John Lewis home insurance advert sparks major public reaction over little boy in dress

John Lewis department store logo on glass facade of new store
(Image credit: David Lyons / Alamy Stock Photo)

The new John Lewis home insurance advert for home insurance sparked a huge online reaction after it depicted a little boy proudly wearing a dress and makeup. 

For many people it’s the John Lewis Christmas advert that marks the start of the festive season. Though it’s John Lewis’ new home insurance advert that has sparked a major reaction in recent days. In the advert a little boy wearing a dress and makeup goes wild around the family home, dancing on furniture, knocking things over and generally having a great time whilst his sister paints at the table. Over the top of the boy’s antics are the calming vocals of Stevie Nicks and the advert is entitled, Let Life Happen. 

How have people reacted to the John Lewis advert?

Many John Lewis advert watchers weren’t quite convinced by the 'Let Life Happen' suggestion, reacting with horror to the damage caused to the lovely home. But it was the little boy sporting a dress and makeup which perhaps sparked the biggest online reaction. 

One person commented, ‘Have you seen the john lewis advert alittle boy in a dress and make up camping it up WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO!!!

I thought it was another #Ikea ad but when I discovered it was #johnlewis It appears the propaganda war to turn Boys into Girls, by applying make-up and a dress, is getting worse’, someone else declared.

Whilst a fellow Twitter user described the inclusion of the little boy wearing the dress as a “cultural lecture” and seemed to criticise what they perceived as a more political message behind the advert. 

They shared, ‘Latest @JohnLewisRetail home insurance advert features a small boy flouncing about in a long dress, bright red lipstick and blue eyeshadow. Shoppers don't want crass cultural lectures from department stores! This type of cr** won't reverse its £517m losses’. 

Some also levelled criticism at the John Lewis advert for the way it depicted the little boy causing huge damage to his family home as being acceptable, with many people perceiving a distinct classist element to it. Whilst some have also claimed that seeing a little boy in such an outfit is “sexualising” children. 

Despite the critiques, however, there were also many people who took to social media to express their delight at seeing such a representative John Lewis advert. It's also been pointed out that John Lewis ran a similar advert one year, the only difference being that the previous one featured a little girl.

I absolutely love the new #johnlewis advert! Little boys expressing themselves with makeup, glitter and colour as well as girls!’ one wrote. 

'I love the #johnlewis advert.. People trying to read so much into it.. Just a kid having fun,' another chipped in to add.

A third person wholeheartedly agreed, writing, ‘LOVE that John Lewis Home Insurance ad. That little boy full face of make-up in a dress, throwing glitter everywhere’.

In response to the outrage, Beaven, Founder and Editor of Sonshine Magazine, a quarterly publication about raising boys for a more equal world told GoodtoKnow, "It's so rare that we see a boy not conforming to stereotypes in advertising. It's becoming more and more common to see girls going against against traditional roles - maybe playing football or gaming, but it's almost unheard of to see a boy doing something expressive like dancing."

John Lewis store, UK

She went on to explain that, "Children soak up all the cues around them about what adults think is appropriate for them, and advertising is a key way that stereotypes can get entrenched. This ad isn't aimed at children of course, it's aimed at parents.

"But there's no doubt that for the children that do come across this ad, seeing a boy dressed up in a parent's dress, dancing his heart out to a great song may well be important for them. I'm all in favour of anything that shows our children that play and expression is important no matter your gender."

Though the retail giant might not have anticipated the enormity of the response, both critical and supportive, it definitely sparked important conversations. And with John Lewis 2021 Christmas advert still to be released, many shoppers will be more eager than ever to see what it'll be like.

Emma Shacklock
Senior Lifestyle Writer

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing, ranging from book publishing to magazines. She currently looks after all things Lifestyle for Woman&Home,, and My Imperfect Life.