Here’s What Back-to-School Looked Like In The 90s vs. Today

Here’s What Back-to-School Looked Like In The 90s vs. Today

Sponsored by Gymboree

Sponsored by Gymboree

It happens every year. Just as soon as you really start kicking back in summer mode it hits you: it’s time to start thinking about back to school shopping. No matter how hard you try to live your best #poollife, thoughts of how you’re going to do it all start to appear around the edges of your consciousness.

It’s not just the shopping list. It’s the whole thing. You start thinking about scheduling doctor’s appointments. You peruse Pinterest for bento box lunches you think you’re going to make. You tell yourself this is the year you’ll finally drive morning carpool with subtly styled hair and an artfully natural makeup palette.

The pressure to get back to school right can feel immense.

Sometimes it helps to remind yourself how easy kids have it today. Maybe you didn’t walk three miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways, but you know the pain of having to scrounge up a dime to call your mom from a pay phone when soccer practice is cancelled.

Despite their many advantages, there are some sweet pleasures today’s kids will never know.

Sure, they’ve got tablets and smartphones to help them with everything from school schedules to homework help. But they’ll never know the excitement of trying to quietly open a Trapper Keeper while the whole class looks at you like you just started up a motorcycle.

There’s an app for everything nowadays. And kids can bling out their devices as a way to express their individuality. (Do people still say “bling out”? Asking for a friend.) But they’ll never know the frantic thrill of walking the aisles of the office supplies section picking out just the right gelly roll pens to customize your supplies. If you say you didn’t have at least one OfficeMax tantrum where you begged your mom for Lisa Frank stickers and folders, you are straight up lying. It’s fake news.

Just as we’ve resorted to bribery and offered an extra thirty minutes on the iPad to a foot-dragging kid, our parents weren’t above using “incentives” to get us to finish chores or homework. Maybe it was being allowed to watch America’s Funniest Home Videos or The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Maybe it was an extra session of Oregon Trail. It’s hard to imagine now but earning a game rental from Blockbuster could get us moving like nothing else.

Who needs VR glasses when you’ve got this kind of cutting edge tech?

Speaking of computers, today’s kids will never know what this sweet sound meant to kids in the 90s.

Just like us, our kids don’t want to be the last to know the newest dance craze. With YouTube’s thousands of tutorial videos, kids can learn dance moves the day a song comes out. Remember what we had to do? We had to tune in to MTV and tape – yes, tape! – music videos if we wanted to show off our inner Backstreet Boy or Spice Girl.


Once you got those moves on tape, pity the fool who tried to tape over it. Today’s kids will never know the struggle.

It seems like kids in 2017 have an incredible variety of style options. From skinny jeans and baggy sweaters to “I heart pizza” t-shirts and floral beanies, they have so many ways to express themselves. Whether they want to be the bookworm, the sports fan, the rockstar, or the homemade superhero, they have seemingly endless choices.


What did we have in the 90s? Cross Colours, Tommy Hilfiger, L.A. Gear, Bongo Jeans, SoCal Surfwear – the list goes on. Looking back it seems like every option we had was some version of “I am allergic to subtlety.” The louder and more retina-burning the color combos, the better.


Eat your heart out, Katy Perry. You may be cool, but you’ll never be Paula Abdul for L.A. Gear cool!

Scrolling through our back-to-school looks from the 90s, it can seem like we were all living in a future embarrassment factory and didn’t know it. The passage of time can make what was once “on trend” downright cringe-worthy.

But we forget how much fun we had planning those rad outfits, meticulously workshopping them with friends for maximum impact.

No matter the decade, no matter the current fashions, back to school is always a fresh start. And expressing yourself never goes out of style.



Brought to you by Gymboree—making back to school easier since back in the day. Shop the latest Gymboree styles for an amazing school year.

Makers of supercomfy, quality clothes that let kids be kids. Gymboree’s a perfect fit for every line leader, field tripper and study buddy.