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How Teens Shop

Today, The Washington Post and publish an exhaustive look at teens in one of their natural habitats -- the mall. The stories, videos, photo galleries and unique interactive map are both enlightening and heartening.

Here's what I learned from these 61 teenagers (60 of whom are girls): Teens are savvy shoppers. They'll look online and go to brick-and-mortar stores. They'll weigh whether the cost is worth the outlay of money. Some spend allowance money; some spend babysitting money and some money they've earned from other jobs. Some teens split the costs of items with parents. Some buy now and pay Mom and Dad back later. But they definitely understand the value of the dollars in the pockets (or pocketbooks, as the case may be).

We parents may worry about how Bratz, Britney and Lindsay Lohan affect young girls, but these teens aren't buying the skimpy celeb look. Short shorts don't make the cut. Spaghetti strap tanks get topped with another shirt. For this generation, it seems that modesty is in.

Jeans are out. Well, not completely. But that denim that inexplicably costs $75 or more? It's not likely to make it out of the store. American Eagle, Hollister, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, Delia's and Old Navy were the stores where teens shopped the most. And many teen girls have a love-hate relationship with Abercrombie. Wrote Post reporter Ylan Q. Mui: "Throughout the mall, it was clear that girls were hyper-aware of the commercial images bombarding them. They could separate air-brushed fantasy from real-girl reality, and they knew they were shopping for their own bodies, not some model's. Yet no store had a more powerful image than Abercrombie, and it elicited their most passionate, often negative, reactions."

Does any of the reporting in this package surprise you?

Today's Talkers: When Should a Kid Start Kindergarten ... Linda Hirshman: Erasing the Salary Gap ... No Group Discount for Triplets With Autism ... Doctors Say Heelys Are Injuring Kids

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 4, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Teens
Previous: The Debate: The Allison Stokke Story | Next: Single Parenting Ups and Downs


I went clothes shopping with my 12 yo daughter a few months ago. She had $100 of birthday money to spend and she visited most of the stores listed. I think she was really practical on what she wanted to spend her mony on.

One thing I noticed was that every brand-name store had a specific genra of music that constantly played; hip-hop, ska, techno...

When we were in Abercrombie, I sat down in a sofa where transe music was playing loudly. They had a good sound system too.

When we left, my ears rang from the intensity of the music, and for some unknown reason I felt like crying, but I had no idea why. Strange.

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 4, 2007 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Ambercrombie has always given me the creeps. I think it's the lack of diversity in their models, but I cannot be sure.

As for teen shopping habits, I find it not at all surprising that young people can be so discerning. My experience in education suggests that teenagers are much smarter than they are often presented (at least when their hormones are not talking) and are especially good at seeing through the deceptions that adults try to put up for them.

I would go out on a limb here and say the reason why they had a lack of boys represented in their article was that, in my experience, boys don't go recreational shopping in malls. The boys in my classes always talk about pretty targeted retail experiences, and they then go and hang out at someone's home and play video games. Perhaps this is because teenage boys are more likely to be harrassed by mall security?

Posted by: David S | June 4, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

It surprised me that the Post thought it was newsworthy to publish pictures of young girls trying on clothes. It was only last week that the Post wrote about the poor female high-school track star whose picture in athletic wear got plastered all over any number of lascivious websites. None of the pictures was suggestive, but neither was the photo of this track star.

Posted by: Tom T. | June 4, 2007 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Father of 4, isn't the traditional role of a father regarding his daughter's clothes to shout "Is that all you're wearing? You can't go out looking like that! Go put more clothes on!" Are you able to manage that? Do you have to resort to bluffing?

Posted by: Tom T. | June 4, 2007 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Nothing would surprise me when the sample size is 61 and all subjects are from a single region and, likely, economic class. We're not quite as dumb as you think when it comes to understanding statistics and "research" results.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I avoid every store on that list religiously, and so does my sister. I get uncomfortable when my friends drag me in there. The only one that is occasionally OK is Old Navy, and even then only because they have like a 70% off sale once a year.

I appreciate that the article is trying to say that teens are not entirely stupid, but I think the existence of girls like the ones who yelled at Pink saying she's "just jealous" of Paris Hilton tends to negate the legitimacy of the story.

Posted by: Kat | June 4, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Tom T., good question. Officially, my wife is the clothes police. I never had to worry about my oldest daughter as she always dressed in clothes that covered her up for the most part. My wife did complain about her wearing her pants to low in the back that exposed her butt crack, but I don't think anything can be done about that short of walking behind her and nagging 24 / 7.

Now my tweenage daughter is proving to be quite a problem. It was pointed out to me that there are a lot of photos in the family album where she is naked or just wearing a diaper. Maybe the not wearing of clothes starts at 6 months, but for sure we have a daughter that is fashonably challanged.

As her father, I have always done my best to keep her as far away from poles as possible. She is pretty accepting of her personal appearance though, and I'm hoping she is just going through a phase of showing as much skin as she can get away with.

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 4, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm not too surprised but I'm not sure I buy it as a generational thing.

I think teens have been and generally are savvy with how they use "their" money- they simply don't have most of the restrictions or perspectives which independent adults living are forced to deal with.

And I am really unconvinced that spending oodles for name brands is out of fashion nowadays and that modesty is in.

Posted by: Liz D | June 4, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

none of the teenagers pictured in the article look like or dress like the teenagers on my street who appear to dress entirely out of either:
1. Up against the wall or t-shirt kiosks. Where is the girl wearing a black t-shirt with an airbrushed Tweety Bird standing between Tupac and Scarface? she's everywhere around here.
2. The Dischord Records online website.
3. H&M

I haven't shopped for clothes at a surbuban mall since before my kids were born and the whole thing seems pretty 1980s to me. Did Abercrombie and Fitch have a sale on Seinfeld merchandise?

It's 2007 people.

Posted by: DCer | June 4, 2007 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I don't know who these authors surveyed, but they weren't the students that attend the high school where I teach. Modesty "in"?? Hardly... the skimpier the better for these kids. Fortunately as a female teacher I have no problem addressing this, but I feel bad for the male teachers...

Posted by: amwhite | June 4, 2007 5:57 PM | Report abuse

as for the talkers: The autism one scares the hell out of me and the Heely one is stupid. Yes, kids who START OUT on Heelys faceplant a lot. So? So do kids on rollerskates. The difference is that parents give Heelys to kids without trying to make sure they know how to use them responsibly/watch where they're rolling.

Posted by: Kat | June 5, 2007 3:19 AM | Report abuse

The heelies article was lame. Cars are more dangerous than heelies, yet we allow our children into them. So are bikes, sleds, and walking around. Any type of activity has its drawbacks, and that includes sitting around! But as far as modesty goes, somebody was selling this columnist a bargeful of bull. Walk into any highschool and you will see a very different picture.

Posted by: to kat | June 5, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

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