Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Lillian Rose/Amazon.

A Gentle Ode to All the Baby Accessories Designed to Look Like Military Gear

The Wall Street Journal reports this week on the trend of baby accessories disguised as military gear. These diaper bags and carriers boast all the functions a modern baby could ask for, from supportive straps to bottle pockets. Of course, this stuff isn’t really designed for mewling newborns but for something just as adorably fragile: the male ego.

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To be fair, there is already plenty of baby gear touted as gender-neutral out there. Thanks in part to the rise of hands-on fathering, there’s a thriving market for, say, diaper bags that can be passed between mom and dad over the course of the week. But a unisex aesthetic usually means a particular brand of urban minimalism that may not be to every dad’s liking.
They are quietly stylish, which makes them—to a certain eye—quietly feminine.

Not so the new generation of supermasculine parenting accoutrements: “baby carriers that look like SWAT vests, camouflage diaper bags, and pacifiers attached to military-inspired carabiners,” as the Journal sums it up. One company founder boasts that he aims to serve “a market full of guys sick of diaper-bag emasculation.” The lede anecdote concerns a South Carolina man who has affixed a “shit happens” patch to his diaper bag and totes his child around in a baby carrier disguised as an armored vest. This is gear for the guy who wants to say, “I may have stuck around to care for my offspring, but I’m still a Man.”

However, I come not to bury the “tactical” baby carrier but to praise it. Is calling a small bag for dirty diapers a “dump pouch” ridiculous? Of course. Still, let’s not lose sight of the big picture: The existence of macho baby carriers and diaper bags means self-conceived macho men are wearing baby carriers and carrying diaper bags. Is it absurd to need to explicitly be told you are a manly man while you wipe your baby’s butt? Sure! But it’s way less silly and pathetic than believing, as our president does, that a man who changes diapers is acting “like the wife.”

It’s 2018, but parenting and mothering are still nearly synonymous in our culture. We live in a world in which dads are often said to be “babysitting” their own children, and headlines and advertisements default to addressing “moms” on kid-related topics. The default aesthetic for baby care still tilts toward pastels and florals. There’s nothing wrong with throwing a little camouflage in the mix. And when you think about it, parenthood is more like war than like a field full of bunnies anyway.

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