The “Girly-fication” of Graphic T’s – Part 1

“Why do boys get all the cool stuff?” is a constant refrain from my daughter, Maya, when we shop for graphic T’s. You see, she likes sharks, baseball, motorcycles, and robots more than hearts, flowers, butterflies, princesses, and kittens. And she does not like pink or sparkles or ruffles or bows. And she is not alone! But this is what you find at the store:


The “girly-fication” of girls graphic T’s has made it next to impossible to find a shirt (in the girls department) for girls like Maya. First of all, far too many themes have been deemed “just for boys” by clothing designers and retailers (like sharks, outer space, dinosaurs, and football), so good luck ever finding them on a girls shirt! And while many other themes manage to cross gender lines (like dogs, basketball, music, and skiing), the graphics apparently need to be “girly-fied” with pink and sparkles or bows to actually make it into the girls department. You’ve all seen the soccer balls covered in hearts and glitter, and the pink dogs with rhinestone collars, right? Maya loves those themes, but not those shirts! That leaves the “just for girls” themes (like butterflies, flowers, cupcakes, and cats), but some girls simply aren’t interested in those things (especially when almost all of the actual graphics are “girly-fied” too!). Faced with those limited options, it’s no wonder Maya prefers browsing the boys graphic T’s!

This “girly-fication” of graphic T’s seems to get more pervasive and extreme every season! Yes, it is true that many girls like the themes and “girly” styles being offered to them. But not all girls do! At least not all the time! My problem is not with the “girly” shirts, but with the lack of options for girls who are not interested in that style. Finding a shirt “without the girly” should not be akin to finding a needle in a haystack! I think clothing companies have gone too far in creating differences between the genders when, in reality, there is a lot more overlap in the colors and things kids like.

These two soccer shirts are a perfect example of what I see over and over again, across different themes and retailers. It’s great that this retailer offers a soccer shirt for both genders. But girls get just this one option and boys get six (3 of which show someone actually playing soccer!). In what now seems to be standard industry practice, they add glitter to the girls version. Then to top it off, the girls’ ball is actually made up of tiny flowers and leaves (which have absolutely nothing to do with playing soccer!), while the boys’ ball is made up of action words about the sport (Oh, don’t even get me started about how boy graphics are typically more active and girl graphics tend to be more passive – that will have to be a whole separate post!). I don’t have to tell you which one my daughter would pick! mar13 girl soccer close up               VS.                        mar13 boys soccer close up

The frustrations of shopping for graphic T’s for my daughter is one of the main reasons I started Girls Will Be. Graphic T’s are a way for kids to show off their love of something, yet girls like Maya can’t do that without shopping in the boys department* or undertaking an exhaustive search to try and find the one girls shirt that has not been “girly-fied” (and who has time for that?). Girls need more options in the middle – shirts made for girls, but with a broader range of themes and no pink or girly embellishments at all (not even just a little!). There is more than one way to be a girl and there should be more than one way to make a girls graphic T!

Our line of clothes (launching in late spring 2013) will give girls some great new options! In the meantime, check out our blog and Pinterest boards for a selection of girls graphic T’s “without the girly” from other brands. They are rare, but they are out there! I get ridiculously excited when I discover one that also features outer space, bugs, dinosaurs, or some other theme that breaks gender stereotypes! And since we face similar challenges when shopping for PJs and underwear, we created Pinterest boards for those too!

In Part 2 of this post, I’ll share what I found when Maya and I went looking for a graphic T with a dog on it. Simple enough, right? Well, you may not believe how wildly different dogs are depicted on girls vs. boys t-shirts! It’s “girly-fication” to the extreme! Although I did manage to find a few shirts to recommend for the Girls Will Be girl.


* A quick note on shopping in the boys department, because we know girls (and their parents) have different opinions on it. While girls can definitely find graphic T’s they love in the boys department (and that is where we buy most of Maya’s right now), we just don’t want that to be their only option. Because we don’t ever want a girl to think something is wrong because she doesn’t like what girls are “supposed” to wear. Or stop liking something because she only sees it on boys shirts. Or have to wear oversized, boxy t-shirts all the time (unless she wants to!). So go ahead and raid the boys department if you want. And we’ll keep working to bring you more options in the girls department!


  1. Another source for great graphic tees for all ages, girls and boys alike is Threadless. They’re tees are often nerdy but include some of the themes you said you like most – science, nature, sports, etc. There are hits and misses, but some of my favorites include “venn of pb & j” “re-cycling” “nature’s choir” “the curious collector” “a book lover” and “into the sea”. Don’t be put off Threadless calling their section for girls “Lil Girly” …it’s not.

  2. Nice post. So frustrating. I actually think it’s worse for boys – ONLY trucks and motorcycles and bugs and sports. Annoying for everyone for them to gender differentiate everything so very early. My girl will wear girly stuff, but will not wear anything revealing or constricting. We end up with a lot of Lands End and Hanna Andersson (mostly used off eBay). I’d love to see part 2 of this, though it’s probably too late now, because we LOVE dogs in our family! But I can’t find part 2 on the blog(?). Thanks for your site!

    • I agree that boys have a similar lack of options on their side of the store. Unfortunately, part 2 never got written because the launch of our clothing line was all consuming for a while. Sorry! Hope to get to it someday 🙂 Have you seen the dog shirt we created? Our inventory is running low, but if you like it and we are out of stock in your daughter’s size, you can always send an email to and we’ll notify you when it’s back in stock. Thanks for visiting Girls Will Be!

  3. Fruit of the Loom launched a line of superhero underwear for girls. NO PINK!

    • Aren’t those great! I have them on my “Underneath It All” Pinterest board at

      They keep selling out on Amazon, so hopefully Fruit of the Loom is getting the message!


Have your say