August 22, 2013

What's cool – and not – for back to school

New fashions, accessories and electronic gadgets help take the pain out of returning to the classroom.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Locker chandelier, $24.99

click image to enlarge

Minion flash drive, $10.99

Additional Photos Below

Related headlines


Think about how often a teenager has his or her smartphone out in public. So the look of it says a lot about that teen, doesn't it? Smartphone cases come in all manner of designs this fall. The ones at Kohl's include a design of blue whales for $24 and a graphic art image of a young girl shopping in a big city for $20. Phone cases on clearance at Kohl's get marked down as low as $4.

Online at, you can find cases that have the Superman and Batman logos, as well as ones that look exactly like a cassette tape or the dial of a rotary phone for $40 and up.


L.L. Bean in Freeport says one of its hot items this fall will be a lightweight but warm jacket that kids can actually stuff into a tiny corner of their backpack. The new Puff-n-Stuff jackets start at $59, come in a variety of bold colors, and sport L.L. Bean's famous nature color names -- Deep Orchid, Citron, River Moss and Night Sky.

Bright colors and graphic art as accents is a trend this year too. This can be seen in the hot pink version of L.L. Bean's classic water-resistant suede Chukka boots ($49). And eye-catching graphics are part of the Vera Wang effronte women's shoe at Kohl's for teen and college-aged girls. Priced at $54, the shoes have Internet-related symbols on them, including @ and #


At secondhand and vintage stores, everything old is new. This has been true for some time, and discerning teens have been shopping at these stores for a while now. Prices can be a fraction of what new clothes cost, plus you get something few other classmates have.

At Portland Flea-for-All (125 Kennebec St.), Erin Kiley says items in the $10 to $30 price range include dresses, shirts, jackets, shoes and sunglasses for both men and women. Whether it's a fluffy dress from the 1950s, a floral print from the '70s or an old Army or Navy jacket, the items in Maine's vintage shops will help teens and young adults express their personal style without going to the mall.


As a point of contrast -- or for kids who seek out the opposite of cool -- here are some back-to-school trends of the past few years that aren't so trendy anymore:

• Silly Bandz -- Two or three years ago, every grade-schooler wanted these rubber bands shaped like animals, or trees, or whatever. The fad didn't last, but the guy who came up with the idea -- selling rubber bands as a fashion accessory -- is probably rich enough not to care.

• Japanese erasers -- Little pencil erasers shaped like everything from animals to desserts were big around the same time as Silly Bandz. But nowadays, stores are selling big erasers kids use with their hands.

• Ugg boots -- The name says it all. Ugly fuzzy boots that sort of look like slippers are finally falling from grace. Trends toward fun footwear have pushed Uggs to the back of the closet.

• Large-print plaid -- Was big in the '80s, and had a resurgence a couple of years ago in shirts and jackets. But it seems only hunters are favoring the style right now.

• Graffeeti sneakers -- When these shoes came out a few years ago, they were a big hit. Made of a dry-eraserable material, kids could doodle on them and then wash the doodles off. The trend has slowed as parents realize kids will doodle on any sneakers, so why pay extra?

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Share Timer from

click image to enlarge

Flip Coin from

click image to enlarge

"Lion on Safari" bento box, $7.99

click image to enlarge

Stylish iPhone case, $20

click image to enlarge

Puff-n-Stuff jacket, $59


click image to enlarge

Chukka boots, $49

Studio 1912

click image to enlarge

Uggs? ugh.

click image to enlarge

Same goes for Silly Bandz.


Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)