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Dressed to express: The reasoning behind student fashion choices

By Dhruv Anish, Bertina Fan and Miranda Lu Apr. 28, 2021


With the diverse student body at the school, many fashion styles are expressed that foster individuality and creative self-expression, ranging from sportswear to vintage clothing. Mindless Mag—a magazine exploring the relationship between fashion and social issues—described how fashion styles allow individuals to nonverbally display their culture, lifestyle and personality to the world.


Modern-day fashion styles are inspired by various factors, including personal interests and beliefs. Dressing in a unique manner can lead Wendy Lee Photo to an increased sense of individuality as people are able to create an identity for themselves through clothing. Therefore, many students at the school can be seen wearing apparel referencing their favorite travel destinations, fandoms, quotes, musicians, athletes or organizations to display their specific interests.


[F]ashion styles allow individuals to nonverbally display their culture, lifestyle and personality to the world.

“I am mainly inspired by Korean and Japanese cultures, including the outfits of Korean pop idols and anime characters. My style shows my love for pastel colors and reflects my calm and gentle personality,” Junior Shannyn Cabi said.


Clothing and activism

Clothing and fashion have also long been used to spread awareness surrounding sociopolitical issues. According to Teen Vogue, women’s liberation activists dumped stockings, lipstick, girdles and other items during the Miss America Protest of 1968, challenging misogynistic views of women and beauty. Last year, Black Lives Matter demonstrators wore shirts, jackets, face masks and other garments printed with slogans protesting racial injustice and police brutality.


In today’s technology-filled world, a specific piece, brand or aesthetic can easily attract the attention of millions of teenagers through social media. The Daily Cardinal, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s student newspaper, reported that TikTok user Hannah Schlenker posted a video about American Eagle’s Aerie High Waisted Crossover Leggings that garnered over four million views. It prompted many people to purchase the leggings, which sold out just a week after Schlenker posted the video. Celebrities and social media influencers like Schlenker have large audiences, allowing them to inspire others with the brands and outfits they wear.


Peer pressure and social impacts

However, following widespread trends and styles can also be the result of submitting to peer pressure. The Conversation described how some teenagers associate having a good, trendy fashion sense with achieving peer approval, causing them to have lower self-esteem and conform to popular fashion trends rather than developing their own unique style.


In the 1950s and 60s, schools often enforced strict dress codes that required girls to wear skirts below the knee and forbade them from wearing pants.

Despite the diversity in student fashion styles now, they did not used to be so distinctive. In the 1950s and 60s, schools often enforced strict dress codes that required girls to wear skirts below the knee and forbade them from wearing pants. Most girls wore plaid or felt skirts paired with cardigans and blouses while many boys wore black leather jackets and blue jeans, similar to what was worn in the Broadway musical “Grease.” From then on, traditional fashion barriers were broken down with the brightly colored clothes and patterned bell-bottoms of the 1970s, bold power suits and preppy polo shirts of the 1980s, baggy pants, platform shoes and flannels of the 1990s and low-rise jeans and halter tops of the 2000s.


Street style, sustainability and the resale market

According to Singaporean newspaper Today, one of the most popular clothing styles amongst students is currently streetwear, which originates from California’s skateboarding culture in the early 1980s. Streetwear incorporates comfortable and trendy shirts that feature large logos or graphics as well as baggy pants and limited-edition sneakers. Junior Victor Man buys and resells streetwear on Grailed, a secure second-hand buying platform that consists of a community of streetwear enthusiasts.


As climate awareness increases, many individuals take environmental and ethical concerns into consideration when purchasing clothing. Like Man, numerous students are immersed in the Courtesy of Victor Man

resale market—approximately 46 percent of teenagers from upper-income households are purchasing second hand, according to a 2020 survey conducted by investment banking company Piper Sandler. Websites such as Depop, Poshmark and ThredUp—online marketplaces where students can sell and buy used clothes for affordable prices—have become popular amongst teenagers. Additionally, thrifting is a sustainable practice that allows consumers to buy used items for substantially lower prices. As reported by Forbes Magazine, it also helps businesses market their products to a larger array of consumers—thrifters in general—while reducing their environmental impact. The more existing products are worn and resold, the fewer materials are used to create new clothes.


...approximately 46 percent of teenagers from upper-income households are purchasing second hand, according to a 2020 survey...

“I shop on Depop and go thrifting often, so almost all of my clothes are second-hand. These practices are much better for the environment compared to buying from fast fashion brands, and I enjoy wearing vintage clothes,” Sophomore Bethany Daniel said.


The importance of sustainability is one of the founding principles behind Leif Apparel, an environmentally-friendly clothing brand founded by Junior Julia Choi and other high school students.


“Contrary to the synthetic fiber often used by fast-fashion retailers, Leif Apparel is made with a customized sustainable cotton and bamboo fiber blend called ‘Bamboo Plus.’ Our brand aims to help protect the environment and reduce the waste produced by the fashion industry,” Courtesy of Julia Choi Choi said.


Financial constraints

While some students are able to choose clothing that represents their interests and values, financial circumstances may affect the apparel choices of others. Not only is thrifting optimal for the environment, but it can also be inexpensive—thrifting serves as the main way low-income households buy clothing in the Bay Area, as stated by the Stanford Daily. According to LendingTree, Americans spend roughly $134 every month on clothing items—a price that many high school students and families are unable to afford. Thus, some have to resort to buying cheaper clothing or keeping a smaller wardrobe.


According to LendingTree, Americans spend roughly $134 every month on clothing items—a price that many high school students and families are unable to afford.

“Fashion choices can highlight socioeconomic disparities because many people adhere to the concept of conspicuous consumption to flaunt their wealth through material goods. Lower income individuals often have more pressing needs than following the latest fashion trends,” Junior Aidan Cain said.


COVID-19 and comfort

Aside from financial concerns, the COVID-19 pandemic has also influenced students’ fashion choices. The Washington Post states that individuals have been leaning towards more casual styles that emphasize comfort. In shelter-in-place, people do not have to physically present themselves at their workplace or school, which often leads to a decreased inclination to look professional.


“Since the start of the pandemic, I have been a lot less concerned about what I wear on a day-to-day basis. I spend most of my time at home, so I tend to wear more comfortable clothing like pajamas,” Senior Bobak Pourrahimi said.


Student fashion choices are often emblematic of their personalities, placing value on aspects like personal interests, aesthetics, comfort, affordability or sustainability. As the fashion industry evolves and inspirations stem from new trends, students at the school continue to develop unique styles in the years to come.

 

About the Contributors

Dhruv Anish

Staff Writer


Dhruv Anish is a junior at Leland High School who is a staff writer for the newspaper. He likes to watch movies and listen to music in his spare time. His favorite actor is Robert Deniro and his favorite movie is The Godfather: Part 2.







Bertina Fan

Staff Writer


Bertina Fan is a sophomore at Leland High School and is a staff writer for The Charger Account. She likes to start off messages with "ヾ(°∇°*) Hi!"










Miranda Lu

Staff Writer


Miranda Lu is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She enjoys hiking, reading, and watching movies in her free time.

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