When it comes to alternative fashion culture, there's one store in particular that many of us '90s kids owe our middle school fashion glory to: Hot Topic, the store packed with music and geek culture, and the once goth-heavy haven for fashionable non-conformists. From striped knee socks to black netted shirts, Hot Topic fed our need to rebel or explore music culture or have the most adorable graphic T-shirts available. For that, I'll always be grateful. Plus, it was just about the only mall shop an emo kid could turn to in times of literal and metaphorical darkness.
There are several Hot Topic items that have the power to send us reeling back in time, straight to a case of middle school nostalgia. They are pieces that hail to our rock, goth, punk, metal, emo, and pop roots. Obviously everyone who shopped at H.T. gravitated towards something a little different from mainstream style, but most of us had some very similar Hot Topic standards in our wardrobes. Or at least a solid collection of band pins, patches, and posters. After all, we had to cover our bedroom walls with something.
Let's take a brief saunter down memory lane to the items we all owned in the time of Hot Topic, allowances, and being dropped off at the mall in a so-not-emo minivan.
1. Band T-Shirts
System Of A Down Dove Girls T-Shirt, $17, hottopic.com
I don't care who you are: If you're not a little impressed, or at least amused, by the entire wall of band T-shirts on display when you walk into a Hot Topic store, then shame on you. You clearly have no respect for iconic rock supergroups and niche ensembles being heaped together.
Just admit it, you went there to get you NOFX T-shirt and that Britney Spears shirt you wore ironically (or out of genuine but secret support).
2. Band Merch
Blink-182 Logo Iron-On Patch, $4, hottopic.com
Before the slow death of mall culture, Hot Topic was one of the easiest places to sneak in purchases of pins, patches, and various other band sanctioned merch in between stores your mom actually wanted you to patronize. Band merch was also one of the few Hot Topic items you may have been able to afford in the beginning. You know, before you got that job at the local bakery, selling donuts for just above minimum wage.
3. Fairy Shirts
Oh yeah, you know what I'm talking about. Remember those sweet, colorful, mischievous fairies that graced so many tank tops, baby doll tees, and hoodies? Well, I had one. I know you had one. And what about Betty? Didn't she have like five of them? And more importantly, don't you secretly wish you still had yours? Especially the glow in the dark kind...
4. Big Black Boots
Volatile Black Strap Combat Boots, $38, hottopic.com
Ankle, knee high, or thigh high, it didn't particularly matter, but without a doubt, each of us owned a pair of big black boots. Some were combat boots with laces, some were sleek pleather that gave our parents nightmares. Either way, they were black, like our little baby goth souls.
5. Bondage Pants
Tripp White and Black Split Leg Grommet Stud Pants, $64, hottopic.com
While decidedly un-metal and more than a little ridiculous, bondage pants were all the rage back in the day. They marked a strange level of "goth chic," and frankly, I couldn't care less what anyone thinks about them. They were glorious. So many pockets, so much fabric, so little shape. Wearing Tripp bondage pants was like walking around in a gothic Snuggie with an excess of relatively pointless accoutrements.
If you hate them, fine. That doesn't detract from the fact that nearly all of the Hot Topic kids in your eighth grade class had a pair and wore them proudly.
6. Striped Shirts
Royal Bones By Tripp Black and White Striped Tunic, $30, hottopic.com
Black and white. Red and black. Black and purple. Purple and pink. Pink and black. Really, if you shopped at Hot Topic, the likelihood of you leaving with a striped shirt in hand was extremely high. If the striped shirt didn't get ya, the striped pants were waiting right around a corner to pounce.
7. Plaid Pants
Red Plaid Leggings, $15, hottopic.com
In epic punk glory, plaid pants once graced the closet (or more realistically, the closet floor) of nearly every middle school Hot Topic kid. You knew they were a good pair if they also happened to have some zipper panels that zipped open to reveal... more plaid!
Rainbow Striped Supsenders, $7, hottopic.com
Seriously, who doesn't love suspenders? Whether you're talking "geek chic" or just plain practicality, suspenders are the bomb. And if you grew up a Hot Topic kid, you either had a pair (or five), or coveted a pair (or five).
9. Animal Ears
Feather Cat Ears Headband, $3, hottopic.com
Before furries took off in earnest (or at least before most people were aware of the term), there were droves of middle school and high school kids who adopted the regular use of animal ear headbands. Ultimate combination of adorable and fashionable? It was back then at least.
10. Moody Coat
Hell Bunny Black Imma Coat, $113, hottopic.com
If people weren't convinced that you were a unique snowflake based off of your fairy T-shirt and your bondage pants (still love 'em, still not apologizing), the next best way to level up and prove your fashion sense was to invest in a trench coat, or equally awesome military jacket. If you were lucky, you found some combination of the two.
11. Fun Undies
Narwhal Unicorns Of The Sea Hot Pants 5 Pack, $15, hottopic.com
Shhhh... don't tell mom, but you and your BFF would sneak back into Hot Topic and buy a stash of the most adorable (sometimes most adult) undies in a 14-year-old's life. O.M.G., they were so much better than the multi-pack of bikini cut underwear mom got you for Christmas.
12. Wrist Cuffs
Two Row Pyramid Black Bracelet, $7, hottopic.com
Leather, studded, pyramid laden: You name it, Hot Topic had it. So did almost every other kid who shopped there. Wrist bands were edgy (or funny) and steeped in geek culture references.
13. Ear Studs And Faux Gauges
Black Faux Taper and Plug 4 Pack, $10, hottopic.com
In middle school, you're a bit too young to explore the greater realms of piercings without parental consent. However, if you had your ears pierced and stumbled upon the Hot Topic piercing section, you can bet you were instantly drawn to a set of wildly colored studs or barbells with acrylic beads. And faux ear gauges? Yes, please!
Sighs. Nothing quite compares to the memories of your first exposure to alternative clothing.
Images: HotTopic/Facebook; Courtesy Brands