What do ‘novel’ teens wear?

Every weekday I drive my teen son to the other side of our neighborhood to his bus stop.  Weird, I know, but it’s our time in the morning.  I have my cup of coffee, he drinks his juice and/or eats his breakfast (he’s a jump-out-of-bed-and-go kind of guy), and most of the time we talk, listen to music, laugh.  It’s become a routine since I lost my job in 2010 and trust me, I’m not going to balk when my teen wants to spend time with me.  (It’s also my way to protect these kids from kidnapping, bullying or sexual attacks).

Some days, like today, he had a headache and didn’t feel all that well, so he kicked the seat back and rested his eyelids until the bus came.  During that time, the writer in me kicked in and I became an observer once more.  Have you ever really looked at what teens wear to school these days?

There is one kid.  He’s average height and skinny as a rail, and I swear he doesn’t own one pair of jeans or pants.  Every day he arrives at the bus stop in knit shorts to his knees, black crew socks and a t-shirt – even when it’s 30 degrees outside.

Another bigger, bulkier guy wears either black socks or one black, one white sock with sandals every day.

There is this little petite brunette that wears the shortest shorts I’ve ever seen every day.  And on cold days, she throws on a pair of tights underneath and maybe some leggings.

Then there is the girl who wears tights for pants and they leave nothing to the imagination, including the fact that she either doesn’t wear underwear, or maybe there’s a thong in there somewhere.  Over that she wears a hip-length tunic or shirt, some really cute jewelry and her hair and makeup are always perfect.  I tell you, she must get up at 5:00 to get the look just right.

There’s another kid who smokes and another who smacks gum constantly. Oh, and did I mention they all have cell phones, and they are all texting and chatting at 6:20 in the morning with other peeps not at the bus stop?  And, they stand in cliques.  Every now and then, the cliques will talk to each other, but they still keep their respectable distance.

It dawned on me this morning how predictable these kids are and how much fun it would be to incorporate their ‘quirks’ into characters.  We all know the cliché characters who wear all black to meld into the background, or how certain colors show the personality of a character.  But what story could you write around any of the students like the ones above?

What kind of story would you write about a mom who takes her 17-year old son to the bus stop?  Without knowing the true story, we can all make up scenarios for what we see.  We can all draw conclusions.  We can all judge…

And it’s all acceptable to do when you’re a writer.  How else are we to develop our next teen characters in our novel?  It’s part of the process.  Observe.  Wonder.  Write.

What do your ‘novel’ teens wear?  Where do you find the inspiration for your teen characters?

14 thoughts on “What do ‘novel’ teens wear?

  1. I cringe when I see my teenage neighbors (both really pretty) with “Pink” written across their butts. It’s like a banner that says “Look at my A$$”

    My boys will be teens one day. The oldest, I am sure will always match and look dapper. My Middle will never match and holes are not an issue, and never will be. Yellow matches with everything.

    My youngest? Can’t pin it yet, although he always reaches for the “floods” for some reason.

    I can’t complain. I had pink hair when I was 16. I don’t care what they look like as long as they are not swearing, smoking or doing drugs.


    1. You had pink hair? OMG! I would love to see a picture of that. I never did anything that ‘drastic’ when I was a teen. My mom would have ‘killed’ me.


    1. haha! I know. When I was in high school, if a kid wore socks with sandals, that was grounds for major teasing and ridicule. After all, that’s what grandpa wore. Funny how things change, even when they don’t. Kids are still teased and ridiculed. The only difference is the reason why.


  2. Hi, I’m from your campaign and I’m stopping by to say hi.

    Great post. I have three teen sons and they all hang with different crowds. What’s interesting about teens and their clothes, is that even though the styles change over time, the general characteristics of each clique’s personality don’t. The ones who wear black. The ones with the money. The ones who march to the beat of their own drum.


  3. I base my teenage characters on my own kids. Here in the UK we have a kind of divide….. My 2 sons are what I can only describe as Grungers, Skater, think Curt Cobain types. Where as my daughter is more Beyonce, Rhianna and Usher.

    I remember when I was a teenager and the type of music you liked set you into a certain group….nothing’s changed here 😉

    My sons ‘set’ seem to be quiet, miserable & geeky, whereas my daughters ‘group’ are more outgoing, enjoy a laugh and hang on street corners lol



  4. Luckily, I’m a high school teacher so all I have to do is pay attention to what my students are wearing. Usually, I focus my observation on a student whose personality most closely mirrors the character I’m writing. It tends to work pretty well and I can’t go wrong with using a little bit of reality to make my characters more relatable. 🙂


  5. Oh, what fun it must have been people-watching! You bring up an incredibly relevant point, however. What better way to research trends, quirks, mannerisms for characters then by going straight to the source? Rather than trying to dust off everything you used to know about your generation, why not go see for yourself what it actually looks like! Fantastic post, Jenny, and I agree 100%


  6. I often work in high schools. Plenty of fodder for teen characters there, I’ll tell you! There are times I wish I wasn’t pushing a wheelchair through the throng but carrying pen and paper so I could write down some of my observations!

    And don’t feel bad about dropping your 17 year-old off at the bus. I used to drive my 20-something son to work and pick him up afterwards because there was no direct bus route, he doesn’t drive, and parts of our neighbourhood are downright scary! We do what we have to do in order to keep our kids safe, no matter what their age. 🙂


  7. I came by via Twitter. Awesome post.

    I take the public bus (two each way) around time the kids are going to and coming from school so I’ve often found myself wondering what their story is by their appearance and how they interact or stay apart from their peers. And I imagine how the main characters in my WIP would see them and where they’d fit in the picture.

    It was totally weird the day a couple who reminded me exactly of my boy MC and the girl he likes took a seat in front of me..



    1. Thanks for dropping by, Kit! I always like ‘seeing’ new faces. Hope you visit again.

      Too bad your bus riders couldn’t pose as ‘real life’ inspiration for your novel. 🙂


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