At what point in our lives do we first consider style? Parents dress their babes, grandparents unearth treasures for grandchildren, but big kids start to develop their own tastes as they approach the teen years.
Some, of course, are late bloomers. Hands up. We spent my 6th grade year in London, and I wore a uniform to school, every day. Somehow that got me paying attention as never before. Occasionally we were allowed to wear our own clothes. I remember even now a dress Mom bought me that spring. Imagine London in 1968, cream and orange Liberty flowered cotton, almost canvas, belted low and wide in the same fabric. Brass grommets on the belt holes.
But back at school in California the following year, all the kids wore jeans and tees. My plaid wool pants and Beatle turtlenecks? Over the top. I retreated, cautiously, and spent the next two years in white cords, jeans, and one of two shirts. Better safe than sorry.
Going back to school is always a cauldron for teenage style; we do well to moderate the heat. It’s one of the tricky and important parts of parenting, balancing kids’ need to integrate into a peer group against our longer view of societal norms. I may have said to my pre-teen daughter, at one point, “No dressing like a teenaged prostitute!” I’m a fan of lively dialogue.
What, we might wonder, are teens and pre-teens wearing back to school today? This is a highly localized study, regionally and culturally specific. I had to ask the experts, AKA my youngest sister and two of her kids, for the Los Angeles Teen And Middle School Style Preview. It turns out that binders and pens are the moral equivalent of our scarves and earrings. It’s all in the details.
(Hover/click each cell of the display to see the details. Our UI experiments continue apace.)
Back-To-School For An L.A. Middle School Girl
Surely we are happy about Dr. Martens returning? And we wonder, will pleated plaid minis be far behind?
Off-To-High School For An L.A. Teenage Boy
Style for most boys may be less complex. But it’s no less rigorous.
And in the rest of the USA? Do teenaged boys wear skater brands like Hurley and Quiksilver? Do pre-teen girls flock the sidewalks in Dr. Martens and their softer and still-ubiquitous cousins, powder blue Uggs? Are our conversations with our children about style as important as the food we feed them? Probably not to that last one. But I’m going to say, in software terms, it’s non-trivial.
Wishing everyone a good school year, with a good right balance of style and substance.
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