Vintage Photos Depict High School Fashion by the Decades, From the 1950s Through the 1990s

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Despite their signature angst and knack for bending rules, high school students have always played it cool when it comes to fashion: setting standards and ushering outdated trends toward the exit. Here, a looking back at the sometimes-hilarious styles sported by teens throughout the decades:


The reign of the teenager — and teen fashion — didn’t truly begin until the 1950s, when rock and roll first flooded our radio waves. As Elvis Presley shook his hips across North America, high schoolers started to express their new influential status in their clothing.

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons/World-Telegram photo by Ed Palumbo)

Immortalized by movies like Grease, the poodle skirts, penny loafers and bobby socks sported by Soc girls have come to represent the pinnacle of 50s fashion, while the tighter skirts, capped sleeves, and light sweaters rocked by Co-Ed girls showed a move toward sophistication for girls’ style.

(Credit: Flickr/alljengi | Creative Commons)

On the other side, real-life Danny Zukos flexed their Greaser muscles in leather jackets, sneakers and rolled-up jeans rebelling against mainstream fashion with (or without) a cause.

(Greaser in Quebec. Credit: Michel H BeaudoinWikimedia Commons/Creative Commons)


The 1960s saw the rise of free love and flower power, as young people rushed to the open fields of Woodstock. While the social movements teens protested for were all about acceptance and harmony, their fashion was a series of contradictions.

(Credit: Getty Images/Evening Standard)

The mod look brought bold colors, big hair, thick eyeliner, and mini-skirts into the mainstream allowing girls harness and highlight their femininity.

(Eugene, Oregon. Credit: Flickr/John Atherton / Creative Commons)

However, as skirts got shorter, hippie culture took some high schooler’s in the other direction with boys and girls alike rocking long bell-bottom pants — and even longer hair.

(Credit: Getty Images/John Williams)


In the 1970s, teens were still growing their hair out as the sounds of Gloria Gaynor began to radiate through high school hallways. With disco in full force and Charlie’s Angels keeping audiences glued to their couch, fashion picked up right where hippie culture left it.

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons /Eugene Nosko, Deutsche Fothotek )

Girls repurposed their wide-leg bell-bottoms with feathered hair and halter tops, while boys paired theirs with shag haircuts and tight tees. Both groups tried on platform shoes for size, sliding their way to the high-school dance — or even the club.

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Source: Jeanne Boleyn/Public Domain)


The 1980s saw the rise of pop princesses like Cyndi Lauper and Madonna, both of whom had style teens were eager to steal. With MTV pounding its way into our living rooms, musicians became the most influential — and accessible — fashion icons. Neon colors were splashed across every article of clothing, and acid wash jean was deemed acceptable on both jackets and pants.

(Credit: Flickr/Creative commons)

While girls rocked this look with shoulder pads, big bangs, and crimped hair, boys took inspiration from their own music icons, sporting long, primped hair like the members of Poison, or high top fades, emulating emerging rappers like Bobby Brown.

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Paul Uzzo/ Creative Commons)


By the 1990s, high schoolers were ready to embrace their teenage angst head-on, diving deep into grunge. Taking their lead from bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, teens turned to oversized plaid flannels, high-waisted stonewashed jeans, and combat boots. Those who didn’t have Kurt Cobain blasting through their boom boxes chose a different trend: the preppy redux.

(Jonathan Brandis Dec.1993 in Los Angeles, shopping on Ventura Blvd. Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Airwolfberlin/ Creative Commons)

Mixing the short skirts and bright colours of mod with the tailored looks of the 50s, girls rocked tartan kilts, knee socks and babydoll dresses in true Cher Horowitz style. Prep guys found their sartorial match in Carlton Banks, sporting khakis, boat shoes, and sweater vests galore.

(Credit: Paramount Pictures)

(via CBC/Radio-Canada)

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