In the mind of my ninth-grade self, there was only one question that mattered when it came to personal style: Was I a “Marissa” or a “Summer”? Such were the options proffered by The O.C., a show I binge-watched before binge-watching was even a term, as soon as I arrived at boarding school and finally escaped my mom’s strict rules about what pop cultural moments I was allowed to partake in. My friend Mary had the first three seasons on DVD, which is how I spent countless Saturday afternoons with the 40 or so other girls in my class, glued to the television in our outer common room.
It didn’t take long for me to decide I was a “Summer.” This may have had more to do with the fact that she was the designated love interest of Seth Cohen, my designated fictional crush, and less to do with her attire, but was nonetheless a momentous declaration of fashion allegiance at the time. I’d forgotten about said declaration for more than a decade until yesterday, when a brand new Instagram account came to my attention: @spaghettistrapsoftheoc. It is a self-proclaimed account of “the best tops from the best show” as told by The Cut Fashion News Writer Emilia Petrarca, and I can personally confirm the validity of those superlatives.
Spaghetti straps — or, more generally, tops — are a brilliantly niche slice of the show’s deep vault of early-aughts fashion to explore, because they are so indicative of what Style with a capital “S” looked like at the time. It was a wild era in which low-rise and low-cut thrived in equal measure. It was the best of times (for midriffs) and it was the worst of times (for anyone who hates the word “midriff”). It was a heyday for halters, followed closely by tanks and tube tops. D-ring closures abounded, as did delicate necklaces that looked like something your great aunt might buy on vacation in New Mexico.
The tops of The O.C. might very well be the greatest gift today’s nostalgia machine has to offer, plucked from the rich soil of absurdly delightful outfits that was 2003 – 2007 and planted in a world where Instagram exists and likes are the currency with which we reclaim our memories. They are proof that, for all of social media’s pitfalls, it retains the simple power to unite us in our shared exuberance for a one-shouldered aqua tank top emblazoned with a lobster reaching for a star. Thank you, @spaghettistrapsoftheoc, for this hallowed reminder.
Feature photo by © WB / Courtesy: Everett Collection.