Bayou City

Braving Houston's Back-to-School Shopping Jungle

One of the stores, Zumiez, favored by kids in search of this year's hottest back-to-school trends.
One of the stores, Zumiez, favored by kids in search of this year's hottest back-to-school trends. Photo by G. Paris Johnson
Lines, lines, and more lines. What’s that? A BOGO deal? Stay away! Nothing is more of a trap than the old “two-fer,” you know—“two for one.”  After nearly an entire summer of feeding and cooling their kiddos, and at the tail end of the year's highest monthly electric bill to date (July), parents are rewarded with the daunting task of spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on the infamous “Back to School” shopping trip.

One recent weekend afternoon, Pearland’s Town Center was not only crowded, but at max capacity. Parking spaces were nonexistent and lines were forming inside of stores as super-excited teens and highly irritated parents waited for dressing rooms. Did we mention it was hot?

click to enlarge Incoming Houston-area high-school freshman Madison Green, out shopping with mom Lisa Green (not pictured). - PHOTO BY G. PARIS JOHNSON
Incoming Houston-area high-school freshman Madison Green, out shopping with mom Lisa Green (not pictured).
Photo by G. Paris Johnson
“Shout-out to those of you who know your sizes!” an employee at the plaza's Hollister & CO. playfully yelled out in an attempt to ease the ever-tensing crowd. If you’re looking for the latest trends in destroyed denim — which by the way is totally against school dress code — this would definitely be the time to stock up because the sales are epic.

“I mean, I wear leggings on days I know I won’t see my AP [Assistant Principal],” says incoming high-school freshman Madison Green when asked about her purchases from her favorite store. Asked if she was a habitual dress-code violator, Green said she “preferred to plead the fifth," but was excited to be attending school this year. More so than last year, she added, because “finally we can pretty much wear what we want.”

For years, the Houston Galleria has been the Mecca of all things glittery and shiny. This year did not let us down, with trends ranging from low-rise skater skinnies to high-waist jeggings. The kids we spied are paving the way for their own trends as the countdown begins for the ultimate fashion show hosted by your friendly local independent school district, The First Day of School.

It would appear that many late-'90s fashions are returning, and some of which should have stayed in the '90s, but that's not stopping many kids from sporting them like it’s going out of style — again. From Janet Jackson’s Poetic Justice-styled box braids to the interesting yet familiar choice of color-blocking, these millennials have succeeded in reminding the rest of us how old we are when we mention to them their fashions remind us of Cross Colors and Coogi.

Don't judge.

Parents, the children have spoken. They have unanimously decided that what you buy them will set the tone for their “dance cards” for the rest of the year [insert eye roll here]. There are levels to this, and here are some tips from the pros. The bigger the label the better. If it's worn by a superstar, buy it. If you don't like it, then chances are the kids do — so buy it anyway.

Note to parents: anything purchased from your local PINK for your darling daughter(s) will guarantee you a seat next to them at the first football game. Jeans. There is no such thing as too many jeans, so please parents understand that the wash and style make a difference—and besides, they can never have too many jeans, right?

Last but certainly not least, you must have the latest #KOTD, Kicks of the Day, with socks equally as outrageous to match, these kids belong to an elite group of society known on social media as the #SockMinistry.

These kicks will make or break the “‘fit” and if the utmost of caution is not exercised, your child will be forever known as the “What are those?” kid. Some of the more popular purchases were NewBalance, Adidas, TOMS, Sperry’s for the preppy kids. Of course, you have to J-walk at some point — code for wearing Jordans.

Madison's mom, Lisa Green, says her favorite thing during this euphoric shopping experience with her daughter is, “We go and waste our time and she doesn’t find things. Then after about an hour of being in the store, she’s like, 'Oh I found something,' but only after about four hours of dragging me around.”

One of my favorite pairs of socks #sockministry @stcroix_collections

A post shared by C.Stewart (@captaingovernor) on

To clap-back at her mother's comment on her shopping, Madison jokingly hugs her and references a line from a famous '90s song, "Parents just don't understand." Lisa does, however, sing praises to her daughter for being a girly “T-shirt, jeans, and tennis-shoe kinda chick,” which makes the shopping experience slightly easier for the both of them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the young ladies whose back-to-school purchases consist of nothing but makeup. Says Kathy SanJanvier, a 17-year-old high school senior, “Well, usually I spend about $150-$200 on [my] makeup and that’s because I don’t buy everything high-end, but Ulta is the best because they have everything, and you get points back for prizes.”

As the kids would say, Kathy’s brows were “on fleek” and her face was “beat to the Gods” when we spoke with her. (Wait! Did we just say that?)

Parents, please remember the most important rule of all while shopping with your student, make sure you are purchasing within in the confines of your local ISD and school's dress-code policy, and please make sure your student's clothing is not culturally divisive, offensive, and/or downright inappropriate, as most schools have asked for students to shy away from this type of clothing.

click to enlarge Last weekend, Pearland Town Center was booming with shoppers taking advantage of the tax-free specials. - PHOTO BY G. PARIS JOHNSON
Last weekend, Pearland Town Center was booming with shoppers taking advantage of the tax-free specials.
Photo by G. Paris Johnson
This could be anything "Black Lives Matter," "Blue Lives Matters," "All Lives Matter," etc.; any type of clothing bearing the Confederate flag; and/or any types of clothing that may show too much skin for males and/or females, including sagging pants.

For those parents touring the city to find their athlete's perfect team-sports shoe, brace yourselves; you could be in for a treat, as "It basically boils down to every parent trying to beat the other parents for the athletic shoes that are trending right now," says Trenton, a Dick's Sporting Goods employee.

As the last text message is sent from the latest Droid and iOS technology from the back-to-schoolers trying to either coordinate what they are wearing to who’s picking up whom, or where they will meet on the first day, I leave you with these final tidbits from the pros: never wear stripes with polka-dots, and please stop using the SnapChat filter with the flowered headband.
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G. Paris Johnson is a freelance writer at the Houston Press, a graduate of Texas Southern University, and a native Houstonian— who enjoys foreign films, friends and family, and venturing around the city finding hidden gems with her husband.