Back-to-school trends, technology may be trumped by district policies

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As summer vacation winds down, the noise filling parks, pools and backyards will be quieted as students head back to the classroom later this month.

Many will go back wearing trends borrowed from mom or dad -- maybe even grandma if she was a hard-rocker in the '70s.

But most school districts have a dress policy that calls for sense and sensibility. And many students go back to class unplugged, as more and more districts adopt polices keep cell phones and other electronic devices out of the classroom.

Here's a look at what some area retailers said students are buying to wear back-to-school this year, as well as a look at a few school policies on dress and electronics:

Back to the future

Parents will find students raiding their closets in search of looks from the 1980s. Seventeen magazine says those signature puffy sleeves and bold shoulders are back, along with bomber jackets and longer-length blazers. Leathers with zippers, snaps and faux fur trim (think Fonzie) and sleeveless blazer-vests are also back ''in.''

"It's also neon everything right now," said Maggie Prince, assistant manager of Justice at The Mall at Robinson. Just about anything can be found in hot pinks, lime greens and every other neon color -- shades even replacing the traditional blue in jeans.

Others colors in the forefront this year include tangerine and a marine green.

The 1980s are back "in" at the store with sweater ponchos, fur vests and sequined tops. Ms. Prince said the store also has a 1970s rock-rebel display that includes oversized shirts, animal prints, skinny jeans and boots.

But don't expect to see bell bottoms back just yet, Ms. Pruince said, skinny jeans are still in -- the skinner the better especially as soft, cottony jean leggings, often called "jeggings."

Other jean trends include bleached denim; super-distressed with holes and rips; and cropped; printed; high-waisted; and boyfriend styles.

Jeremy Boyd, manager of Aeropostale at Ross Park Mall in McCandless, said the store is stocking a lot of floral prints and skinny jeans in a variety of neons -- look for neon yellow jeggings -- as well as more traditional autumn hues, such as deep purples and reds.

Mr. Boyd said girls will add "tons of bracelets ... not just one, but 10 bracelets going up the arm.''

Other must-haves include bangles, cuff bracelets, brooches, chunky flowered rings and multi-layered chain necklaces.

Headwear is big this year, too: Look for beanie hats, woven headbands, sparkly hair pins and vintage pearl hair clips.

Mr. Boyd noted hobo bags are big: many students are using them to carry books and supplies instead of traditional backpacks or messenger bags.

Tiny floral print dresses and blouses are in, as well as tribal, plaid, floral or patchwork prints and thin stripes. Last year's bold tartan and plaids are still in with smaller, checkerboard styles in brighter colors also making the scene this fall.

Footwear trends include bright and neon sneakers, ballet flats in patent and leopard print, textured leather boots, chunky platforms, even soft moccasins.

For the guys, Mr. Boyd said, slim, straight jeans are in as well as anything collegiate with decals.

Hoodies are still in, but this year's edition boasts bold prints. This year "it's all about v-necks for the guys," he said.

But no matter what the "in" style may call for, students have to look good without breaking rules.

Style by the rule book

Most area schools have dress codes characterized by modesty, neatness and cleanliness -- with sleeveless shirts, bare midriffs, exposed undergarments, hats, short skirts and form-fitting clothing often making the list of what not to wear.

Clothing that depicts drug, alcohol or tobacco usage or products, sexual innuendo, suggestive language or anything offensive is usually a no-no as well.

While the latest garb is often high on the list of student must-haves, it isn't the only thing. School supplies have trends, too, and are often as important an accessory as bangles and brooches.

John Buschek, manager of Office Depot at The Waterfront in Munhall, said glue, notebook filler paper, fashion notebooks with graphic designs and backpacks are in high demand.

Students 'unplugged'

Accessories that many students won't be toting to the classroom this fall are a cell phone or other electronics.

Mt. Lebanon School District prohibits their use and that of all electronic devices including camera phones, iPods, Walkmans, Palm Pilots and cameras. Students must keep these devices in their lockers during the school day and are not permitted to use them until they leave school property.

Bethel Park High School, Clairton City School District and Penn-Trafford High School also have banned the use of communication devices upon arrival on school property. Cell phones must be turned off and may not be used or on display at any time during the school day.

The same goes for Norwin School District, which also prohibits the use of personal electronic devices on school grounds, unless pre-approved and under the supervision of a classroom teacher or administrator for a specific educational purpose.

Penn Hills School District has a similar policy that prohibits the display, use and misuse of any non-instructional electronic device.

neigh_east - neigh_south

Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer; suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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