Middle school is a time of exploration, identity formation, and, let’s face it, some cringe-worthy trends. From fashion faux pas to social media mishaps, these are the phases that many of us would rather forget but can’t help but laugh at now.
In this stroll down memory lane, we’ll revisit 16 embarrassing trends that almost everyone went through during those formative middle school years. The contrast between these past trends and the current ones, as well as their surprising endurance, makes for an interesting read.
1. Overplucked Eyebrows
There was a time when thin, overplucked eyebrows were all the rage. Countless middle schoolers fell victim to the tweezer, resulting in barely-there brows that seemed like a good idea at the time. Trends now have swung dramatically in the opposite direction, with full, natural brows dominating the beauty scene. The stark contrast between then and now makes this trend a particularly humorous memory. It’s a testament to how beauty standards evolve, often leaving us wondering what we were thinking.
2. Silly Bandz Obsession
Remember when Silly Bandz were more than just rubber bands, but a full-blown social currency? Middle schoolers collected, traded, and flaunted these colorful bracelets with a fervor that bordered on obsession. The craze was such that schools had to ban them for being a distraction. Today’s trends might lean towards more sophisticated tech gadgets, but the simplicity and innocence of Silly Bandz remain a charming relic of middle school days. It’s a reminder of how quickly fads can come and go.
3. Duck Face Selfies
The duck face selfie was a quintessential part of middle school social media presence. Puckering up for the camera was considered the height of cool, despite how ridiculous it looks in hindsight. Selfie trends today are more about natural expressions and candid shots, making the duck face seem even more outlandish. This trend is a humorous example of how social media can influence and amplify teenage behavior. Looking back, it’s a reminder of the power of trends in shaping our digital identities.
4. Flashy Graphic Tees with Slogans
Graphic tees with loud, often nonsensical slogans were a staple of middle school fashion. These shirts were a way for tweens to express their budding personalities, albeit in a not-so-subtle way. In contrast, current fashion trends favor minimalism and understated designs, making these flashy tees seem like a distant, somewhat embarrassing memory. The evolution from bold statements to refined styles reflects a broader shift in fashion sensibilities. It’s a trend that many are happy to leave in the past.
5. Excessive Hair Gel Use
Spiked, stiff hairstyles held in place with copious amounts of hair gel were a common sight in middle school hallways. This trend, though popular at the time, often resulted in hairstyles that were more comical than cool. Hairstyles now favor a more natural look, making the gel-caked spikes of yesteryear a funny, if not slightly embarrassing, memory. This trend serves as an example of how personal grooming standards can change drastically over time. It’s a reflection of the trial-and-error process of finding one’s style.
6. Neon Everything
Neon colors were the go-to choice for clothing, accessories, and even school supplies. This trend was all about being as bright and attention-grabbing as possible, a stark contrast to the more subdued color palettes popular today. The neon phase was a fun, if not blinding, expression of youthful exuberance. Looking back, it’s a colorful reminder of the fearless fashion choices of middle school. It’s interesting to see how color trends have shifted towards more earthy and pastel tones in recent years.
7. Obsession with Boy Bands
Boy bands dominated the middle school social scene, with posters, albums, and fan merchandise being highly coveted items. This phase often included passionate debates about which band member was the cutest. Compare this with the diverse and eclectic music tastes of today’s youth, and the boy band craze seems almost quaint. It’s a nostalgic look at how music can define a generation and its trends. The shift from boy bands to a more varied music landscape reflects the broadening of cultural horizons.
8. Emo Phase
The emo phase, with its black eyeliner, skinny jeans, and moody music, was a rite of passage for many. This trend was all about expressing angst and emotions, often in an exaggerated way. Today’s youth are more about authentic self-expression and mental health awareness. The emo phase, though often mocked, was an important outlet for many during a confusing time. It’s a trend that speaks to the timeless teenage need to be understood and to belong.
9. Crazy Hair Colors
Experimenting with wild hair colors was a bold statement made by many middle schoolers. From electric blues to fiery reds, these hair choices were a form of self-expression and rebellion. While colorful hair is still in, the approach is more sophisticated and often more temporary. This trend highlights the fun and fearless experimentation that is characteristic of middle school years. It’s a celebration of individuality, even if it was a bit over the top.
10. Wearing Too Much Axe Body Spray
Axe body spray was almost a rite of passage for middle school boys, often used in excessive amounts. The overpowering scent became synonymous with middle school locker rooms and hallways. Today’s grooming products emphasize subtlety and personalization. The Axe phenomenon is a humorous yet poignant reminder of the awkwardness of adolescent grooming habits. It’s a trend that many are glad to have left behind.
11. YOLO Mentality
The phrase “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) became a mantra for impulsive and often questionable decisions. This trend reflected a carefree, sometimes reckless, attitude that is typical of middle school thinking. Trends now lean towards more mindful and considered life choices, even among the youth. YOLO, while an amusing relic of the past, serves as a reminder of the evolving nature of youth culture. It’s a phrase that encapsulates the fearless, if not always wise, spirit of adolescence.
12. Loom Band Craze
Loom bands were yet another crafting craze that swept through middle schools. These tiny rubber bands were woven into bracelets, keychains, and other accessories. While current trends might favor digital creativity, the loom band phase was all about hands-on crafting. It’s a trend that, while somewhat embarrassing in its intensity, highlights the creativity and resourcefulness of middle schoolers. It’s a testament to how trends can spark creativity and community.
13. Planking Everywhere
Planking, the act of lying face down in unusual locations for photos, became a bizarre trend. This practice was often done in the name of humor and social media clout. TikTok challenges are still all the rage, but planking was a precursor to many of these viral phenomena. It’s an amusing example of how social media can drive odd behavior. Planking was a harmless, if not slightly ridiculous, phase that many participated in.
14. Heelys and Roller Shoes
Heelys and other roller shoes were a popular, if not hazardous, trend. Gliding down hallways and sidewalks, middle schoolers embraced this unique blend of footwear and transportation. Newer trends lean towards more practical and less gimmicky shoes. Heelys represent a time of playful innocence and a willingness to embrace the unconventional. It’s a fun memory of a time when footwear was about more than just style.
15. Twilight and Vampire Obsession
The “Twilight” saga sparked a vampire obsession that took over middle school culture. From team Edward vs. team Jacob debates to vampire-themed parties, this trend was inescapable.
Current pop culture trends are more diverse, encompassing a wide range of genres and interests. The vampire craze is a reminder of how a single book or movie series can influence an entire generation. It’s a nostalgic look back at the power of fandom.
16. Virtual Pet Mania
Virtual pets, like Tamagotchis, were a major craze, with students obsessively caring for their digital critters. This trend was the precursor to today’s mobile gaming and app crazes. The shift from simple keychain games to sophisticated mobile gaming reflects the rapid evolution of technology. Virtual pet mania was a charming phase that combined responsibility with fun. It’s a trend that many look back on with fondness, despite the occasional stress of keeping their pet alive.
Looking back at these 16 embarrassing trends and phases, it’s clear that middle school is a time of exploration, experimentation, and, yes, a few cringe-worthy moments. From over-the-top fashion choices to quirky social media crazes, are a part of growing up.
They reflect the evolving nature of youth culture and the constant search for identity during adolescence. While we might laugh at these memories now, they are a reminder of the fearless and unapologetic spirit of middle schoolers, always ready to embrace the next big thing, no matter how embarrassing it might seem in hindsight.
Tamila McDonald is a U.S. Army veteran with 20 years of service, including five years as a military financial advisor. After retiring from the Army, she spent eight years as an AFCPE-certified personal financial advisor for wounded warriors and their families. Now she writes about personal finance and benefits programs for numerous financial websites.