It happens every summer. Advertisers bombard teens with sensory onslaught. Television, Internet and magazine ads feature beautiful people in beautiful clothes posing beautifully in beautiful fake hallways. Here's reality: Some teens hate fashion. Some have to wear a school uniform. Some still shop with Mom. Some can't even afford gas, let alone $50 shoes from the mall. But they all have style. We scouted the Tampa Bay area for real teens willing to show off their personal back-to-school catalog.
Xi "CiCi" Yu, 17
School: Rising senior at King High School, Tampa
Style: "I wear shirts from math club, speech and debate, journalism, Key Club, National Honor Society, Relay for Life. Those are the only shirts I own. I don't believe in going out and buying a Hollister shirt or something like that, because everyone can get that shirt. All my shirts have a story behind them."
For kicks: "I have a pair of Converse, black. I have a pair of white K-Swiss. When I wear jeans, I don't wear the K-Swiss. They go more with capris. I have two pairs of capris."
Fight the power: "I'm more of a brains over beauty kind of person. I refuse to go shopping for clothes. I'd rather go shopping for books or computer gadgets, not just for clothes. I think it takes so much time. You have to try stuff on."
But, Mom: "My parents are trying to get me to wear more fashionable clothes. I'm just not really interested. I don't have the time or energy. We never talk about clothes in our family. When other girls can sit there and talk about nails and stuff, I just leave the conversation."
She can do the splits: "I do ballet. I can play the piano. I sing along to Vanessa Carlton songs. I like Broadway music. More of the recent stuff. Spring Awakening, Wicked, Rent. I'm a fan of Cats."
Still a girl: "I wear my hair half up, half down. I think it looks rather sophisticated."
Alton "A.J." Edwards, 15
School: Rising sophomore at Gibbs High School, St. Petersburg
Style: "I like kind of baggy clothes. I love hip-hop style. Anything like that. When I'm out with my friends, I dress up. When I'm just chillin', I'm relaxed most of the time."
Signature look: "I guess my Gucci outfit. It's brown; it has G's on it. A pair of shorts and a shirt. I didn't get it, my mom got it for me. I wore it last year."
Do your pants stay up? "I buy them the right size, but you can find them in your actual size where the length and the width of the pants can be baggier and longer."
First-day outfit, not for sissies: "It has to match, for one. It has to say something. It has to be loud. It has to be out there. When someone walks by, you want someone to say, 'Where did you get those? Where did you get that?' "
Ten-hut: "I have a big military family. My uncles were in the Air Force. I want to go to West Point Military Academy, so I'm trying to keep my grades up. I have a 3.56. I'm also in the National Honor Society and the model United Nations."
Smooth operator: "I like hip-hop. I play saxophone. I do listen to a little bit of jazz. I like 50 Cent. Kenny G. Dave Koz."
Sweet 16: "I'm still planning, but it's going to be big."
Mary Shafer, 17
School: Rising senior at St. Petersburg Catholic High School
Style: "Athletic preppy."
Uniformity rules: "I actually like the uniforms. I've grown up with them my whole life. It's so much easier and you can still be different with certain things, but people don't judge you so much."
Senior shirt: "This year, it's purple. It's a really big senior privilege. They do it after school. All the seniors meet in the auditorium. When it gets cold, we get a senior sweatshirt."
Standing out: "I was going to get a purple backpack, but I thought it might be too much." She settled on a black JanSport with bright designs.
Shopping stops: "Hollister, American Eagle, PacSun, Abercrombie & Fitch. Mostly at WestShore and International because it has all my stores."
Scoring big: I've played volleyball and basketball since about fourth or fifth grade. I used to twirl baton up until freshman year."
Stefanie Lehmann, 17
School: Rising senior at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High
Style: "A combination of whatever I can find at 6 in the morning, and a little bit of a vintage touch."
She's 6 feet tall! I have a very hard time finding pants. I'll have luck with Jessica Simpson's brand. Dillard's brands often have longer styles. My workout pants I will cut short very quickly. Otherwise, they get to that point of the mid ankle where they just look tacky."
Don't fight it: "I wear heels. There's no making me shorter, so why even try? Also, I like the feeling. It helps me with my confidence, where I can walk into a room and be myself."
Vintage for less: "The store that's probably the cheapest and easiest bet is Forever 21. La France (in Ybor City) if I'm looking for something fancier. And Sequins & Denim in downtown St. Pete."
Low flow: "I have no money. I work at a scrapbooking store and I cater and work for a photographer and do a bunch of odd jobs. Whatever I can do to pay for gas." She acts in community theater, too. "I'm rehearsing High Society right now at Francis Wilson Playhouse. I've been in Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Fantasticks, Urinetown, Gaslight and City of Angels."
Fitting in: "At my arts school, we all kind of stick together. We're more just a group of eclectic people. We really don't care what people think of us."