Growing up, I was encouraged by my parents to “be myself.” The sentiment was sweet; but in practice, these hippie parenting techniques resulted in multiple fashion disasters. Instead of being myself, I was a little bit of everybody else. I suited up in trend-whore clothing and accessories, no matter how contrary these “fashions” were to whatever else I happened to wear that month, week, or day. I may occasionally pull a Shakespeare and wax philosophical about the ‘90s; but all that my tween wardrobe and Hamlet have in common is that they are both TRAGEDIES.
In no particular order:
Smiley face everything: If it could be worn and had a smiley face on it, I owned it. Smiley face jewelry. Smiley face Joe Boxer long underwear that I’d occasionally wear out of the house as PANTS. Smiley face scrunchy, for Christ’s sake. Worst of all, though, was the patent-leather smiley face book bag. I had it in “yellow on black,” which I (mistakenly) thought was alt.
Oversized t-shirt tucked into jeans and puffed out, with three-hole belt: The oversized t-shirt tucked into jeans and puffed out was how you were supposed to show that you had a nice, round ass – which I didn’t. In fact, I was pretty assless back then. The t-shirt was usually “borrowed” from a friend’s older brother, or my dad if I was desperate. Across my flat chest was “FILA” or “FuBu” or some other ridiculously shameful brand that I had no business wearing.
This ensemble was not complete without the black “leather” belt that had three holes punched throughout. This was the only type of belt that existed in 1998. I bought mine at a 300-square-foot shop that specialized in bootleg tapes. While there, I also purchased Jay Z’s Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life and a sticky bun.
Chain wallet: Chain wallets screamed, “I’m a ten-year-old badass.” My chain wallet could not be my everyday wallet, unfortunately. It typically didn’t fit into my back pocket unless I was wearing my brother’s hand-me-down JNCO jeans.
Non-prescription glasses with gold frames: This is where I start shame spiraling. So, I come from a multiracial family. I grew up pretty indifferent to this; rejecting every individual culture I counted as my own in favor of being “American.” My dad was “white” and my mom was “black” and that was as deep as I cared to understand it. That is, until I reached Junior High and all of my friends were Hispanic. I used my vague ethnic background as a means to become “the same” as everyone else. I used my grandmother’s birthplace (Panama, on an ARMY BASE) as my “in.” I pretended my last name was spelled “Georgopuloz,” because everyone knows that if you tack a “z” onto the end of your last name, it becomes Spanish. My middle name, ‘Hope,’ was now ‘Esperanza’.
The non-prescription glasses with gold frames are symbolic of the many imprudent purchases I made in the name of being Hispanic/”hood.” When paired with doorknocker earrings, my “nameplate” (kill me), and my baby hairs gelled down and sculpted onto my forehead; I was certified Boricua. I now realize that I was actually just a tween growing up in Park Slope, that all Brooklyn tweens dressed like that regardless of race, and that wearing fake reading glasses was not “hood,” no matter how blinged out they were.
Overalls: If I said overalls weren’t the worst, I’d be lying. There were endless ways to look like a tool in overalls. There was the “one strap undone” look, and the “roll up one side of the pant leg but not the other” thing. Not only did I own blue jean overalls like most confused ‘90s kids, I also owned a brown pair. Brown jean overalls.
Socks in general: None of my socks matched, ever. I was always wearing one loud-ass patterned sock with a white ankle sock from Puma or some similar athletic brand. I had gaudy holiday socks that I wore year round. All sock combinations had to be painfully mismatched in color, height, and thickness.
Visors: Visors randomly became “hip” again in the early 2000s. I worked at McDonald’s at the time and entertained the possibility of passing off my McDonald’s “headgear” as an ironic visor from a “hip” skate-kid store like Mr. Rag’s or Pac Sun. I owned one other visor – it was from Michigan State and I bought it for this dude after making out with him once; then decided to keep it because he “wasn’t my boyfriend.” Oops!
I spent my tween years making the Arquettes look like the Armanis. I can’t even begin to discuss the hair that accompanied these atrocities of fashion (think of all of the horrible things that can be done with bangs, and multiply that by 30). I may take frequent walks down Nostalgia Lane, but my rose-colored glasses can still recognize fugly.