Ah, to be a teenager again. We didn’t know what the fudge we were doing back then when it came to our clothes and our hairstyles. We were constantly moody, anxious, and looking for our ‘real selves’ (some of us never stopped searching). We were given a blank cheque to be as edgy and ‘unique’ as we liked… but our fashion sense really does come back to haunt us sometimes!
People are posting the funniest photos from people’s awkward childhoods on the aptly named ‘Blunder Years’ subreddit. The online group proves that we all go through some major ups and downs, twists, and loop-de-loops when it comes to our fashion identities. Sometimes, it really is just a phase, but the photos are here to stay. Remember to upvote your fave pictures as you’re scrolling down. Share these with your friends to get a giggle out of them. Oh, and you can find Bored Panda’s earlier posts about the hilariously brilliant r/blunderyears community right over here, as well as here.
We wanted to learn more about why teenagers want to be independent and stand out from the crowd, how not to be overwhelmed by peer pressure to follow trends, and how to stop being embarrassed by our old photos, so we reached out to the friendly and talented Lenore Skenazy. She is the president of Let Grow, the nonprofit promoting childhood independence, and the founder of the Free-Range Kids movement and she went in-depth with Bored Panda about all of our blunder years. Read on!
Somehow Removed The Period Of Time That I Would Draw Glasses And A Smiley Face On My Face Every Day From My Memory
According to Lenore, the president of Let Grow, teenager's desire for independence is rooted in our biology. "Think of what used to happen during the teen years throughout most of human history. Those young people weren’t going to high school. They weren’t making TikTok videos. They weren’t eating candy bars and playing Call of Duty. They were foraging for food, trying not to become some other species’ food, and they were having babies."
Lenore even reached out to Dr. Robert Epstein, the author of 'Teen 2.0: Saving Our Children and Families from the Torment of Adolescence,' to get his take on teen independence as well. "Teens strive for independence because they are genetically and developmentally ready to start their own families. Throughout most of human history, teens did in fact mate, have children, and became full members of their communities, thus fulfilling their genetic destinies. Romeo's Juliet—the one in Shakespeare's play, not the Juliets we see in modern movies—was 13."
He continued: "Over the past century, especially in Western countries, we have prevented teens from entering adult society, typically holding them back until they are 18 or even 21. Thus the natural tendencies they have to grow up are thwarted and frustrated at every turn. They therefore not only strive for independence, they must struggle for it, often coming into conflict with their parents and other authority figures who hold them back. When a teen looks you straight in the eye and says, 'Stop treating me like a child,' you need to listen."
Lenore explained that teenagers' desire to create a fresh, new, unique persona might also arise from the disconnect "between being ready for adulthood and being grounded because of your C- in algebra." She told Bored Panda: "To make the break more obvious in a culture that keeps treating them as kids, they sometimes adopt a new look, one they probably hope makes them look much older and more sophisticated or sexy—that is, adult. Need a real-world example? See timeline of Cyrus, comma, Miley."
My Mom Calls This Photo A Family Heirloom Lol. 16 Yrs Ago, Me (F 13) And My BF (M 13) At The Olive Garden
While it might seem that there's a lot of tension between teenagers' desire to be independent and their wish to fit in with the crowd, Lenore told us that there's no real tension there. "The 'independent' part is the part of us that wants to be recognized for who we are—not just another jock, or nerd, a whole person. That’s why The Breakfast Club is a movie for the ages. (See this great essay by high school student Maggie Isabel Seabrook who won Let Grow’s Think for Yourself essay contest.) John Hughes’ classic shows how none of the teens is just the one simple label everyone sees them as—they’re all lonely, they’re all smart in their own way, and they have problems others have no clue about. Teens (and the rest of us) long to be seen for who we really are."
Lenore continued about how our desire for independence comes after we become accepted by others: "At the same time, that longing comes from a desire to connect: 'Don’t write me off—get to know me!' As humans, we are acutely attuned to what others think of us—and particularly attuned to any put-downs or humiliation. So we may adopt some styles that we hope will keep the scorn at bay. People are wearing a certain shoe? So will I. Everyone’s growing their hair long? I’ll grow mine, too. We want to be accepted, so we look at what others are doing/wearing/saying and adopt some of these things. But once accepted, we also want to be seen for the real person we are, not just a 'type.'"
I Think I Was The Youngest Loan Shark In History
Here I Am At Six Years Old, Going On 40, Looking Like I'm Ready To Do Your Taxes
In Lenore's opinion, the past is "nothing but fashion mistakes," she joked with Bored Panda. "Even the old styles that look cool to us now would not look cool if you copied them perfectly—the eyebrows then are not the eyebrows of today, no matter what era you’re iconizing. That’s why no one can look back on their adolescent photos and say, 'Wow, that was a great look.' Sure—your waist was thinner and your hair was thicker—but: that haircut? Those lapels? That dress with the giant belt? How did you ever think it looked good?" she said that no trend is forever.
"Well, the same way you may think giant sneakers and ripped jeans look good now. Trust me—take a selfie today and save it along with this Bored Panda article. Set a reminder to look at them again in… let’s say 13 years. The article will be as accurate at the day it was born, your selfie will look as dated as a flip phone, and you will have learned—verrrrry slowly!—that there is no way to escape the era you live in. Living in 2021 means you think a certain look is timelessly attractive, but in fact it is startlingly specific, right down to the way you tuck in your shirt."
Lenore had some advice for us as well: "My best advice? Just don’t do anything to permanently alter your looks, because at some point you will be embarrassed or bored by it. Otherwise, just accept that time marches on but photos don’t."
This Is How I Showed To To University. I Wanted To Make A Statement. Apparently That Statement Was Cross The Street With Your Kids When I Come Walking Down The Sidewalks Oh Muggles...
Anytime My Wife Sees This She Burst Out Laughing... I Thought I Looked Cool
Me At 11-12 Trying To Look Too Cool For The Pirates Ride At Disneyland While Simultaneously Dressing Specifically For It
“Come and share your dusty treasure for the world—and you—to laugh and regret together,” the 'Blunder Years' group invites their fellow redditors to bare their awkward phases and the times they assassinated style with their wardrobes.
Operating since 2013 and with 755k members, the subreddit is large enough to get a lot of attention online, but it’s also intimate enough for it to be a close-knit community. You can also tell that by the fact that r/blunderyears only has two moderators. In our experience, that’s usually a sign of a very welcoming subreddit that doesn’t over-stress their mods.
I Call This Look “Christian Granny Goth” And It Was Pretty Bold For A 12 Year Old In 1995
In 1987 I Permed My Mullet To Look More Like Patrick Swayze. I Ended Up Looking Like A Lesbian Biker
Me And Friends Before A Disturbed Concert In 2006. We're So Cool Posing In Front Of Mom And The Van
That doesn’t mean that ‘Blunder Years’ doesn’t have any rules, though. They really do. They’ve set out some guidelines so that people don’t, well, blunder while they post their blunders. For example, wearing glasses because you thought you were a hipster just isn’t enough. It won’t do at all!
The blunders have to be real and you have to hear that ‘whack’ as the embarrassment hits your soul at 300mph and makes you want to hide under the covers until your cheeks aren’t glowing beet-red anymore.
On The Left Is My Son Callum At 8 Years Old On Halloween. He Is Dressing As Eminem. On The Right Is Me At 8 Years Old. I Dressed As Steve Urkel. I Stand By My Choice
Whilst Taking A Passport Photo I Was Told To 'Open My Eyes And Smile More'...
Those Who Cannot Remember The Past Are Condemned To Repeat It
I have to say, though some of these photos, while absolutely hilarious, are just great. Even though some of these fashion (I’m using the term loosely here) choices are objectively unaesthetic, they really do prove that confidence makes all the difference between looking cringe and embracing the cringe and ascending to become Super Blunderers. Before you put on your clothes (and gel up your hair), you need to put your confidence on first.
Fashion trends will continue to change as long as humankind exists. We’ll be seeing lots of different, weird, and eyebrow-raising mainstream style cultures, counter-cultures, counter-counter-cultures, and so on. The times might change, but teenagers’ desire to stand out from the crowd and be unique really, really don’t.
Prom 2009, I Was A Sophmore In High School And I Took School Dances A Litte Too Seriously. Also I Didn't Have A Date
Me, Circa 1991. My Mom Let Me Get The Laser Background. I Am So Proud Of This Pic!
I Was Like 9 And I Got A Little Obsessed With The Hippie Aesthetic
But here’s the paradox (though Lenore told us this isn't a paradox). Even though teens want to stand out, they also want to fit in and be part of the ‘tribe.’ Nobody wants to feel left out, after all. So it’s between these two radically different poles—being unique yet one of the crowd—that teenagers might find themselves getting lost. But at the core lies a desire for acceptance, whether overt (“wow, look at what they’re wearing—they’re so cool”) or more covert (“finally, they’ve got the same flavor-of-the-year haircut we all did”).
Being aware of social norms and what society thinks is useful and, in fact, necessary. However, bowing down to the latest trends and changing your lifestyle just because of social pressure is the perfect way of destroying any individuality you might have.
When You Go For The Kurt Cobain But End Up Getting Called “Mmm Bop”
My Dad Found My 2011 High School Id Card In His Closet Today
Nobody wants to become just another grey (or whatever color’s fashionable now) blob/brick in the wall like the rest, but we also don’t want to become outcasts. So we’re stuck. Ironically, the best way to be unique is to stop wanting that and doing what you love doing and dressing how you love dressing while also being aware of the rules and trends floating about.
Good Ol' Facebook Reminding Me Of How Cringey I Was In Highschool. Hot Pink Fishnets Stuffed With Grass
Playing In An Irish Folk Band 2002, At 15 Or 16 For The Queen's Golden Jubilee Celebrations In The Local Rec Of My Hometown. I Went On To Say "God Save The Queen And Her Fascist Regime" Down The Mic. The Violinists Parents Went Mental At Me
Tbh, I Am Not Even Ashamed Of 2001 Me. I Miss Her
The best way to handle embarrassing or awkward moments (and people seeing your old photos in your childhood albums) isn’t to pretend that they didn’t happen. Psychology Today explains that confronting your embarrassment directly is the best course of action. Being able to laugh at yourself and embrace the awkwardness in public will win you everyone’s favor; trying to avoid others thinking less of you, ironically, will make others think less of you.
I Wasn’t Very Popular At Catholic Youth Group
At 16 I Was A Seasonal Employee At Hot Topic. I Got 3 Hours A Week And Spent More With My 20% Discount Than I Made
Halloween 1998 When I Thought Dressing As A Giant Milkbone Would Make Dogs Like Me
I Lived Nowhere Near Cows Or A Farm
So, dear Readers, which photos were your favorite and why? Do you have any stories (or photos!) from your own ‘blunder years’ to share? Did you commit any massive fashion faux pas when you were a teenager? We always love hearing from you, so drop us a line in the comment section below.