/Reply
  31. Ash'lee says:

    @Swan…of course your best friend is black! LOL

    January 23, 2012/Reply
  32. DA says:

    I am one of those people who really love Hello Kitty stuff. There is something about her that is really cute and I always loved, even as a little girl. However, my parents never had enough money to splurge on Hello Kitty things for me when I was younger, so I never got to express my love for it then.
    However, I don't have stuff everywhere. I keep it to small things like my notepad or the wallpaper on my tablet. I do have some things in my cubicle, yet they were gifts from the people I work with and my boyfriend! Obviously, he doesn't mind, since he is the one who usually spoils me with Kitty stuff (mostly pajamas and house stuff, but still).
    To each their own. I don't tell people what to love, so I expect the same courtesy back. I have a little girl now, who I dress in HK shirts and things, so I am able to express some of my love there. But everywhere I go, I am always put together and professional. Who cares what is printed in my pjs?

    February 5, 2012/Reply