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The Comfiest Back-to-School Clothes (and a Discount Code)

Primary Kids

I can’t believe it’s almost back-to-school! Where does the time go? This year, the boys are excited to make new friends and learn new things, like “non-fiction books about motorcycles and wolves,” says Toby. They also can’t wait to get dressed up in soft, comfy clothes every morning. So today, in partnership with Primary, Toby, Anton and their friend Sylvie offer up their best advice for the new school year…

Primary Kids

For great kids’ basics, we always turn to Primary, the brand started by two moms who couldn’t find great kids’ clothes at reasonable prices. They offer the same mix-and-match pieces season after season, and the boys live in them.

Primary Kids

Toby wears the leggings, classic tee and zip hoodie in cobalt.

I asked Toby, who is headed into fourth grade, what advice he has for kids who are nervous on the first day of school. “Take deep breaths. It makes you feel good.” Wearing comfortable school clothes helps, too. “I like to wear leggings,” he says. “They feel relaxing. And I like to be relaxed.” Primary’s new kids leggings with pockets are wonderful, too.

Primary Kids

Anton wears the dream knit oxford, crewneck sweater and classic jeans.

Anton, who is starting first grade, is most excited to learn about “lighting matches. Just kidding. Maybe math.” He is naturally drawn to power colors. “Red is one of my favorite colors, so I wear red. I like wearing button-down shirts kind of like Daddy. I love wearing jeans, too, especially on colder days.”

Primary Kids

When it comes to clothes that go with everything, nothing is more versatile than jeans. And Primary’s new denim line is amazing. A lot of times, kids can find jeans uncomfortable — they can be rough and stiff, and can limit flexibility and play. But Primary’s jeans are truly comfortable. The boys never want to take them off.

For kids, they come in three different fits — slim, classic, and relaxed — and two different washes. (And for babies, they make easy pull-on jeans, with plenty of room for diapers!)

Primary Kids

Sylvie wears the navy stripe twirly dress and the under shorts in lilac.

“Don’t be nervous!” says Sylvie, who is also headed into the first grade. “Pack mac ‘n cheese for lunch.” Anton agrees: “Or grilled cheese. Croissants! Maybe a chocolate croissant! I’ve never had a chocolate croissant in my lunch, but I would like to, of course.” Adds Toby, “Ask your parents to pack you a note! That always makes me feel good.”

Primary Kids

And of course, the big question is: how do you make new friends? “Sit down and have a chat. Just a chat,” says Toby. “Play races at recess,” says Sylvie. “You can play with dolls, like babies, and play family.” Anton takes a different approach: “Me and my friend Nicholas were the jokemasters in our class. We said, ‘Wobble, wobble.’ That was so funny.”

Primary Kids

For all your back-to-school needs, Primary is the best. Their pieces are incredibly well-made and feel like hand-me-down quality, even at their reasonable price point. Kids find their pieces so comfy and love to wear them all the time. We highly, highly recommend them.

What are your kids looking forward to this year? Would love to hear.

Bonus for all readers: Get 20% off your first order, plus free shipping, with code CUPOFJO. Thank you, Primary!

(Photos by Christine Han for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Primary, a brand our family loves and wears all the time. Thank you for supporting the brands that help keep Cup of Jo running.)

  1. Lindsey says...

    Is it just me or does Toby look like Vincent Kartheiser (from Mad Men)??

  2. Allison says...

    I’m always so disappointed Primary doesn’t ship to Canada. I love their plain colours and simple lines.

  3. Kathryn says...

    My son, who is also heading into fourth grade and adores his PJs from Primary, hasn’t always been a fan of school. Last night as I was tucking him in, he said he was excited about school starting. Yeah!! What a relief! Most of the credit goes to his understanding and creative teachers who figure out what works best for him.

  4. K says...

    We LOVE Primary for our almost-3-year-old and our 8 month old. I potty trained early and that meant easy to pull on/off pants and shorts and nothing that would accidentally fall into the potty, which were surprisingly difficult to find when I browsed consignment stores with the usual kids brands. Plus layers are so key when babies are playing hard outside, then returning to chilly air-conditioned classrooms, then napping on the go… it’s so tempting to dress your babies in adorable clothes (and accessories), but parenting is like 95% empathy, and when I order from Primary I actually feel physical relief that my kids will be in sturdy, comfy clothes that check all my boxes.

    The best compliment I got was from a teacher who gazed at my 2 year old kind of wistfully and said, “Lucy always looks just so COMFY.” His eye slid over to Lucy’s school friend, bedecked in tights, a giant twirly skirt, a cardigan, and stiff, sparkly mary-janes. NOT THAT I’M JUDGING.

  5. Ruth says...

    I hope Primary will be shipping to Europe soon,i love Thatcher Oxford shirt, such a clever product!👌🏻

    • Ruth says...

      Thatcher=the

  6. Melody says...

    Everyone asking for Primary for adults should check out https://wearpact.com/
    Very similar aesthetic.

  7. Raleigh says...

    Their advice is precious, true for life (Toby! Wow!), and delightful to read. “Chat. Just Chat.” And, “You can play with dolls, like babies, and play family.” My heart. <3

    Thanks for the post!

  8. Jean Jones says...

    I can’t be the only one thinking this, but- can we get these clothes in adult women’s sizes?!

  9. Camla says...

    I want a Primary for adults.

  10. Sasha L says...

    Just gonna throw this out there (preschool teacher here), when you dress your kids for school (or provide the clothes they get to choose from as they dress themselves), please, please, think about how those clothes will help them have a good day at school. Can they easily go potty, all by themselves? Can they put on their shoes and outerwear, all by themselves? Does their clothing fit properly, TODAY? Will their clothing attract distracting attention or encourage violent play (looking at you sequin shirts and super hero t shirts)? Will their clothing get in the way of their play (hello fussy dresses)? Children often want to wear the fanciest, sparkly, light up whatevers, but guess who has to deal when clothing is problematic? Guess who already has enough to do? 😉
    I LOVE Primary (& they are not paying me, but they should be), because their clothing ticks all those boxes and makes my day better and the children’s days so much more fun too.

  11. Judy says...

    So, so cute! Our grandkids (13, 11, 9) pretty much wear Under Armour and Addidas only–even our girl with a long ponytail. And all their friends, too. Just sporty stuff! And hardly ever pants! What’s the deal with teens and pre-teen wearing long sports shorts, even in winter? It is a thing!

  12. Jill says...

    The posts featuring Toby and Anton ALWAYS make me smile! They seem like really funny, thoughtful, and amazing guys. I love how much Toby loves leggings and Anton looks so big in the bike photos! Just swooning over ya kids! They’re great!

  13. jeannie says...

    Such a cute post! And this made me laugh: “Or grilled cheese. Croissants! Maybe a chocolate croissant! I’ve never had a chocolate croissant in my lunch, but I would like to, of course.”

  14. Emma says...

    Haha Anton!
    My 2 1/2 year old loves jokes too! He’s been saying really fast, “When I did it, I did it” lately and then busting up laughing. Idk what it means but it sure is funny seeing how he thinks it’s so funny!

  15. Elise says...

    We love Primary for lots of reasons, but here are two big ones: for my daughter, I love not having cutesy words or ruffles or lace trim on her basic clothes. And for my son, I love that he can wear COLOR. He loves bright colors and rainbows, but too often those close are only in the girls section, and are cut too close to the body for him to wear — so he used to always end up in blue and green only. Primary is the perfect combo of generic and adorable.

  16. Sasha L says...

    Oh please expand to grown up sizes Primary!! I love your aesthetic so much, pocket leggings, cardigans, basic tees – my wardrobe would be set.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Same!!

    • Allie says...

      Agreed!

    • Mags says...

      I loved this post and the advice. I’ll pack a chocolate croissant for lunch for my first day back to work after holidays! :)

      I hope Primary starts shipping to Europe soon, as I love their approach. In the meantime, I buy almost all the clothes for my 2-year old at My Basic (mybasic.pl), a Polish brand with similar philosophy. The quality is excellent and they ship all over Europe (I live in France and friends from UK also order regularly).
      I highly recommend it!

  17. Leanne says...

    I wish they shipped to Canada. It’d make all my kid-clothing dreams come true.

    • margo says...

      Me too! clothing here is SO limited

    • Jillian says...

      Same! Please, PLEASE ship to Canada! Like another commenter, my son loves bright colours too! Primary looks like a dream to me.

    • Gosh me too! Seems like Canada is always the last one to have the good stuff!!

    • Robin says...

      Yes please! And Joanna, if you have a sponsored post like this that’s only available in the US could you note it at the bottom? It’s so disappointing to look through the site and then check shipping policies to find I can’t order anything.

    • Emma says...

      I also wish they would ship to Canada!!!!

  18. I feel like everyone could use a little Toby – and a chocolate croissant packed in their lunch – in their lives. His wit + humor are the best and have brightened my day immensely!

  19. Carrie Jones says...

    Joanna, you should have Toby and Anton do a “blog takeover” for a week. They could choose the topics to write about, who they want to interview and take their own photos for each post. You could throw a couple sponsored posts in the mix. It would be AMAZING.

    • Sasha L says...

      That would be so cute

    • pim says...

      great idea!

    • Allison says...

      And they should get paid as contributors!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Omg that’s a really cute idea :)

  20. Candace says...

    Love Primary. Their baby leggings were the ones I reached for every morning. It’s time for a size upgrade! Also, that photo of Anton in profile shot me right back to your post about his ultrasound profile when you were curious about who’s top lip he had/who he looked like (that isn’t creepy at all, right??). It hasn’t changed a bit! You have such happy confident boys – inspiring stuff. x

  21. Ruth says...

    My daughter is in pre-k and has been at the same place since she was 3 months old. The center director always reminds parents that it takes about 3 weeks for EVERYONE to adjust to new rooms, teachers, routines, etc. and so far each year, she’s been right!

  22. celeste says...

    Bummer that they end at size 12 – I guess my girl’s officially a middle schooler! I’d totally score a rainbow dress for her.

    • Courtney says...

      Some things still may work for her! I am a full-grown adult and I buy their large tops. They fit great.

    • Bettina says...

      Ditto – my daughter wears a 16

    • Sasha L says...

      Courtney, may I ask what size you are?

      I’m a 4/5, 125, 5’6″ – would I fit a cardigan??

    • Courtney says...

      Sasha, the cardigans might fit you! I’m pretty much exactly your size (if course proportions may be different- I’m smaller on top than on bottom), and they fit me. Just note that sleeves might hit right above your wrists, which is actually something I like because then they don’t get in the way.

  23. Kendall says...

    This company reminds me of Hanna Anderson, which my mom dressed me in exclusively when I was a kid

  24. katie says...

    Primary for the win! When my guy was 2 his obsession with purple started and Primary was perfect – finally a place to get purple clothing that wasn’t sparkly/feminine. He’s 5 and it’s still going strong. I’ve appreciated seeing how Primary continues to improve their products. One request: purple gym shorts! They only make it in the shorter style. And a tip – the fitted solid color PJ tops are excellent as a regular wear base layer. My son basically wears all his fav t-shirts (handmade mom art of purple buses and helicopters ;-) through the winter with shades of purple and pink as the base layer.

  25. Jessica says...

    My daughter is only four months old. As much as I wish she could stay at this sweet age forever, I really do look forward to her learning to talk and finding her voice. I try to imagine what her voice is going to sound like and what hilarious nuggets of wisdom she is going to deliver. Whenever you publish conversations with your kids, it really makes me look forward to that stage.

  26. Barbara Jane says...

    I’d like to see Anton’s comedy special! All of their advice is so sweet. My little guy is starting PreK3 this fall, and we’ve been driving past his new school to get him excited about it! I think it’s working!!

    • L says...

      I fully laughed out loud a couple times. Would 100% watch Anton’s comedy special.

  27. Rebecca says...

    Haha, I’m laughing out loud at his hints for a chocolate croissant. Love reading these posts with your sweet boys!

  28. Heather D says...

    My boy went to full time pre-K this year and it gave me such anxiety! He was nervous, too, but he’s made some great friends. Every day he comes home and tells me who’s on his best friend list for that day. =)

  29. Ellie says...

    I need to stop looking at Primary’s website because they don’t ship internationally, but it’s basically everything I’ve ever hoped my kids might wear. Simple and easy to wear!

  30. Emma says...

    Toby long legs! When did that happen?!

  31. Laura C. says...

    They are so tall, Joanna! But Toby, he’s truly a little man!
    My girls are going to third and first grade, and the first day of school is my little one’s birthday. She’s so eager and wishes to start school soon!
    Is Anton going to use his cool backpack this year?

  32. Jesse says...

    I taught one of my first year students how to light a match today- so accurate Anton.

  33. Love primary! We’re trying out their new denim this fall.

  34. Maia says...

    Anton’s grin in the first pic <3 I also see his faithful cowboy belt buckle. Such special little boys, both.

  35. T says...

    wobble wobble

  36. Kate says...

    So cute! And little Anton has such styyyyle! Love hearing from the boys :) They always keep it real.

  37. Hannah says...

    Opposite of the question, but our 4 year old is dreading going to his Montessori school full-time starting this fall. He’s been there for two years and loves it, but we always pick him up at 11:30am. Now, he’ll be there for lunch and the afternoon until 3pm. He’s going around saying that “we’re going to break his heart”! I’ve got major mommy guilt going on here….

    • Julie says...

      I am in a similar boat. It’s very hard! It’s such a wonderful place for them to learn and grow, though. I will try to remember that if you will.

    • Rosa says...

      Hannah my 3 year old is the same. to help yourself: Take deep breaths and write 3 reasons why you work on a post it note, I read them when I feel guilty. To help your kid: don’t deny his feelings by saying he will have fun; lean into it by saying how hard it is to be apart. Follow @seedandsew on Instagram and/or listen to episode of the Aug 12, 2019 Unruffled podcast for good advice.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      The nervous anticipation is definitely the worst part! I’m sure he’s going to love it. My boys have sometimes needed a couple weeks to warm up but then they are so happy and skip out of school each afternoon. Good luck mama!!

  38. Megan says...

    Would totally buy adult sized twirly dresses.

    • Laura says...

      Yes, me too!

  39. Ginny says...

    Jokemasters! I love this. Anton sounds so much like my Scarlett. For her birthday two years ago she wanted a comedy party, so that’s what we did. Everyone brought a joke to tell and they all just laughed and laughed…the best, simplest party ever!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      So cute!!

    • mindi says...

      This is one of the sweetest things I have read today! I love how much kids love jokes, even the ones they don’t get.

    • Crystal says...

      I love that! My daughter LOVES jokes! This year she really wants to have a slumber party but now I know what the kids can bring as gifts instead of plastic garbage – a joke to share!! Thank you for sharing this idea!!

  40. Ingrid says...

    Toby’s in FOURTH GRADE! Oh my! Hope both boys and Sylvie have a great year, and make friends that will last a lifetime.

  41. Amy says...

    We have gotten a few pieces from them and been happy. I especially loved my baby boys swim diaper and rash guard this summer. It held up super well to our zinc sunscreen.
    Customer service is also very helpful and get back with you quickly. (I always email them)

  42. Amber says...

    I’d like to have a chocolate croissant in my lunch also.

  43. Laurel says...

    TOBY! holy smokes. The first post I ever read was when he was about 2 and had a Happy Birthday balloon but it wasn’t his birthday. I don’t know you all personally and live on the other side of the planet, but I’ve been watching these boys grow for years and all of a sudden, he’s no longer little! Just got a little heart pang…..♥️

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Aww that’s so sweet :) thank you xoxo

    • Veronica says...

      Omg same. I immediately thought Toby! He’s looking tooooo grown up, I can’t handle it!

  44. KB says...

    I’ve been so disappointed with Primary lately! I think they went through a leadership and warehouse change and their quality has declined, as has their order fulfillment. My most recent order was 60% incorrect, and one of the replacements they shipped me was also wrong! So frustrating because I used to love this brand.

  45. Oh, I miss those early school years. My oldest is starting his junior year in college and youngest is starting his freshman year in college. Enjoy these years, they go by way too quickly!

  46. Heather says...

    Aw! These kids look so great in their primary threads. I work in education and always take style inspiration from my students – kids clothes seem to be so comfy looking stylish these days haha. I love the advice to take deep breaths and pack something yummy for lunch. Also – hold the phone, Toby is going into grade four and Anton into grade one?! How did your little guys get so grown up Joanna? Thank you for sharing this very special time of year with us. Sending big hugs to the COJ team and best wishes to Anton, Toby and Sylvie for back-to-school this fall!

  47. jane says...

    Toby and his leggings. . .just so great. All he needs now are long asymmetrical side-swoop bangs! Love them both.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thank you!! He lights the matches every night for family dinner and is so proud :)

    • bonnie says...

      Sara, thank you so much for the link – that is full of sage advice. The method of introduction, safety measures and repetition are a great resource.

  48. Caitlin says...

    Primary is the BEST and truly affordable. They have allowed me to quietly rage against low quality, branded, and gender normative clothing without going broke!

  49. Lauren says...

    I get it, Toby. Leggings make me feel relaxed too.

    • Lauren says...

      LOL this Lauren agrees! All my props to Toby for embracing what he likes and prefers. I had sensory issues as a kid (grew out of ’em as an adolescent) and hated, hated, HATED feeling any kind of closure on my pants, especially buttons. I’m also a fidgeter, so fabrics without much stretch (esp jeans) made me incredibly anxious. I rocked leggings and dresses for most of elementary school :) (And am grateful to have had a mom who didn’t fight me on it, bc sensory issues weren’t as widely acknowledged in the 80s.)

  50. H says...

    Omg! Wobble wobble is SO funny! I have a rising 4th grader too! Thznks for the best advice, kiddos!

  51. Sophia F. says...

    We adore Primary – my elder daughter is picky about the fit and feel of her clothing (gets annoying, but I remind myself that ALL grownups get to be picky about this!) and their clothes are always soft, minimally seamed, and crucially, consistently sized, so we know she’s a 6 or 6-7 in everything they have. And the colors!!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes! And no tags! :) So great for kids with sensory issues.

  52. Abbie says...

    FOURTH AND FIRST GRADE?!?! My mind refuses to believe it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Mine too!! Time is a thief.

  53. Alexandra says...

    Fourth grade!! That blows my mind. I’ve been reading this blog since before he was born! Thank you for sharing your kids’ sweet comments, it’s one of my favorite kind of posts :)

  54. Miruska says...

    The.Best. “lighting matches. Just kidding. Maybe math.” hahah. I love these conversations with Anton and Toby. you now have to pack a chocolate croissant for the first day lunch.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh that’s such a sweet idea, maybe we will :)

  55. Jc says...

    Wow! Anton can cycle!

  56. Mary Bly says...

    Loved this approach to back to school. Even in my second year of graduate school I needed to hear this advice. I wear all of my favorite summer clothes in the first couple of classes to help with the transition. It still feels like summer if I go to class in a linen jumpsuit and sandals.

  57. Cait says...

    “I like to wear leggings. They feel relaxing, and I like to be relaxed.” PREACH, TOBY!

  58. Megan says...

    This is the cutest! I just placed a back-to-school order for my girls (5 and 9 — they love the sport leggings and sweatshirts) and I was bemoaning the fact that there isn’t a Primary for adults. Wouldn’t that be great?!

  59. Kate says...

    Major croissant hint-dropping from Anton! And very relatable leggings opinion from Toby.

  60. Libby says...

    Best Mom Advice: I used to get so nervous before the first day of school and my mom always calmed my nerves by telling me that there was someone at school that was just as nervous and excited as I was and that I should keep an eye out for them; because they’re just waiting to be my friend!

    • Lizzie says...

      Such sweet touching advice! This whole article is just adorable.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That’s such sweet advice. Thank you so much for sharing.

  61. Kari says...

    I adore that your boys each have their own unique style! It’s clear that you give them the freedom to define their own styles and tastes, and they seem so confident in it! Way to go, boys, and good luck heading back to school!

  62. Anya says...

    I literally just laughed out loud at my desk at Anton’s match-lighting comment — a jokemaster for sure!!

  63. becky says...

    OMG Toby is so tall!!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      He grew like a foot this summer!

  64. Amanda says...

    I started a new job today and will be taking Toby’s advice on deep breaths and making new friends! Children are so wise :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Good luck Amanda!! How did it go today?

  65. Steph says...

    Do Primary leggings fit pretty true to size? My gals are tall and very thin.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes, we’ve found them to be true to size.

  66. Veronica says...

    Anton definitely has the jokes down. The response “Play with matches,” had me laughing out loud at my desk at work.

  67. We LOVE Primary for all of my sons uniforms (he loves pink so I’m always thankful for the pink polos in a unisex style) and both of their pjs. I was hesitant about the jeans until your rave review, so I may try some for my picky younger son! Thanks, as always Joanna!

  68. Lauren E. says...

    JOKEMASTERS. I can’t. This is the sweetest.