Girls at District 181 middle schools keep up with the styles
Vera Bradley lunch bags fill most of the table space during an eighth-grade lunch period at Hinsdale Middle School. | Photos by Chuck Fieldman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 20, 2012 8:26AM
In 39 years as a teacher at Hinsdale Middle School, Barbara Johnson has been around to observe plenty of teen and pre-teen fads.
For the past handful-plus years, girls both at HMS and Clarendon Hills Middle School seemingly have had a particular liking for three items: North Face jackets, Ugg shoes and boots, and Vera Bradley lunch bags.
“I guess there’s an element of status to it,” Johnson said. “I see the Uggs and North Face as more of a statement, and I think the North Face jackets are pervasive with adults, too.”
While there are no policies requiring girls at HMS and CHMS to wear North Face jackets or Uggs, or to pack their lunch in a Vera Bradley lunch bag, there’s no question that having those items are the rule, not the exception
“When you see things you like, you want to get them,” said HMS eighth-grader Roma Ripani. “I guess a lot of people are followers. I don’t know where I fit into that.”
Barbara Heidkamp, an eighth-grader at CHMS, said the need to have a Vera Bradley lunch bag, Uggs and a North Face jacket probably hits girls in Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 around the fifth grade.
“Everyone tries to fit in and have the same stuff,” Barbara said. “I have all three things.”
Fellow CHMS eighth-grader Maddie Monat said she has two pairs of Uggs and two North Face jackets.
“I don’t really know why I want to have them,” she said. “I guess it’s kind of a statement. It’s kind of like an unwritten rule.”
It’s difficult to find girls at either middle school who don’t own at least one of the three aforementioned items. But CHMS eighth-grader Alyssa Adams said she is just fine with being in that minority.
“I really have a big family, and those would be things for, like, birthday presents,” she said. “I’m just not that interested in it and would rather get presents that are more useful.”
Still, Alyssa said she understands why so many middle school girls in the area feel the need to include Uggs, North Face jackets and a Vera Bradley lunch bag among their belongings.
“Once a bunch of people wear it, or use it, it becomes a trend, and a lot of people want to have it,” she said.
HMS eighth-grader Jordan Krauss said the designer brands became a trend at the local middle schools “because people in Hinsdale are materialistic.”
Rocky May, HMS dean of students, said children in middle school walk a fine line, emotionally.
“Middle school is very much about the road to independence while also following the crowd,” he said. “They want to be very independent in some ways, but also feel a great need to fit in with their peers.”
While the middle school girls continue to enjoy their Uggs, Vera Bradley lunch bags and North Face jackets, the peer pressure to fit in by having specific material goods doesn’t seem to be at the same level for the boys. Some of the boys and girls mentioned the trend of boys wearing particular brands of boxer shorts, but others said that is not the case.
And the eighth-grade boys at HMS have different opinions about the desire of so many girls to have those designer items.
“It’s their choice what they choose to wear,” said Jack Kavanaugh. “It’s really not my business what they wear.”
“Girls say Uggs are comfortable,” said Max Nalepa. “It’s odd to me that girls have issues with generic brands.”
Megan Arbor, another HMS eighth-grader, said items don’t necessarily need to have designer names attached to be wanted.
“There are regular brands people like, too,” she said. “Some stuff is just more popular.”