The magnificence of fashion reveals itself in myriad and often quite mysterious ways and this applies particularly where the tastes of children are concerned.
Almost three years ago now, my nine-year-old son persuaded me to sign him up to clubpenguin.com, an online virtual world inhabited by tiny waddling birds who play with other tiny waddling birds engaged in everything from making pizza – chocolate ones with jelly beans, marshmallows, liquorice sticks and rainbow coloured sprinkles – to bobsleighing, fishing and more. My son's penguin and his penguin friends all have their own igloos complete with bookshelves, sound systems, paintings, sofas, TVs and even light-up dance floors – and they have a wardrobe. Everything is bought with penguin money earned by playing the aforementioned penguin games.
Having yet to take more than a passing interest in his own appearance – I still choose most of his clothes for him and aside from a dislike of woolly jumpers, button-front jeans and the colour grey, pretty much anything goes – where his penguin's style is concerned it is a very different story.
My son is dressed principally with practicality in mind: jeans, T-shirts, sweat tops, trainers and so forth. His penguin on the other hand, is every bit the, well, every bit the peacock penguin. He started off life naturalistically – that is, coloured black and white – but for a small fee he can transform into any colour of the rainbow. On a down day spent roving the icecaps he might be red and wear an orange "spikester" wig, an orange hoodie and orange sneakers, the sunny effect of which is only added to by a "star" necklace. When he goes clubbing he ups the ante in twinkly, midnight blue top hat and tails combo, a pair of "business" glasses, smart shoes, a chunky chrome watch and an emerald green tie. More impressive still is his "fire ninja suit", emblazoned with flames and with a fire amulet set with a ruby the size of boiled sweet. Then there's his ermine trimmed crown and, in line with the film of the festive season, his "humbug" coat and hat. Marvellous and truly a sight for sore eyes.
The clubpenguin world has its detractors. In much the same way as people with 14 nannies and/or more time on their hands than most don't allow their children to watch television (thank you, Madonna, for that) there are those who argue that hours spent staring at a computer screen filled with penguin pals is not quite so culturally enriching as settling down with a nice copy of A La Recherche du Temps Perdu. To my mind, though, clubpenguin is genius, a brilliant way in which a child may express his character and, of course, dress sense – or at least his penguin's character and dress sense – to the full.