My middle school obsession with '80s fashion went a lot deeper than neon colors and funky hairstyles

Brooklyn White

I personally believe that middle school is quite possibly the strangest three-to-four year increment of young life. Hormones swirl, cliques form, and, unfortunately, education can be the last thing on kids’ minds. I went to one of best schools (if not the best school) in my city, and the faculty made it their business to encourage students to thrive academically while also participating in the arts. During those three years, I explored myself and continued becoming the wavy woman I am today. Sounds lofty and fake deep, but believe me, it was a comedic and eye-opening time.

One of my fondest middle school memories takes place in 2008, during the summer before my eighth grade year. Always into media and pop culture, I had seen Teyana Taylor’s episode of My Super Sweet Sixteen (and soon after, the “New Era” music video by Retro Kidz) — and quickly became obsessed with the 1980s style of dress.

While I’m not exactly sure why that specific era grabbed my attention the way it did, I do know that I was fascinated and determined to emulate what I saw.

I did not consider my mom’s budget (old school gear can be costly) or the lack of acceptance I’d receive from my classmates, but I didn’t care. I knew I was into ~the look~, and wanted to try something new.

As I reflect, I’m realizing that I’ve been into escapism for as long as I can remember.

Whenever my surroundings didn’t look the way I wanted them to, I would shut out all of the perceived hate, craft a safe space in my mind, and do my best to make my outer world reflect how I felt inside. I had been bullied for my weight, my clothes, and my physical features in sixth and seventh grade, so throwing myself into something different was one of the things I did to bring myself joy. I decided not to focus on anyone’s thoughts but my own for a little while. Even in my adult life, I still do this. I do try to deal with issues in a more mature way, but I think my knack for making a new internal home full of love and acceptance has helped me tremendously in life.

Around this time, I had also began taking my rap career more seriously. I had been writing poems and verses for fun since third grade, but I’d figured out that I wanted it to be my full-time career one day. So I suppose that in my 13-year-old mind, I thought I was due for a complete rebrand so I could get closer to my goal.

Before school officially started, I threw away the majority of my clothes and, slowly but surely, began incorporating neon colors, big glasses, funky hairstyles, and hand designed shoes into my wardrobe.

You could not tell me that I wasn’t a direct descendent of MC Lyte.

MC Lyte
Atlantic Records

In retrospect, my ’80s phase was not the most aesthetically pleasing look I’ve ever rocked, and I can admit that I looked silly sometimes. I raised the brows of at least one teacher, and my family had no clue why I was dressing like that. I was also made fun of by my peers on multiple occasions — but I was living in my own world, so I paid them no mind.

What mattered most about that time was not how I looked. What mattered was my courage to go against the grain, create my own haven, and express myself in a positive manner.

I can wholeheartedly say that I am generally fearless in my creative expression due to my childhood desire to reinvent myself.

Sometimes switching things up is exactly what you need to walk into your destiny.

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