I’m not like a regular teacher—I’m a cool teacher. At least that’s what I think on most days. I can speak TikTok, and I get that most middle schoolers would rather grow up to be Instagram influencers than astronauts. But the middle school fashion trends today are just beyond my comprehension. Here’s a quick run-down of some of my favorite fashion faux pas.
1. Mom Jeans
I can (almost) get that high-waisted jeans are back for the middle-aged, I just never thought I’d live to see them in middle school. But sure as Mrs. Romper rocked muumuus, school hallways today look like vintage 1970s roller rinks. In fact, the higher the better. But what really frosts my cookies is that right below the waist, the jeans are completely ripped to shreds. It’s full-on leg exposure with barely any fabric holding the pants together. And the more distressed the jeans, the higher the price. I guess it’s a drop in the bucket for a generation that shells out $7 for a Frappuccino after school.
2. Vintage Band Tees (for Bands They’ve Never Listened To)
I had a student come to class rocking a David Bowie T-shirt. Totally awesome, right? Before I could finish humming a few bars of “Rebel, Rebel,” I realized she might have no idea who the White Duke was. Gasp!
I took a leap of faith.
“What’s your favorite Bowie tune?” I shrieked, hoping for some 6th grade street cred, only for my worst fears to be realized.
“Who?” she asked cavalierly. “I just like shirt. I think my mom listens to him on the oldies station.”
That’s me, I’m the mom. I suddenly didn’t feel so cool anymore.
In my day, we got T-shirts at concerts because we were actual fans. Today my class looks like they’re headed to Lollapalooza, albeit with cell phones instead of lighters, and no intention of appreciating any actual music. We need to invoke a rule that you must know at least five songs by any artist if you are going to wear their likeness in public. It’s only fair.
3. Stars, Stripes, and … Animals?
It used to be that stars and stripes were reserved for Flag Day projects, but today they’re all the rage on clothes, shoes, and hair accessories. And Animal Farm is not just the name of a required-reading book, it’s a full-on fashion explosion. Cheetah prints, zebras, and leopard prints are spotted (pun intended) everywhere. Extra credit if you can combine or mix and match the prints! I get that kids are expressing their creativity, but in my day it was a major fashion faux pas to not perfectly match every outfit. And start swimming for the stores too because this fashion predictor is beginning to see a fish trend emerge.
4. Crocs + Socks
We kids used to laugh when my grandfather hosed down the sidewalk wearing black socks and sandals. Who knew he was a fashion trendsetter way ahead of his time? All I see today are students wearing Crocs in winter, spring, fall, and oh yes, of course, summer. Crocs are designed specifically for bare feet at the beach, but kids today are wearing them with socks! Hiked-up socks at that! And in what I can only think of as a wonderful attempt to be prepared for class, I see students keeping their pencils between the air holes in the Crocs. I can only hope the school nurse is ready to remove some nasty foot splinters at a moment’s notice.
5. Man Buns for Everyone
Messy hair, don’t care! The bun craze has swept the schools and kids are going to great lengths to achieve this look. Some even take “bedhead” to a new level by napping in class for a few seconds to appear as if they “woke up like this.” Seems the trick is to put your hair into a neat bun and shake it out Breakfast Club–style until your tresses run wild. Try being a sleep-deprived parent on the carpool line and you’ll have this look down pat.
I just don’t get any of it. If that makes me uncool, I’ll wear that as a well-accessorized badge of honor. Can we just bring back plain T-shirts, intact jeans, coiffed hair, and functional sneakers, please?