How I learned to love my awkward high school fashion phase

The only thing for me scarier than someone seeing my driver’s license picture, (it was a bad hair day in the middle of the summer) is someone seeing a photo of me from when I was 15. Why? Well, like many teenagers, I was going through a bit of a phase. one that involved bright green striped leggings, the Tripp corsets, and the pounds of black eye shadow. And for years, when I looked back at photos of myself back then, I saw nothing but unflattering fashion choices and cringe-y memories.

It’s not hard to see why I gravitated towards a goth/punk/skater look. Ever since I was very young, I always rooted for the underdog of any movie, television show, comic, etc. The underdogs of the ’90s were almost always either very nerdy or very rebellious goths. I was into it. I wanted to go to a place where I was only wearing black and always shooting back Daria-like sarcastic comebacks. So I started wearing belts and fishnets my first couple years of high school. For two years, I would listen to only goth, metal or emo music, and I would flock to anything Nightmare Before Christmas. I basically bought out Hot Topic.

Like my father  predicted, I eventually grew out of that all black everything aesthetic. Later in high school, I diversified my wardrobe, and owned up to my love for Modest Mouse and cheesy Mark Ruffalo rom-coms. And soon, I began to treat that experimental fashion phase like a dark secret. Though it was short-lived, whenever any of my close friends remind me of the time I confidently swore to never wear pink because Slipknot said so, I shrivel with embarrassment. “Can we just pretend that never happened? I was young,” I say.

I was like this for a while until I went to college and met some new friends who, well, owned up to the phases they went through in high school. You learn to appreciate any and every embarrassing moment you may had in high school, including the times you tripped in the cafeteria or that time you forgot your gym clothes and had to wear the old dirty extras your teacher had ready (they were also almost always either two sizes too big or too small). After a week full of finals, you won’t help but smile when you stumble upon an old photo of you with the most unflattering hairstyle with your crew of similar looking friends. It turns out that most people go through some awkward phase in high school. We’re all just trying out things and seeing waht fits. It’s OK if the thing you sported in 9th grade isn’t your permanent look.

And a weird thing happened. Instead of being embarrassed by my old pictures, I started feeling, well, proud. Owning up to a phase in your life not only allows you to laugh at yourself from time to time, but it also gives you something to bond over with other people you may not have thought you had much in common with.

Not too long ago I discovered something called Emo Night not too far from where I live. Some friends and I took out the old eyeliner and Billy Armstrong ties and sang along to Fall Out Boy with hundreds of more people—and it was amazing!

So though I might not have the same commitment to Hot Topic now, it still a treat whenever I stumble upon a clip someone posted on Facebook. Even though something  may not be important to me right now, it was important to me back then, and I shouldn’t have to hide that. Embracing every corner of your past—even the parts you once considered cringe-worthy—is a great thing. You’d be surprised how much the old you is still part of you right now.

Though the concerts I go to now are much different than the ones I went to in high school, I don’t think about the music I listened to or the clothes I wore as embarrassing any more. In fact, I miss those times. It’s a part of me, and I don’t regret it. Not even a little bit.

[Image via Universal Pitcures]