I grew up in the eighties and nineties. The former was one of the most ridiculous decades in fashion since the advent of time itself. The latter was actually quite conservative in comparison. Traveling back in time to the fifties, teen fashions were very chic and polished. In the sixties and seventies, fashion became a bit questionable with the popularity of bell bottoms, flowered prints, platform shoes, and micro-mini dresses. But, few people will disagree that something went terribly amiss in the eighties in regard to fashion.

Don’t get me wrong! I adore eighties fashion. If I could use one word to describe it, it would be “fun”! We had carte blanche in the eighties to wear the most outrageous outfits. Fluorescent colors were all the rage, and the bigger the hair and jewelry, and the tackier the makeup, the better. We wore plastic shoes, for goodness sake! Crazy prints, off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, leg warmers, and stirruped leggings were all considered to be totally rad. Some of us cringe when looking back at year books and class pictures that documented these trends for our children and grandchildren to mock until the end of time, but others beam with pride at the clownish look of yore.

Now, in the 2000s, it seems there’s little originality left in fashion. These days, fashion seems to pull from countless trends of the past. Previous decades seem to make small resurgences here and there, and every now and then, I’ll recognize a detail on a garment that I’ve already seen before. Hippie fashion has been reinvented as “boho chic”. A variation of grunge “fashion” is now sported by the lumbersexuals, and the hipsters borrow from the beatniks. There’s one trend that hasn’t changed much and has stood the test of time, and that’s…preppy.

In my neck of the woods, most teenagers these days dress in preppy fashions. I actually love the way they dress! Unless they’re sporting athletic wear, they’re donning traditional preppy trends. Button down shirts, khaki shorts, pearls, boat shoes, long poker straight hair, and natural makeup. These kids look great! And the funny thing is, they think they invented these looks. If only they knew that preppy has been around for decades.

The word “preppy” is derived from preparatory school. The roots of preppy fashion can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century and reached a heightened level of popularity in the 1950s. It reflected the style of dress popular in the Ivy League schools of the United States. It’s also influenced by the clothing worn while participating in upper-class leisure activities such as golf, tennis, horseback riding, and rugby.

I’ll admit that I, myself, am a huge fan of preppy fashion, particularly equestrian style. That may be the reason why I love that teens these days love preppy wear. What’s also great is that classic brands that have been around forever are mixed with new preppy brands that have emerged over the past few decades. I’m not so naïve as to think that teens all over the country, or world, dress like the kids around me do, but definitely, in the southeastern part of the United States, that’s the style that teenagers sport.

I’m sure a lot of these kids have adopted their parents’ style. Though, most moms around here wear yoga pants and/or active wear as their day to day clothing, so my original theory might be incorrect. And, teenagers usually try to conform to one another, so if the “popular” kids are wearing preppy, then most of the other kids probably try to follow suit. Preppy fashion is classic, chic, fresh, and projects wealth…all attributes that teenagers love. Of course, some teens end up rebelling and find their own style, but those kids are usually in the minority.

Hopefully, the crazy eighties trends will never resurface to the level of insanity that they once were

And the preppy teens don’t always hit the fashion mark. Sometimes, they veer from convention and end up looking as silly as we used to. Knee high socks with rubber shoes, giant bulky boots with leggings, oversized sweatshirts that swallow them whole, and shorts rolled up so the tag of their waistband is visible all qualify as teenage fashion fails. Still, none of these infractions can compare to the giant hair, plastic charm necklaces, and jelly shoes that we wore.

So yes, I do think teen fashions have improved. We had our share of preppies in the eighties and nineties, but they were not as prevalent as they now are. The clothes, and the healthy, long, poker-straight hair of today’s teens are as fashionable as can be. But, I do wonder what the future of teen fashion is.

I suspect there will always be the preppy crew, but I’m sure youth fashion will evolve as it always tends to do. Hopefully, the crazy eighties trends will never resurface to the level of insanity that they once were. I do see leg warmers for sale at the stores, but let’s all admit that they were a pretty cute addition to the fashion world! I hope fashion in general gets a little more exciting. I’m sure new fabrics will be invented, and certain fringe designers will show us the creations they’ve dreamed up in their imaginations. But, the fact remains that many people prefer the elegance and sophistication of classic fashions.

Each generation thinks they look good at the time. We thought we were totally awesome donning our ridiculous fashions in the eighties, but now we have the clarity and hindsight to see how wrong we were. Maybe today’s teens will grow up to have children who look at their old photos and laugh at what they see. But, I really don’t think so. Teens these days look amazing. They’re chic and beautiful, even with a mouthful of braces and all the other awkwardness that comes along with their age. I find it difficult to believe that anyone will judge them harshly for their fashion sense. I know I approve.


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