Sunday, December 7, 2014

Stylin' Milwaukee Style

Note: I started writing this post six months ago, as you'll see when you read the first two sentences. I don't know why I never finished it. Aliens, maybe. Aliens are always a possibility. Anyway, I ran across it just now and thought it was kind of fun. And I'm out of Prozac and don't really feeling like writing something new that isn't about the futility of being and whatnot. So enjoy. - CB 

Today my beautiful, smart, kind-hearten niece graduated from high school. In addition, my own Precocious Daughter just finished middle school and will be a freshman come August. So my big sis and I got together and did some hardcore reminiscing about our own childhood. I pulled out the old yearbooks, and we just went to town on the nostalgia.

Bitch, please. In our day, you stretched the
phone cord as far into the corner as it would go
so no one else could hear your conversations.
PDaughter was with us and got a huge kick out of fashion circa 1978-1980. Also, the fact that most of the male teachers had sideburns and facial hair resembling Paul Rudd in Anchorman.

Admit it: If you're over 40, you found him totally hot.
Anyway, after watching all the Class of '14 grads cross the stage in their au courant finery, I couldn't help but think about what was fashionable in the late 1970s - early 1980s, when I attended Gustav A. Fritsche Junior High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. If you happen to be of that vintage, maybe these styles will ring a bell. Or maybe they were very Southside-specific. I don't know. Junior high/middle school was a unique bubble, and I didn't really know or care about anything outside of my own world.

I think probably that mindset hasn't changed in the ensuing decades. And that's OK. As my sis and I proved tonight, the memories you carry with you from your preteen-early teen years are permanent, critical, and always worth revisiting. Your mileage will vary based on your age and geographic location, but for me, here's what junior high/middle school looked like.

Oshkosh B'Gosh Corduroy Overalls. You had to have these. Either your parents bought them for you, or you saved up your money and bought them at The Gap or Wooden Nickel. They were either gray, brown, or blue, and you wore them over a white or plaid button-down shirt. They were so ubiquitous that they weren't even considered trendy; you just wore them, even if you were a total outsider nerd (like me).

These are Levi's rather than Oshkosh,
but same idea, although
you would have been laughed
out of school for not wearing Oskosh.
Satin Baseball Jackets. I never had one, but my sis did, because she was cool and I wasn't. But these were way, way popular. To this day I have no idea why; possibly disco was involved.

This was before Members Only jackets
became de rigueur, if you can dig that.
Feathered hair. Basically, the goal was to look like Shaun Cassidy, whether you admitted it or not. I could never, ever get my hair to do this. Which explains a lot. But I've totally gotten over it. Really.

I was always a Parker Stevenson
girl, myself.
G.A.S.S shoes. From Kinney, of course. You wore these (or at least knockoffs) if you were cool, you didn't if you weren't. Period.

With thick brown shoelaces, not pictured.

Gum and a comb. If you didn't have these in the pockets of your Oshkosh B'Gosh overalls or Levi's jeans (also required fashion), you were hopeless. Oh, and the comb needed to have a big handle with puffy stickers on it. Duh.

Or, if you were black, this.
Sheepskin vests. Part of the whole Urban Cowboy craze. They were ugly and stupid, but you had to own one. My mom made mine, although I never admitted it (because I stupidly thought hand-sewn clothing wasn't awesome).

The last one has no picture. Some kids would carve band names into their arms, typically with an unbent paper clip or a pair of scissors. Hard rock bands' names were favored - your AC/DCs and the like. Some of these kids were more or less perpetually stoned (yes, in junior high, because that's the hood I grew up in), and correct spelling wasn't at the forefront of their thoughts. I'm hoping that most of these carvings were superficial enough to fade away over time; otherwise I'm wondering what these now middle-age adults feel about having "Black Sabath" or "Led Zeplin" permanently writ on their skin. By the way, today we call this "cutting" and it would be cause for intervention by concerned professionals. Back then it was just another way for teachers to easily spot the students whose test papers could be marked with a failing grade and move on. Such were the times.

Fashion is kind of dumb. Nostalgia is not always so awesome. But remembering the past is the only way to progress from it, as every generations, with varying success.


  1. ¡Even in India! In the early 80s I had a pair of overalls (which I didn't wear to school because like most schools in India mine had a compulsory uniform) and I had classmates who did the cutting thing. Total psychos. One of them chipped my left lower canine by "accident" while rehearsing a play.

  2. Those shoes! Picture them in a size 11 (no, don't). Actually, worse than that, we had to wear white shoes for 8th grade graduation. My mother took me to Kinney's and asked if the shoes came bigger than a size 10. The salesman's response? "Lady, if she needs bigger she'll have to wear the box". Imagine saying that to a kid? She chewed him out, but good. Me, I squeezed my feet into white size 10s... To go with my white granny dress trimmed with daisies.

    But I digress.

    1. I hate to giggle, but that made me laugh. I have very average size feet, but my sister was a size 10 in junior high and had the same struggles as you. It was literally the only time I ever felt superior to my big sis.


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