High School Trend Regression Disorder

When you want it because everyone else already has it.


There’s nothing particularly “cute” about a black fleece jacket. It’s functional, sure. It has pockets. One could understand why a hike leader would be drawn to such a sensible piece of outerwear.

Now, I was not a hike leader in high school (nor will I ever be), but if the word “literally” was as abused 11 years ago as it is now, then I literally would have died without a black North Face fleece.

Or worse — the world would have found out I wasn’t cool.

Reasoning that it was a practical wardrobe investment, my mom agreed to buy me one. Life resumed, perceived popularity was restored, and then, of course, I needed the scarf. Then the flats. The bracelet. The coffee cup, the sunglasses, and the list goes on. High school was, and I assume still is, a cesspool of insecurity-driven consumerism; a really crap version of Girl Scouts where instead of badges of honor, we collect arbitrary symbols of social status. Thank god for graduation.

Working in fashion — an industry based upon trends — has taught me the difference between wanting something because it’s beautiful and interesting and emotionally satiating (never mind how hyperbolic that sounds) versus wanting something because everyone else has it. Style versus Sheep. I’ve either become brilliant at discerning between the two or numb to my commercial desires due to cost, but it’s rare that I want an article of clothing anymore for the sake of fitting in.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

This past March, I found myself re-immersed in the world of equestrian competition. In an effort to spare you the details while providing enough context, know this: I ride horses, sometimes competitively though far less frequently than my fellow competitors. Horse shows are strange in that multiple divisions occur within the same venue. My “class,” for example, could occur in the same ring just a few hours prior to that of professional or Olympic riders.

These top riders are essentially the equestrian world’s Paris. And the trends (tall boots, breeches, coats, miscellaneous gear) trickle down from them, to my fellow riders, and last of all, to me.

I’m not around these styles every day. My visual access to the “cool kids” is limited to a few weekends each year. This means that not only am I behind the trends, the majority of my show clothes are completely outdated.

Here’s what everyone has: square toed boots. Here’s what I have: round toed boots. They wear Samshield helmets. I wear a Charles Owen.

Both of our boots step in poop. Both of our helmets protect our heads from cracking open when we hit the ground. So why couldn’t I shake the feeling of wanting what everyone else has?

Perhaps because high school, unfortunately, never leaves us. Maybe it’s because humans, like horses, are pack animals: lag behind and you become someone’s lunch. How relieved I was to return back to Manhattan, then, where my High School Trend Regression Disorder could slither back into its adolescent abyss. I know it’s there, however, and it’s haunting me.

But here’s the good news about the disorder: Everyone has it.

Photograph by Michal Pudelka
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  • Kelsey Moody

    “Lag behind and you become someone’s lunch”…Amelia Darwin’s survival of the (out)fittest.

  • Allie Fasanella

    I was just thinking about this like this morning actually. I was looking at my white converse and thinking how I bought them because I saw some girl wearing them and thought she looked cool as fuck. And I thought to myself what a wannabe I am. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to escape wanting things that are considered ‘cool.’ That doesn’t mean I would buy something that everyone else has if it isn’t aesthetically pleasing to me. I like to think I have personal style but I still find myself looking at other people and thinking ‘i want to be like her.’ is that normal? does it ever end?

    • parkzark

      I’m with you Allie. I’ve bought things like converse, birkenstocks etc. knowing that everyone has them, but wanting them because I thought they were dope. Certain items become popular for good reason sometimes.

      • Allie Fasanella

        that makes me feel better. thx g

      • i agree!

      • Alexa McCarthy

        In the mantra of the now dead “norm core” I like to think that I buy and wear clothes because I think they’re cool and if other people have it, so be it. I sometimes ( far toooften) find myself scoffing at the girls that all wear a different variation of the same outfit, but then realize I’m a part of that too. The real uniqueness, and challenge, in style comes in how we each dress these very similar pieces differently. But I also find myself shying away from trends that are just too saturated, because usually by that time the trend itsruined. Although converse and Birks will never fall in that category!! But one ‘same outfit different girl’ that I’m very much over is festival chic.

    • Andrea Raymer

      I think there is a difference between wanting something that everyone else has just because we want to fit in and wanting something popular because we saw it one someone else and thought it looked cool.

      In the second scenario our taste still comes into play which could then be considered our own personal style.

      But, you know, I have gone through like 4 pairs of white converse so what do i know?

  • Julie Meowmeows

    “Keeping up with the Joneses” occurs in all periods of life!

  • I had a uniform in high school, so this disorder didn’t hit me until college, and it hit HARD. Because of said uniform I didn’t own that many articles of clothing and the only designers I knew were because of the Black Eyed Peas, “My Humps” song. I fell into this whole other world of clothing without a moose or eagle wings on it. It became very difficult and frustrating to keep up with everyone. I feel so foolish when I look back and think how much that all affected me of wanting what everyone else had, but you’re right, everyone has the disorder. And for the record, I have never owned one of those North Face fleeces.

  • I’m guilty, I must admit, to succumbing to certain fashion world trends just because they’re popular. Those Birkenstocks I bought a couple of seasons ago? I regret the purchase. Until Birkenstocks became popular I had an utter distaste for them, but then once I saw them on Elin Kling and Amy Astley I was determined to have them in my own closet. In high school, however, I was the total opposite and made a conscious attempt to dress differently from the popular crowd; you’d never see me in Lululemon leggings and Steve Madden biker boots, instead American Apparel corduroy circle skirts and Bass Penny Loafers.

    • Alexa McCarthy

      I must confess: I was super angry about the whole Birkenstock trend. I had always worn them because they were comfortable and frankly I didn’t think they were ugly. When all of a sudden they become trendy I was annoyed that people who didn’t like them before and thought they were ugly all of a sudden had them! I felt like I had a claim over the trend, and that in 2 years all those same girls would stop wearing them. It was the epitome of the trend effect. BUT I can totally relate to your reason for getting them. There is a feeling of need that goes beyond whether you really like something and i’ve totally had it! I definitely caved with the whole army jacket thing.

  • parkzark

    I too had to have a black North Face in high school. A week after I got it, someone stole it from my locker. My mom was supa pissed, but maybe it was fate telling me I didn’t need that effing North Face to be cool.

  • Quinn Halman

    I actually feel that experiencing this sense of wanting is more middle school than high school. What people want in high school is to stand out and in middle school people want to get to that popular crowd because, from my experience, that tends to carry on into high school. What my peers take pride in, is doing something different or starting a trend.

    • Allie Fasanella

      I wish I went to your high school. I feel like you guys are more progressive now. kids these dayzzz – i can dig it

    • HannahGS

      Totally agree. In middle school I bought like eight billion of those horrible abercrombie shirts that are literally walking advertisements because everyone else had them. Now, in high school, everyone is all caught up in trying to be different. We have no dress code, so you can wear whatever you want. The problem is, sometimes people try too hard to be all nonconformist-y. I’ve honestly not worn something I wanted to because I thought I’d look like I was trying to fit in (lululemon leggings and college sweatshirt, anyone?). Ugh, basically my point is that high school sucks.

    • Andrea Raymer

      I’m with you on that but mostly because by the time I got to high school I gave up on trying to wear what all the popular kids were wearing and resigned myself to being a weirdo.

      my freshman and sophomore years I dressed exactly like I was going golfing 100% of the time and then junior year I started the “Blair Waldorf Phase”.

    • Bella Charlwood

      I just remember in 9th grade you always wore really cool coats to school and nobody else wore coats that cool so i thought you were really cool

      • Quinn Halman

        They were all my mothers!!!!!

  • I feel there is a constant struggle between wanting to be unique and ourselves, and wanting to fit in and be like everyone else. Everyone wants to be part of something bigger, even if that something bigger is just the current trend, but if that is your constant focus, then you’ll never be happy.


  • CJ

    Pictures of the old and new equestrian trends, please!

  • Stephanie

    Hmmm, fashion-wise I always wanted whatever my older sister had. To this day we still draw inspiration from each other. She was, and still is, one of the coolest people I know!

  • Kenns

    Awesome article Amelia!! There is so much commentary that can be written in response. However, in the interest of time ( and being at work) I will save it for later. But I do have to interject a perfect example: In Phoenix, Juicy Couture track hoodies were all that in middle school and high school. At college now in Ft. Worth, no one would be caught dead in one. I wonder if it’s a regional thing or an age thing (think Abercrombie) or a trend that went down as fast as it went up?

    • Kenns

      I just realized that my response is not really on point to what the article said. I think for me, the pack mentality does extend into college, namely purging the high school wardrobe for a completely different college wardrobe. I noticed that at work though, there doesn’t seem to be a “uniform”, Probably due to various factors like age differences, where they are from regionally, and maybe just confidence in one’s own style.

  • The only trend I wear that I don’t really like is skinny jeans. When I was in high school, only the emo kids wore them. I held out until college and then I couldn’t avoid them anymore because everyone wore them. They just don’t seem to be going away.

    • Char

      I hate them too and still refuse to own a pair. It’s been like a decade–they need to go away and stop making everyone look terrible.

  • A constant, similar argument goes on in my head everyday about various pieces of clothing or shoes. My ultimatum is this–if I can’t stop thinking about it I obviously need it in my life. Anything I forgot after a day or two is not worth the closet space.


  • Andrea Raymer

    I feel like the pack dressing mentality doesn’t really go away, it just progresses with age.

    In 1999 there was the platform sketchers and the pants with skirts attached as well as wanting anything from limited too so I looked cool.

    In middle school my hometown hit the surfing phase where everyone only wore surf brands and everyone dressed to convince everyone else that they were an avid surfer even though it was january and, yeah we do live next to the Atlantic ocean, but it is 35 degrees and you will actually get hypothermia if you go in that water in that bikini you are wearing instead of a bra.

    Then in high school there was the split between the pseudo-preps who only wore Abercrombie and wore those suede flat clogs (I forgot about those) and the people who decided to be emo or scene and I’m not quite sure of the difference between the two because they both only shopped at Hot Topic.

    In college, it was cool to show that you didn’t care about what you wore to class and everyone wore uggs, leggings, Nike running shorts, and North Face fleeces.

    Now in the professional world there are similar things, I’m just not sure what they are because I have no friends in that world.

  • Geez. I feel prey to that J. Crew tablecloth shirt. At least I didn’t pay J Crew prices! http://www.manrepeller.com/minor_cogitations/to-stalk-that-j-crew-gingham-shirt.html

  • Grace Ditthardt

    I actually don’t think I’ve bought anything just because I’ve perceived them to be ‘cool’ or ‘popular’. Naturally, when I see things on others that fit my taste and style, I consider adding the pieces to my own wardrobe. I saw a lot of discussion about Birkenstocks below, and I believe that it’s a similar principle.

  • Spent most of high school trying desperately NOT to follow the trends. Owned waaayyy too many items from Hot Topic mixed in with a smattering of youth group paraphernalia. So when I started college, I did a complete 180 and officially fell prey to the North Face/Hollister Polo/Jean Mini/Black Tights/Black Boots combo. Was never in a sorority but spent the better part of the first three years of college looking like I was.

  • pASHionateLEY

    I’ll never forget my navy blue Enyce track suit that I wore with my baby blue Timberland boots. That’s when I had an affinity for hip hop coupled with the fact that I attended high school in an urban city. I think what makes me disapprove of this style decision is that that this is no where near the style that I truly loved. Enyce track suits were not cheap! Oh, the things I could’ve bought at Forever 21 with that money!

  • starryhye

    I went to a small prep school where we wore uniforms, but little things still managed to creep in. Ralph Lauren Polo oxford shirts and Doc Martens are two that I distinctly remember. I was never “cool” so I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. I was desperate to copy what the cool girls had, thinking that *maybe* that one thing could change my social standing. After college I got a job working at a luxury department store, where I pretty much went nuts buying all the designer stuff I’d always wanted. Some of the pieces have stood the test of time and are truly classics. Other things have since been purged and sold on eBay.

    Now when it comes to certain fashion trends, I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t. My lifestyle (stay at home mom) doesn’t require a lot in terms of fashion, but I like to keep myself looking current. I think what it all comes down to is that we all just want to be accepted.

  • amg

    nothing wrong with Charles Owens but if you aren’t wearing Parlantis God help you! LOL! xoxo Horse Show Mom………https://youtu.be/Fn1voM_WXXo

    • Amelia Diamond

      hahah whoever you are, you get me. NO I DO NOT HAVE PARLANTIS THEY ARE NEXT ON THE PLEASE-GO-ON-SALE LIST.

  • Realllllly enjoyed this post!

  • Molly the Bean

    I remember when the desire to be trendy drove every material desire I had. Middle school was the really rough one for me; I had myself figured out a little bit better by the time I hit high school. I went from a tiny elementary school in a rural setting to a really large middle school… it was full-blown culture shock. All the girls had sparkly jelly bracelets and Roxy sweatshirts (and tan legs). What I wouldn’t have given to possess those things, and eventually I did…but I still wasn’t “cool.” I think that’s when I figured out that it’s much better to do your own thing and screw the rest.

  • Jessica

    One Christmas when I was home in Nashville visiting my family, my sister and I had a contest to see who could take the most pictures of people wearing a north face fleece. We got one point for every picture of a north face fleece wearing person, and 2 points if they also happened to be wearing Uggs. Sometimes, whole cities can’t shake this disorder. Just sayin. XD
    Miss Moore Style

  • Nobodyscloset

    I’ m enjoying every single word of this post!


  • BK

    Hey Amelia I Have An Equestion (Equestrian Question): What sort of riding boots does Jessica Springsteen wear? (N.B I’m not in any way a ‘horse person’, as my mother calls anybody who has ever so much as considered owning or standing in the same vicinity of a horse, I just think any knee high boot that The Boss’ daughter deems worthy of pressing into horse manure is good enough for me to wear)

    • Amelia Diamond

      Hey! haha I have no idea but a good guess would be these: http://www.parlanti.com/ , I feel like “everyone” wears them.

      • BK

        1. Thanx
        2. These shoes are beautiful, I don’t deserve them
        3. If it makes you feel better there was a big ‘hat’ phase at my primary school when I was circa 8 years old which silently stipulated that the only hat anyone should be seen dead wearing was a Nike baseball cap, but somewhere on the way to my brain this message went slightly askew and I showed up the next day wearing my cattle-farming father’s John Deere trucker cap. I was (still am, in many ways) incapable of comprehending where I had gone wrong

  • Sarah

    She’s missing the point of it all she views other people as a group designating them only by what they wear . If you choose to view the world this way , you will not ever fit in .

  • Kelly

    1000000% relate. I rode for my college team, and I was always the girl in the button-on choker when everyone else had magnetic, or Ariat breeches when everyone else had Tailored Sportsmans. I still love my Charles Owen though, AYR8 4 Life. For some reason I tend to get the feeling that the equestrian world directly relates the brands you choose to how well you can ride. I love that you ride though! Not too many fellow “horse girls” (as I have been called) in the fashion world.

  • disqus_WBoMG1aAaK

    hi patrick am deaf like fashion great