For years, back-to-school clothing ads featured sullen kids, bored kids, kids waiting near lockers to knife your children.
Surprisingly, parents still bought school clothes.
This year, irritating “message” T-shirts, so popular in back-to-school ads of yore, are fading.
Shirts that say -- in brassy, bold letters -- “I’m a brat and proud of it” are out, along with the tramp look.
I remember going shopping for school clothes once for my young daughter and discovering some really cute jeans, only to put them back when I noticed a sultry come-on printed on the belt. I can’t remember the exact wording, but to mom eyes it said: “I’m proud to be trashy!”
Kids in current ads aren’t haughty. Almost all are smiling. They like school. School likes them. They will do well. They aren’t slated to fail by clothes designers even before the new school year.
Fewer grotesque themes appear. More upbeat motifs replace them. Superheroes and mustaches are big.
This year’s T-shirts display hopeful messages: “Dream big,” “Reach for the stars,” and “Love.”
I see scads of love shirts and very few blaming or bragging shirts.
Humorous when they were a novelty, message T’s became predictable. “It’s my brother’s fault,” “I’m awesome!” “Ask me if I care,” “Will trade sister for video games.”
Too many were insulting and caustic. Maybe, this year, designers became tired of negative attitudes, as much as parents and teachers did.
Not every back-to-school ad shows clean-cut, happy kids. One recent ad features a kid sitting on a tile floor, looking slightly irked, near rolls of duct tape.
He’s obviously been sent to sit in the hall for detention. He’s wearing prison orange pants. (Prison orange seems to be in, to the doubtless joy of potential jail escapees.) The duct tape in the ad looks like a threat. Though not angry, this kid is none too happy.
He’s an exception, though.
The other exception is an ad showing an array of defiant kids, wearing fake black leather jackets. In this ad, kid after unhappy kid stands posed, arms crossed or looking rough, in black leather. And even very young kids were funneled into the bad biker stereotype.
These weren’t happy kids on their way to Sturgis with their families. These were mildly irritated, overly posed, tough kids.
Fortunately, detention kid and leather gang were alone in their glowering. And that’s good news.
More good news is that guys’ baggy pants are out, according to store manager Nikki Reigle for Glik’s at Lakewood Mall. Unfortunately, more form-fitting pants -- like jeggings and chinos -- are in, so this change might only be a slight improvement.
For girls, Reigle said, chiffon tops are in. Sheer and feminine, they will make an interesting contrast with women’s army boots which are also in.
From a survey of store windows, I notice that half-tucked shirts are chic, rather than a sign of sloppiness. One side’s tucked in; the other hangs out. No more debating whether to tuck or not to tuck.
Kids can now defy traditional fashion rules (tuck that shirttail in!) without a requisite negative attitude.
Athletic shoes glow with bright neon color, something parents can cheer because kids will be visible crossing roads at night.
Though faded jeans are still plentiful, ads feature fewer gaping holes in knees and backsides, signaling a definite improvement in parent morale.
The national debt may be nearing 17 trillion, Congress may be spinning its wheels in futility, foreign policy might be a shambles, but hope can be found in back-to-school ads. Decency, aspiration and a healthy, positive outlook seem to be making a comeback.
Donna Marmorstein writes and lives in Aberdeen. You can contact her at email@example.com.