The History of the Term TOMBOY


I was recently asked by a brilliant mind if the term tomboy was politically correct.  I will start by saying political correctness is overrated, in my opinion, but I was encouraged to research the history of the word tomboy and write about it and I LOVED the idea.  The idea was not to determine the correctness of it, but to learn the history of a term we so often use and the most common word I use to describe my new clothing line, inspired by my daughter.  I hope you enjoy learning about the history of the term, tomboy!


a girl who enjoys rough, noisy activities traditionally associated with boys.

After some quick research, I was very pleased with the history of the term tomboy and what it has evolved into.  I also love the way some women have so eloquently incorporated the tomboy look into their everyday fashion.  Their style doesn’t represent wearing boy’s or men’s clothing, but the way they effortlessly put together an outfit that represents their laid back and confident approach to life.

I will start by pointing out the history of the word tomboy, then I will share Vogue magazine’s history of tomboy fashion dating back to the early twenties and I will finish with my own description of a tomboy based upon what my five-year-old beauty has taught me.


The word tomboy dates to the late 1500s, when it was used to describe a bold-spirited or immodest woman. However, in nineteenth-century American culture, the usage of the word “tomboy” came to refer to a specific code of conduct that permitted young girls to exercise, wear “sensible clothing”, and to eat a “wholesome diet”. (I LOVE THIS) Because of the emphasis on a healthier lifestyle, tomboyism quickly grew in popularity during this time period as an alternative to the dominant feminine code of conduct that had limited women’s physical movement.  Joseph Lee, a playground advocate, believed the tomboy phase crucial to physical development between the ages of eight and thirteen in 1915.  Tomboyism remained popular through World War I and World War II in society, literature, and then film.

The urban dictionary offered a modern day definition of tomboy.  Tomboy refers to a female whose behavior is free from the restriction of unwritten societal gender rules. She doesn’t think she is being boyish or girlish, she is being herself.  (Just being herself…I LOVE THIS TOO)


Fashionably speaking, the tomboy came of age in the Roaring Twenties, a time of great liberation for women in every way, including dress. The Jazz Age gave birth to the garçonne—a word referring both to the sporty, bob-haired look that women adopted, and a specific type of dress (described at the time by Vogue as being “good for the woman who wishes to look trim and boyish. It is as simple as its name implies, straight in line, one-piece, beltless.”) Coco Chanel—whose incredible success was due in large part to her sartorial borrowings from the men in her life.

Throughout the twentieth century, the tomboy resurfaced, though the concept shifted with the times, from the preppy-athletic New England Katharine Hepburn in the 1940s to the alligator-wrestling, free-spirited style of Lauren Huttons 70s shoots.

By 2010, the tomboy look had evolved into a uniform—lived-in T-shirt, skinny jean, fitted jacket, and boots—with such immediate city-cool appeal that Alexander Wang told Vogue that model off-duty “is a term I use for developing my aesthetic.”

Enter 2014, with the likes of Daria Werbowy and Aymeline Valade taking cues from decades and muses past and ushering in a slightly tailored take on the style, subbing a Chanel-cardigan jacket for a leather biker, say, or a crisp cotton button-down for a jersey tee. Mixing up those tenets elevates the look, while keeping it surprising and fresh, and of course, a little rebellious—tomboys, after all, just want to have fun.

I will finish with this; after two and a half years of observing my little girl confidently decide that her taste isn’t suited for pink and ruffles, I would like to create my own description of tomboy based upon what my daughter has taught me.

The tiny tomboy that we are designing our clothing line for represents a strong, confident and self-assured child who simply wears what best suits her personality and interests.  For Allie, her interests include sports, adrenaline and adventure.  Allie is fearless and strong, she is confident in who she is and what she likes.  Allie is smart and funny and chooses to play in the dirt and ride her scooter as fast as she possibly can, over playing dress-up and princesses.  As a mother, I was initially opposed to her wanting to wear boy clothes, but I quickly realized that little girl clothes in no way tailor to the taste of tomboys.  They are all pink and purple with princesses and ruffles.  There was no happy medium and the reason I made the decision to design my own line; to suit the personality of these strong little girls without having to shop in the boy’s section of her favorite clothing stores.  I can’t wait to introduce you to the pieces we are working so diligently on for the tiny tomboys in our lives.  🙂



Crossing Arrows Announcement

We made our announcement official on Monday with a press release that we sent into the media world.  We wanted to share the press release with you.  Feel free to forward our press release on to media contacts that you feel would be interested in learning more about us.


 Tricia Steffes to Unveil Clothing Line for Young Tomboys

Crossing Arrows was inspired by Steffes’s five-year-old daughter.

KANSAS CITY, Missouri, June 20, 2016 – Today, Tricia Steffes, founder of Elevate and child advocate announced plans to launch a second clothing line tailored to the tiny tomboy inspired by her own daughter, Allie.  After two and a half years of navigating her daughter’s decision to wear boy clothes because her tomboy taste didn’t have room for pink and ruffles, Steffes was inspired to design a clothing line that allowed tomboys to embrace their confidence and individuality through clothing that goes beyond shopping in the boys section.

The clothing line, Crossing Arrows, will debut the new brand with five designs to suit the strong-willed and decisive tomboy.  In addition to the new designs that will be available for pre-sale in a few short weeks, the online store, found at will also offer a number of children’s designs from other parts of the world.  Some of the accessories that will be available include bow ties, suspenders, ball caps, superhero tutus and superhero cape box sets.

“We are not alone in our excitement for the designs we are bringing to market for these beautiful little tomboys.  We have received such tremendous feedback from parents who are as excited about Crossing Arrows as we are, “commented Tricia Steffes, Crossing Arrows Founder, “We want to offer these independent girls the designs that allow her to embrace her individuality while giving parents more choices.”

Crossing Arrows will launch with a fresh and fun brand that will not only offer a line of clothing to tomboys, but a community for the parents who raise these fun little beings.  Crossing Arrows has begun a strategic campaign focusing on the overarching theme with “YOU ARE YOU,” inspired by Dr. Seuss, as this season’s tagline.  Steffes will incorporate a strong philanthropic component surrounding child advocacy into her business model to serve children in need.

About Crossing Arrows

Crossing Arrows is a clothing company and parenting blog providing fun designs and accessories to the adventurous tomboy in sizes 3T-10.  Their blog explains why Steffes chose the name, Crossing Arrows.  You can read all about it at

Please visit and to join the fun community of parents and tomboys that we serve.


Crossing Arrows

Tricia Steffes


+1 816-694-9049


Happy Friday


What are your weekend plans?  Allie has a tee ball game Friday night followed by a sleepover for the girls.  Saturday includes home projects, swimming and the Kansas City 18th Street Fashion Show.  Sunday we are having family over for grilling out and fun in the water.  What they don’t know, is that I am going to enlist their help to remove my shutters so I can finish painting them.  (Shhh…that’s our little secret).  Our weekends are always filled with music.  The first thing I do when we get home is Bluetooth Pandora usually followed by a dance off between the girls and me.  I will post a link to our weekly favorite song to dance to.  #danceoff

Here are some of my favorite links relating to children from around the web…

I have watched Grace sing at least 32 times…today alone

This children’s book though.  #LOVE

This story about lunches made me laugh until I nearly wet myself (disclaimer…her grammy may have washed her mouth out with soap had she used some of these words as a child…just sayin’)

Easy weekend recipe that even your little beings will love

Amazing bohemian clothes for children

Jim Gaffigan’s hilarious skip about parenting

(photo from shutterstock)

In Search of Lost Me Time


I came across this essay in the New York Times about a father, Reif Larsen, who took a trip alone called, In Search of Lost Me Time.  This essay is a beautiful display of a father’s love and it made my day after reading.

In Search of Lost Me Time


In retrospect, maybe I placed too much significance on that first trip alone after my son was born. For the first year of his life I had barely spent a single night away from him, so it was only natural that I saw this trip as a precious chance to be, however briefly, a sane adult again. The trip was only for one night to a not-very-glamorous city where I would stay in a not-very-glamorous hotel and deliver a talk in the evening. The place itself did not matter — it could have been anywhere. Instead, it was the promise of travel, of not being home and on duty that seduced me.

Somehow the whole experience became a stand-in for everything that I had lost as a new father: I would be able to sleep in! I could drink more than one beer! I could drink 1,000 beers! I could have a solo electronic dance party to early Kraftwerk records! I could dress up like a robot! I could play Ouija board with myself! (Apparently I have a very strange definition of being “an adult.”)

This is not to say I begrudged fatherhood. On the contrary, I loved my new human boy-child more than I thought possible, as if there were a hidden water tower of love mounted somewhere just above my gallbladder that released its spout only when I saw him emerge into the world. Mothers have nine months to adjust to the realness of this creature’s presence; they feel the kicks and the morning sickness and the general hormonal tempest of gestation. Fathers can’t truly wrap their heads around a child’s existence until he or she actually appears: We have to play catch up in approximately 10 seconds, which is why at the moment of birth many of us weep or faint or start singing Whitney Houston songs.

But we are allowed to dream, yes? We are allowed to pine for that simpler time before swaddle blankets and sleep cries, when time was still our time, unplanned and marvelously flexible, when we could watch an entire season of “Six Feet Under” in one sitting because … well, what else were we going to do? When every evening out did not also include a complex babysitter calculus (“These previews alone are costing me $10!”) So my little trip became a surrogate for this glorious period from my past: We’ll call it B.B.V. (Before Baby Vomit).

Funny that I took great pleasure in planning out my re-enactment of this supposedly unplanned time. Perhaps, like me, you are one of those travelers who also takes great pleasure in meticulously designing a trip, in marinating in all the little delicious possibilities of getting from point A to point B. Oh, that restaurant supposedly serves the best carnitas tacos north of the Arctic Circle? Be still my beating heart.

I often find the anticipation of a journey is much more enjoyable than the journey itself, which can frequently feel like a letdown, mired in such real-world phenomena as “that hairball smell from the hotel bathroom that won’t go away.” Reality never quite measures up to the unattainable perfection of the imaginary destination. So it was with great gusto that I filled up my imaginary day on the lam: I would go see a terrible movie! In the daytime! I would go to a barbecue restaurant! I would order a starter and a main course! I would take a three-hour bath! I would meet an old friend at a bar! Afterward we would go to another bar! Then I would sleep. My God, I would sleep. Just dreaming of this possibility of uninterrupted slumber was enough to sustain me for weeks of baby fluid management.

The time for my trip came. It started off wonderfully. At the seventh circle of hell we call Newark Liberty International Airport I was amazed at how easily I breezed through check-in and security without the usual accouterments of stroller/diaper bag/rattles/bottles/pacifiers/toys/books/poop. I felt almost guilty. Out of habit, I helped a solo mom unfold her stroller coming off the X-ray belt.

“Thank you,” she said, half-grateful, half-confused. Who was this shoeless man?, she must have been thinking.

“I have one too,” I said then held up my hands as if I had just lost him somewhere in the airport.

BarCredit Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The airport was perhaps the highlight of the trip. I walked and browsed. I had a beer! (This felt very indulgent. I didn’t know those people in airport bars were actual travelers. I always assumed they were all actors hired to lend the terminal a certain ambience.) Yet everywhere I went I couldn’t escape this feeling as if I had lost something essential. Keys, wallet, cellphone … hmmm. It was eerie. I examined every baby I passed, guessed their age, noted pacifier brand and travel stroller design. (Wow! That thing is tiny! I wonder how it handles the bumps?) I went into a gift shop and browsed through ugly “I♥NYC” onesies. Wait … what the hell was going on? What had I become?

Before my scheduled talk in the evening, I went to my terrible daytime movie (“Jupiter Ascending”). I was the only person in the theater so I took great pleasure in discovering how high I could throw my Raisinets and still have a reasonable chance of catching them in my mouth. I went swimming in the hotel pool without fear of exploding swim diapers or dry drowning baby lungs. After my talk I enjoyed a (wait for it) three-course barbecue dinner. Yet everything still seemed slightly off. I missed the feeling of anticipating this trip, of dreaming of solo adulthood. In the flesh, solo adulthood felt kind of … boring.

Later, I met my old friend for a drink. Our friendship originated deep in the time before marriage and kids, deep in the B.B.V., back when we wore flannel and still thought Jack Kerouac was a good writer. I tried to put on a good face, tried to imagine us drinking until dawn, when we would go jump naked into a polluted river, but I was so tired from not being a father for a day I felt short of breath and almost fell off my bar stool. I could barely make it through one beer.

“How’s fatherhood?” he asked. I could tell he was giving me the opening to rant against all of the lost sleep and endless responsibilities. We could talk women and drugs and the dream of the open road.

“Actually I kind of miss it,” I said. “It’s hard to be away.”

He looked at me with great sadness. We mourned, he and I. Then I fell off my bar stool.

The bed at the hotel was approximately one acre wide. There were no babies in it. I shed my clothes and fell into its vast territory. I called home to see if everyone was O.K., mining for mundane details (“So wait — he didn’t like pineapple? What is he, crazy?”) and then set my alarm for 16 hours in the future, worried that I might miss my flight if I went all Rip Van Winkle up in here. How long was it physically possible for one man to sleep?

I did not go all Rip Van Winkle up in here. Instead, I woke up two hours later. Confused, I listened for my son’s cries but heard only the dull, anonymous hum of hotel air-conditioning. I lay there for an hour, pondering my uselessness before finally drifting off, only to wake up again at 5 a.m. from a nightmare in which my son was choking on chunks of pineapple.

Back at the airport the next day, exhausted and disoriented, I walked right past the bar full of background actors and bought a stuffed lion and an alphabet book at a garish kiosk. I read part of the alphabet book to the bemused cashier. “L is for lion,” I assured her.

I could never go back to B.B.V., to the time of no time. That ship had sailed. But then I was beginning to realize the imaginary could never quite measure up to the unattainable perfection of reality. For now, I found myself looking forward to the ideal destination, a place full of exploding diapers and sleepless nights and water towers of love: home.


The full essay can be found here