Lunch Boxes: Lunch boxes were pretty cool in early elementary school. Brown paper bags were frowned upon and square boxes with pictures of our favorite dolls/action figures were all the rage. We stuck our unnecessarily giant lunch boxes in our cubby’s every day that were most likely filled with pb & j and dunkaroos. Later on (upper elem school and middle school), we wanted brown paper bags… even though our parents tried to give us those nice colored bags that you could stick an ice pack in. I don’t know what was more uncool – that or wearing a winter jacket during winter. Thanks but no thanks.

Lisa Frank Anythingl: Before we knew what ‘tripping’ was, we tripped all over these multi-colored magical folders and notebooks. School supplies became better known as pictures of animals on crack and we loved it. We never questioned the weirdness of the designs or how high our friend Lisa was when creating such images. We just wanted Lisa Frank folders, notebooks, pens, pencils, trapper keepers, etc… and we wanted them now.

LL Bean Backpack with Initials or Name: Backpacks were not just a bag when we were younger – they were a statement. And if you didn’t have one of L.L. Bean’s trendy backpacks in elementary school, you were basically Amish. The Bean made pre-teens everywhere stay stylish while carrying heavy textbooks, especially those who had their name or initials on their backpacks. Because of the bag’s branding, our parents even enjoyed purchasing them for us because when if we left our bags at school or lost them, they would be somewhat easy to find. Another great thing about these bags was that you could choose how big you wanted your bag to be (one zipped up large pocket or two) AND you could pick the color. I remember looking through the L.L. Bean mag constantly scanning each color and debating if I wanted solid blue, solid pink, or the tie dye crazy color. Life must have been much easier back then for parents, since all kids want now is Under Armour bags, Northface bags, and/or no bag at all.

Pleather Pants: Since Limited Too didn’t sell real leather (and that was the only high end brand we knew of), we had to resort to pleather… AKA faux leather. This was fine because we were like 13, so we didn’t know the difference. I had a pleather skirt and a pair of pleather pants and I didn’t get to rock them that much. I only wore the pants once and the skirt twice (on Halloween as a Devil and at a ‘party’)… but they were pretty badass and I wish I wore them more. Oh, and on the 1st day of school in, like, 8th grade I wore a pair of leather army printed jeans… and flip flops. But unlike Regina George, not many people followed.

Limited Too Graphic Ts: We lived for showing off the fact we shopped at Limited Too (or should I say LTD2?). We wore our graphic Ts proudly, many of them simply saying the store’s name with a whole lot of glitter (this is prob where Ke$ha’s obsession started)… and others with cute pictures of cats and dogs on the front (remember those?). This whole ‘graphic T’ thing later changed to abercrombie (the kid’s store), Abercrombie & Fitch (notice the difference in capitalization), American Eagle, and Hollister. We lived for branding… and I don’t know why.

Overalls: One of my best childhood memories is when I watching Full House and Michelle was wearing the same overalls as me. THE SAME OVERALLS. I felt so cool. I was shopping at all the right places. Phew. But there was a problem… I was wearing overalls. Who’s bright idea was it to have overalls, the symbol of ugly rednecks, be stylish? I mean seriously.

Well DUH if Nsync was wearing overalls then it was cool.

Slap Bracelets: Ouch. Why this was trendy, I have no idea. We got off by hitting each other with these patterned sticks that wrapped around our wrists when hit hard. We never complained that it hurt even if it did hurt. In fact we enjoyed the pain… and inflicting pain on other people. It was very Chris Brown of us.

Gelly Roll Pens: For some reason, we loved writing with these pens. Even though you could barely read what we wrote with these pens (ever), we did it anyway because they were colorful and sparkly and liquid-y. When I went to sleepaway camp, friends would write to me with these pens and I usually couldn’t read any of the letter… but I also wrote home with these pens so I couldn’t talk.

What items were on your ‘back to school’ list back in the day?


Hi I’m Sam. I made this website in 2011 and it’s still here! I'm the author of the humorous self-help book AVERAGE IS THE NEW AWESOME. I like pizza, French fries, barre, spin, more pizza, more French fries, and buying clothes. Follow me on twitter & Instagram at @samanthamatt1... and on this site's meme account on IG at @averagepeopleproblems. OKAY GREAT THANKS BYE.


  1. Not going to lie. I had a green LL Bean with my initials on it in middle school.

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