The Summer Trends Teens Actually Care About

Unicorn food is out

Illustration by Meghann Stephenson, follow her on Instagram @meghannfinley.
Illustration by Meghann Stephenson, follow her on Instagram @meghannfinley.

Nothing smells like teen spirit quite like school’s-out-for-summer June, and no teen’s got a better nose for it than one of our very own. We asked our Ask-a-Teen Kate Glavan all about summer trends, from the kinds you wear to the kinds you hear to the kinds you spin between your fingers.

What are the big summer fashion trends for the teens this summer? 

Girls are going for the Jane Birkin look. Outfits with overalls, off-the-shoulder tops, gingham, woven baskets, small heels, silk tops and delicate blouses. Pigtail braids are another trend, along with rose-tinted sunglasses or the Kurt Cobain white sunglasses.

What about at your school?

Trends at my high school come from Instagram muses still in high school; girls like Alexis Ren, Stella Rae, Maddi Bragg, etc. influence most girls I know who try to emulate their outfits. It’s cool to be compared to a famous Brandy Melville model or YouTuber who attends Coachella and other hip events. There’s a lot of West Coast envy here in the Midwest, so shopping at fast-fashion stores is a simple way to follow the trends.

What summer trends are you most excited to try this summer?

I love woven baskets and sandals, dewy skin and delicate gold jewelry. I’m definitely going for vintage-feeling looks while incorporating more bright colors into my wardrobe. Summer is the perfect time to test weird pieces I find at thrift stores because I’m not constrained by a high-school dress code or peer pressure.

What summer trends are you most dreading the appearance of all over Instagram?

LaCroix drinks, that red one-piece swimsuit everyone tried to get for free on Instagram and aggressive, glittery highlighter. More importantly, I’m really over girls who don’t acknowledge what cultural appropriation is, because a lot of the “boho festival looks” are offensively ignorant. Things like bindis, locs, etc. will not win you “cool” points on Instagram and frankly, I think more teenagers need to call out their friends in these situations.

Are unicorn foods over or still going strong?


You’re graduating and going to college in the fall, right? How do you think you and your classmates will perceive and relate to fashion trends in college, versus how you did in high school?

Yes and I’m so excited. I only can hope fashion trends will become less of a contest to see who’s recently gone to Zara to buy a designer knockoff, and more about individual style. I think there will be less pressure to look a certain way because nobody knows your past, which is both scary and comforting.

Talk to me about those fidget spinners as a trend (separate from their original use as a calming/focusing aid). Are they still cool? On their way out? Do you use them? Are you too old?

The fidget spinner… Honestly, I don’t know even when they started! I wholeheartedly believe that fidget spinners magically appeared in the hands of middle schoolers one day, and then everyone else tried to dissect what was happening. No one uses them in high school, so I feel as clueless as adults are about this one.

Memes are the biggest trend among high schoolers. Meme accounts on Instagram are full of “starter packs” with tons of images that describe a cliché person, such as “Entry level alt boy” or “Indie girls at a festival.” I hope teens create more meme accounts. They’re creative outlets to talk about mental health, feminism, loneliness and iconic trends from childhood. Meme culture is the perfect touch of nostalgia, bad graphic design and self-deprecating humor.

Any trendy new phrases we should be aware of?

Teenagers use phrases like “Who is she?” or, “Whose man is this?” to point out an interesting stranger. Another thing is talking about objects or places like they’re people. For example, let’s imagine Minneapolis was having really nice weather. I’d say, “Ugh, Minneapolis, thank you. She really gets it, she’s doing so well.”

What do you care most about this month?

Climate change. It was really devastating to see the current administration turn a cold shoulder to the entire world by dropping out of the Paris Climate Agreement. There are so many economic benefits to investing in solar energy, such as more jobs and new technologies. The cost of disasters and displacement is much greater than the upfront cost of converting our current energy processes, which is why I’m so confused by benefits from this decision.

The 2015 Agreement gave me a glimmer of hope about the future amidst all of the depressing news about what humans are doing to sea life, bees, climate refugees, glaciers, forests, etc. I know that once my generation is old enough to run the country, issues like LGBTQ+ rights and abortion rights won’t be divisively partisan. But the only issue in the world I feel truly hopeless about is climate change, which I fear my generation won’t be able to take on besides undoing the damage we couldn’t control.

Last Q: What do you think the song of summer will be?

“Green Light” by Lorde and “I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd are going to be popular this summer, but I’ve really been into alt-j’s new song, “In Cold Blood.”

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  • Emmie

    are you sure she’s a teen, and not an incredibly wise fully fledged adult ?

    • Lane Alves

      right? I wish I was this cool as a teen

    • YOU ARE SO KIND! Aw I wish I was a fully-functioning person, but I still catch myself confused about most adult things. Google helps.

  • Bee

    I’m always so excited when MR does another one of these teen trend pieces! They’re always so interesting. Funny enough, my friends and I had a weird game in high school where we’d point out “interesting” strangers by saying, “Is he/she yours?” so it made me laugh to see that it’s kind of a thing now.

    • prairie dogs

      I love and sometimes miss that particular teenager fascination with strangers– like you’re constantly taking notes on ways to be an adult in the world. It was so formative and important, and also really fun and silly. I definitely had a version of this game with my friends, too 🙂

      • Bee

        Totally agree with you on that. I’m so amused to hear you and your friends did something similar! That’s hilarious. 🙂

  • Haley Fox

    Love these articles! It’s interesting because I’m not a teen but not very far off. I relate to some things and then its interesting to hear how high school is changing even in the 4 years I’ve been out. This girl seems like someone I would have been friends with or wanted to be friends with. Not sure if her passion for the environment and social justice is an anomaly or if its all teens. I encounter a lot of (I think) younger people who litter without a care and shout offensive things, usually at festivals or concerts. But there will always be trash people in any generation.

  • Merrynell

    I’m pretty sure I wasn’t this articulate much less had opinions of my own as a teenager.

  • AG

    Maybe it’s just the washed up, crabby, english major in me, but I’m hoping that “Another thing is talking about objects or places like they’re people” is actually understood to be the literary device personification, and not just a cool thing the youngins’ are doing these days.

    • maddie

      Yeah but typically personification is more subtle. There is a difference between saying “the wind whistles” and what she is explaining.

  • Ryan

    Yes! I hope you decide to do another round of these “ask a teen articles” so good.

  • nicolacash

    Everyoneee in my year said “Whose mans is this?” in high school, glad to see it’s still going strong over 6 years later

  • Katerina Bal

    Clicked on the Insta links of the “Instagram muses still in high school” and now I am glad I was a teen during the Lizzie Mcguire era – so much more attainable.

    • Haley Nahman

      OMG ME TOO WTF!!

    • Jac

      Seriously!! I am so confused — there are high schoolers? are they like, also models or like very very rich or? and who’s taking these pictures of these high schoolers in other countries?! are their parents taking their scantily clad instagram pictures??? I AM VERY OLD AND LOST PLEASE HELP RETURN TO JAN

      • neeta

        There friends probably take them, although I have seen someone make their little sister or brother take a picture of them posing…

        • Jac

          siblings makes a lot of sense — i guess i’m mainly confused by how these teens and their friends/siblings are taking so many vacations to so many highly instagrammable destinations?? like, i know adult ~influencers will take lots of pictures and share them over time, but i feel like as mid-teens they’ve only looked how they do now for a couple years… how are they going to greece and dubai and paris and so on in the past 2-3 years, esp. with friends!?
          (attn insta famous teens pls send detailed directions, in addition to being old i’m also very jealous)

    • 808kate

      12/10 glad my only social media pressures in high school were my Myspace Top 8 and choosing AIM profile song lyrics that best expressed how unique/literary I was

      • Kelly’s Gross-o

        I feel you – “Literate and stylish, kissable and quiet” was a frequent away message for me (also because *TAk1ng b4Ck sUnDaY* ROOLZ). Social media platforms are so demanding now. I yearn for the simpler times. #RIPxanga

  • Jennifer

    So basically teens and adult women are one and the same. Hah! This makes me feel very weird.

  • Mackenzie Stevenson

    If you care about climate change, beware of the fast fashion!! That’s like, the biggest fashion no no in my book! Buying new clothes is so wasteful- think reuse!!!

    • Amen… I have cycled out all fast-fashion from my wardrobe. I only shop thrift, secondhand, or ethical places like Reformation! I really want to study fashion’s impact on the environment while at college!

  • I really do wonder about the lives of these insta famous highschoolers, I could barely handle my raging hormones + school

  • sonu
  • I’m glad to read that as a 22 year old, I’m not yet out of touch with teens. Loved this piece!

  • Avaree Vowell

    Clothes at the thrift store are considered top notch at my high school.

  • Abbey Dandy

    alright alright don’t snob zara