Back to School: 2002 vs. 2012

Like Christmas, back-to-school time comes but once a year. Unlike the former, however, the morning screams are of a far different emotion. This time 10 years ago, I could be seen wearing the carpet down pacing the path from my bedroom to the bathroom mirror, obsessively trying on new clothes and piecing together outfits in hopes of winning over upperclassmen and cool teachers in my very first year of high school. A horrifying realization, no doubt, that a whole decade has slipped past and I’m still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up and getting nervous around 17-year-olds. Some things will never change. Yet, when you compare the styles of the present with my freshman days of yore, I’m thankful that I at least grew out of the oversized glasses and Old Navy flared denim.

Let us take a glimpse, shall we, at the looks sold in the suburban malls of 2002, set to a soundtrack of Papa Roach, Christina Aguilera and passersby discussing Michael Jackson’s baby-dangling, so I can feel all old and granny-like about the garments draping off of teens today and you young’ns can feel lucky about your aesthetic options of today.


In the humble bedroom community of Mansfield, Texas, on the outskirts of Dallas and Ft. Worth, not owning a pair of these literally made me a social outcast. Every cool girl whose parents hung out at the country club had them while I donned a Payless Shoesource knock-off version with white socks. These bulky sandals were no relief from the Texas summer heat, and most had weird foot sweat stains because leather is no good in 100 degree weather when your feet have the most glands on your whole body. Not to mention they’re also the complete anti-thesis of what the Doc Marten footwear lifestyle is supposed to be about. Sooo no punk rock, Chelsea, Chelsey, and Chelzee!



Fortunately, fashion has embraced everything classically wonderful in vintage, and now high schoolers can go to class in the adorable classic oxfords they see in the Great Depression chapter of their American History books. If I’d had these options back then, I wouldn’t have had to shop at Skechers for so long.


Thank Britney Spears for making the low-rise flare denim thing happen and therefore making them the only pants I would wear until halfway through college. The early 2000s were a time of unnecessary embellishments and bedazzlements on jeans paired with dangly faux-leather or scarf belts that were never intended to actually hold up your pants. Fortunately, the recession changed our mindsets on purchasing certain kinds of fashion that both served no purpose and looked ridiculous.


In the last few years we experienced the rise of skinny jeans on a god-like level and haven’t looked back. But when your pants are that super tight, what else can we do to spice them up? Apparently, PATTERNS. While I’m slightly jealous of teens for having the option of well-cut mint jeans and loafers, I can’t get behind floral and other busy prints. For one, it just seems like an invitation for pesky summertime bees, and two, they sure are hard to rock for us gals with a pear-shape. Wear ’em now before the thighs come, girls!


The hilariously controversial yet stylistically uncreative Abercrombie and Fitch seemed as essential a part of the hip teen uniform as fur on Jennifer Lopez. I remember the day I bought my very first Abercrombie T-shirt, and just in the nick of time to wear to my first “popular kids” social event – Skechers included. I was a late-bloomer. The cologne that’s so heavily sprayed in the store as though it was full of vitamins or some crock never washed out, though. We used ourselves as walking billboards to promote that our parents could (begrudgingly) afford a $39.95 tee, yet never actually did any of the sports or vacationed in the Adirondacks like our shirts suggested. BUT AREN’T MOOSE KINDA COOL?!


For some reason beyond my comprehension, neon has taken over (a foreshadowing of our future alien overlords!), as if teens don’t already draw enough attention to themselves in hordes at the mall and pizza joints. On a positive note, it’s essential in avoiding potential pummeling by a car for teens who have a hard time lifting their necks up from Ayden’s text messages. Now that I think about it, I probably just answered my own question.

But can we please just stop this whole sheer-top-with-just-a-bra-underneath? Just because there’s technically something OVER your bra doesn’t mean your bra still isn’t underwear. Anything showcasing that much suggestion of skin in such bold colors just seems like a human strip club sign. Modesty, ladies!


tank tops for the win!


Let us revel in the fact that THIS fad is no longer. Yes, yes, we’re all super beautiful inside and out and all that good stuff, but we’re not one size fits all. Nice try, Limited Too.


You’re fierce, Kelly, but chunky highlights were just never a good idea. I couldn’t understand this trend and was happy to see it go like a tornado fading back up into the dark clouds from which it came. While everyone was hung up on “The Rachel” cut or the soccer mom-esque bob, the early 2000s hair also saw some arguably unnecessary hair dying that looked more like tiger cos-play than fashion.

But the side-cut hit this year and I blame Skrillex as the guy who smuggled it into American households. For you fickle pickles who like the idea of a pixie cut but can’t handle parting from your luscious locks, why not do both and look like the Two-Face of hair? It’s edgy but still cute and youthful and females of all ages have been sporting it. Get back to me on how it grows in, though.


In 2000, my school district decided they didn’t trust the youth of America and banned “real” backpacks unless they were kept in your locker. If you wanted to carry your books in a bag so you wouldn’t have to stress over locker visits through long crowded hallway walks and short passing periods, you had to have a clear one. Yes, clear. As in, here’s all of my stuff! As in, oh! I’m also a young woman who just “became a woman” and am carrying cargo on me I don’t feel like sharing yet, kinda clear.


So you can see why I’m super jealous of the vintage mid-century looks coming back with satchels and old-fashioned bookbags. If I had a Never Been Kissed moment and had to go back to high school, this would be my Josie Gellar oversized lemon bag. And it doesn’t even matter that this probably can’t hold a lot of books because you’re all on iPads and brain chips now.


I feel ya, sassy tween on box wearing a bracelet on your bicep. (Get it, it’s the one that represents health) You’re boss. Why? Because you just got your power beads kit and the newest Britney Spears album and this year is gonna be totally awesome. Let’s all wear Passionate Pink!


Spiky bracelets and rings that take up ya whole dang fingah will really give you some power, though. Anyone who had this stuff when I was in school was tucked in the corner seat in Geometry listening to Marilyn Manson and went through a stick of eyeliner a week. Now, spikes, metal, and leather are popular while managing to not look deadly.

But, just in case your school has metal detectors…

There’s still SillyBandzzzzzzz.


The Books You’d Rather Be Reading

No explanations necessary.


Definitely no Harry Potter, but it’ll work.

Happy School Year!

Main photo courtesy of The Epoch Times