If you went to a private school pre-Y2K, you might have been savvy with the art of sticking it to the hall monitors and standing out from the crowd. There were specific things people who wore school uniforms in the '90s used to do: Things that would shape our tween need to rebel with the newest trends that J-14 or Seventeen were breaking.
Homeroom teachers often scrutinized our sock choices and crazy hair accessories with uncertainty, probably feeling like they should give us a detention for breaking school dress codes... but not 100 percent sure if we were actually doing so. Meanwhile, we'd sit there smugly with our denim purses and jelly shoes, folding our arms over our crisp Polo and cardigan combos, knowing full well we were toeing the lines of acceptability perfectly — and loving every minute of it.
With tween years came the need to begin to differentiate ourselves, and nothing was more frustrating than having to deal with an ugly plaid skirt and baggy cardigan all year long. So the perfect way to offset that was by diving headfirst into all the '90s accessories, purses, and shoe trends we could get our hands on. Below are 11 practices that people who wore school uniforms in the '90s likely took part in.
1. Accessorizing With Chokers
Choker Necklace, $3.50, amazon.com
When everyone looked the same from the neck down, we had very little to work with in terms of individuality. To help us differentiate ourselves from the legions of girls milling about the hallways, we could tinker around with our accessories. And the most popular one of the '90s? The choker.
Whether you went with a tattoo variety, a velvet strip á la Sabrina, or a more ornate piece with gems and charms, the choker was a surefire way to add some ~flair~ to your look.
2. Channeling Our Inner Cher Horowitz With Knee-Highs
Adding these snazzy socks was a no brainer. If it was good enough for Cher, it was good enough for us. Also, we could go wild with colors and patterns, which kept things interesting and a little less uniform.
3. Slapping Those Bracelets
Animal Print Slap Bracelets, $7.99, amazon.com
Everyone worth their salt in the '90s had one of these. Seeing as they usually came out of a 25-cent machine, we could have an extensive collection with a bunch of different prints that kept our wrists feelin' fresh. On Mondays, we could wear the Lisa Frank-esque tiger print one, and then rotate it out for polka dots on Tuesday. The world was our oyster.
4. Crazed Out Our Hair With Pom Pom Scrunchies
Queen Britney gave us the idea originally, but a pair of pom pom scrunchies added some major street-style swag to our school uniforms back in the day. Whether you donned a high ponytail or opted for the elegant pigtail option, a bold scrunchie like this one was sure to set you apart.
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5. Colonizing A Butterfly Kingdom On Our Heads
Sannysis Butterfly Clip, $2.65, amazon.com
I personally had an alarming amount of these hair clips, and I always opted to wear all of them at once. I like to think that I must have looked like a magical wood-dwelling spirit thing, but I probably just looked like I lived in the Justice store.
6. Wearing Long Sleeve Shirts Underneath Polos For #Swag
If you were one of the unlucky souls who had to wear Polos to school, you might have tried to spice up the boring outfit with a long-sleeved shirt underneath. Usually we could get away with the clever layering by saying we were cold, and it gave us a nice emo touch.
7. Wearing Frosted Lip Gloss
While many of us still saw makeup as mysterious black magic in the '90s, the other half probably started to dabble into the forbidden arts. Sometimes we wore Lip Smacker's Dr. Pepper balm, and sometimes we went ham and opted for some bona fide frosted lip gloss.
8. Putting On Those Jelly Shoes
Women's Buckle Jelly Sandals, $12.99, amazon.com
If you had to deal with a boring plaid skirt day after day, one great way to spice up the look was to wear your favorite pair of jelly sandals with it. Whether you went with your special glitter pair or opted for classic pink was up to you. But these kicks usually made us feel ahead of the curve as we strutted through the playground in them.
9. Or If Your School Was Strict, A Pair Of Steve Maddens
Sometimes schools had strict dress codes for their shoes, too, and in those cases we usually opted for an Oxford pair of Steve Maddens. But because they were original Maddens out of the '90s, they looked like souped up pilgrim shoes with stacked heels no child should ever wear. What can I say? We were trendsetters.
10. Accessorizing With Headbands
While this was way before Blair Waldorf's time, the headband trick is as old as the school uniform. If we wanted to set ourselves apart from the pack, we regularly invested in a statement making headband and fought for our spot as Queen B.
11. Grabbing A Sequined Purse
Backpacks were so passé. Instead of hauling our books in a canvas bag that mom mom bought us at the grocery store, some of us chose to tote our notebooks from class to class in the ever-popular sequined bag. As shapeless as a plastic bag, the purses added a little razzle dazzle to any look.
Whether you tinkered around with quirky socks or donned loud hair accessories, one thing remained constant: None of us wanted to look alike, so we found ways of sticking it to the man. We were tween rebels without a cause.
Images: BritneySpearsVEVO/YouTube (1); Courtesy Brands; The CW (1); Paramount Pictures (1); ABC (1); Jive Records (1); Capitol (1), Disney (1)