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Get in losers; we’re going back to school. Cliques, crushes, cafeteria food: there are few universal experiences in this life, but the awkward, painful experience of coming of age in the hallowed halls of a high school is one of them. And that may be why the high school movie is so iconic. To date, #highschoolmovies has 10.3 million views on TikTok, and their popularity is only growing. As for the hall of fame? It’s pretty endless. The ‘70s brought us classics like Grease, while the ‘80s delivered hits like Heathers and The Breakfast Club and the ‘00s solidified the gospel of the high school movie, with hits like Mean Girls and Bring It On.

School is a time where we’re all searching to fit in, finding our identities and our style. The firmly entrenched high school stereotypes (think jock, nerd and cheerleader) have, over the years, developed a real-life yearbook that we’ve all learned to cast ourselves in. And with the explosion of the core trend over the past few years, these subcultures and stereotypes are only becoming more prominent. As September hits and the back-to-school run begins, we’re taking a look back at some of the most iconic high school movies of all time and their influence on style. From Grease to the newly released Bottoms, this is everything you need to know.


Grease? It’s the word. To say the 1978 film is iconic, would be an understatement. Starring Olivia  Newton John as the too-sweet Sandra Dee and John Travolta as the elusive bad boy, Danny Zuko, as far as high school films go, Grease is as good as it gets. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t hold up to today’s standards, read: problematic storylines (and how we were ever supposed to believe a bunch of 30-year-old actors were 17). But what does hold up, is the unmatched soundtrack and of course, the fashion. Olivia Newton John in slick black leather pants, John Travolta in that leather jacket and the uniforms of the Pink Ladies, the film’s fashion is firmly built into the pop culture lexicon. Not to mention the fact that the mash up of Summer Nights, Greased Lightening and You’re The One That I Want has been played at every school disco, well, ever, which only adds to the nostalgia.


“Dear diary: My teen angst b***** now has a body count”. One of the edgiest teen movies ever made, it’s no surprise Heathers has become a cult classic. Starring Winona Ryder as the razor-sharp Veronica Sawyer, a popular teen who hates all her friends; a trifecta of queen bees all named Heather. Things get messy when she meets the gun slinging, trench-coat wearing J.D., played by a young Christian Slater. A brutal depiction of high school hell? Absolutely. Heathers is also a veritable ode to the ultra-preppy style of the ‘80s era. The aesthetic is defined by pleated skirts, boxy blazers and colourful tights, and it brings a whole new meaning to the term dark academia.


One of the most iconic films of the brat-pack era, John Hughes’s The Breakfast Club famously cast the following: a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. A reflection of well-entrenched high school stereotypes, a Saturday spent in detention gives the cast of ‘80s A-listers a chance to realise they have more in common than they thought and to, you guessed it, come of age. Considering the cast only really wear one outfit in the film, the impact of the fashion reflects the film’s continued relevance. In 2023, the fits of the ‘geek’ Brian (Anthony Michael Hall are straight out of TikTok’s normcore craze, while the wardrobe of princess, Claire (Molly Ringwald) is, much like everything Ringwald was wearing in the ‘80s, still on our mood boards today. Think soft pink blouses, midi skirts and knee-high boots. While the varsity jackets worn by the ‘jock’ Andrew (Emilio Estevez) remain a fixture in our wardrobes and in collections by everyone from Off-White to Burberry.


Slasher-flick turned cult-classic, Scream is, arguably, one of the most influential films in the horror genre – even if it was originally intended as a parody. The O.G. film which came out in 1996 featured performances from Drew Barrymore, Courtney Cox, Neve Campbell and Rose McGowan. The film follows a crime spree by a masked killer, dubbed ‘Mr Ghostface’, set to the backdrop of an all-American high school. It’s equal parts blood, guts, gore and iconic fits and epic one liners, i.e. McGowan purring “Please don’t kill me Mr Ghostface, I wanna be in the sequel”, Barrymore’s cable knit sweater and jeans combo in the film’s opening scene, McGowan’s turtleneck and plaid skirt look, Campbells bloodstained denim jacket and a plethora of slightly ill-advised outfits worn by Courtney Cox. To date, the franchise – which is now on its sixth film – has cast everyone from Sarah Michelle Geller and Jada Pinkett Smith to Emma Roberts and Jenna Ortega. And the ever-changing cast of characters have been serving looks as long as Mr Ghostface has been terrorising America.


Alicia Silverstone’s turn as the endlessly quotable Cher Horwitz in 1995’s Clueless has become a) one of the most iconic films of the ‘90s, b) one of the best high school movies ever made and c) one of the most fashionable films of all time. A California-fied take on the classic Jane Austen novel, Emma, the film follows Cher and best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) as they decide to give newbie Tai (Brittany Murphy) a makeover – inside and out. The fashion-filled flick features looks by everyone from Calvin Klein to Dolce & Gabbana, and the list of our favourite looks is endless, but honourable mentions go out to Cher’s black-and-white P.E. look, her tiny white Calvin Klein slip dress (“A dress.” “Says, who? “Calvin Klein”), and of course, the iconic yellow plaid skirt suit, which to date has been replicated by everyone from Margot Robbie (on the Barbie press tour no less) to Harry Styles at the Grammys. Clueless has more than earned its status as one of the most iconic ‘90s-fashion-high-school movies of all time. And if you disagree? We have one thing to say: “Ugh, as if!”.


A breakout film for Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles and Joseph-Gordon Levitt: 10 Things I Hate About You, which was originally based on Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew has become one of the defining films of the high school movie genre. Cameron (Levitt) pays Patrick (Ledger) to date Kat (Stiles) in order for him to go out with her sister, Bianca (Larisa Oleynik). See, Shakespearean. While the Simone De Beauvoir-reading Kat Stratford has evolved into a veritable feminist teen hero for Millennials and Gen Z alike, (the description, ‘angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion’ has gone on to inspire a million Spotify playlists), the film has largely gone down in pop culture history because of a) Ledger and Stiles’ electric on-screen chemistry and b) the outfits. Bianca is a pure Y2K pop princess, with a wardrobe comprised of butterfly-encrusted baby tees, cherry-printed mini dresses and a pink taffeta hoop skirt, not to mention the Prada backpack, while her goth counterpart, her sister Kat, has a wardrobe filled with grungey tanks, jeans and leather jackets, that wouldn’t look out of place on 2023’s Berghain Babes.


Bring It On, the iconic cheerleading film, follows a rivalry between two high school cheerleading teams, the Torres and the Clovers. Ft. Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku and Jesse Bradford, and a breakout performance from Gabrielle Union, Bring It On is a Y2K favourite, and for good reason. At its core, the film is about women succeeding at something they love, rather than the more common tropes of teen movies at the time i.e. romance or popularity. Through the rivalry between the two cheer teams, the white Torres team headed up by Kirsten Dunst and the back Clovers team, headed up by Gabrielle Union, the film also addresses cultural appropriation, as well as dissecting female rivalry, read Union’s quote: “Here y’all come trying to steal it, putting some blonde hair on it and calling it something different”. And as for the fashion, from the butterfly clips to the tube tops and the pleated looks, the ultra-Y2K looks wouldn’t look out of place on the likes of Bella Hadid and Dua Lipa. It’s one of many of reasons why today Bring It On remains a stone cold classic.


Arguably the most iconic (and definitively, fetch-est) high school movie of all time, Mean Girls has it all. An ode to the unhinged horrors of high school and girlhood alike, the screenplay was written by SNL’s Tina Fey and inspired from a parenting book, Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. From the PVC Santa girl costumes to the little pink baguette bags, the fashion was unmatched. Some highlights for your books? Gretchen Weiners’ (Lacy Chabert) in a Burberry miniskirt and punky baby tee, Regina George’s (Rachel McAdams) ‘A Little Bit Dramatic’ tank top, Karen Smith’s (Amanda Seyfried) ‘I’m A Mouse – Duh’ Halloween costume (which was comprised of a black lace baby doll dress, pink ribbon and mouse ears) and all the Juicy Couture tracksuits. On Wednesdays, they wore pink. And they changed the world.


We’re all in this together. Directed and choreographed by Kenny Ortega, (Dirty Dancing, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) there’s no escaping the impact of High School Musical. The Disney trilogy would go on to change the lives of Gen Z’s everywhere. It’s actually so embedded in the cultural cannon that the first scripts were being shopped around in 1999, then dubbed ‘Grease 3’ with Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake predicted to star. The first film came out in 2006, launching the career of perennial heart throb Zac Efron as the (ever dramatic) balling-and-dancing Troy Bolton, the brainy Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) and the iconic Sharpay Evans, played by Ashley Tisdale. The style is peak Y2K fever: think layered clashing t-shirts, diamond-print sweater vests, glittering blue prom dresses and of course, the co-ordinating Wildcats track suits, and in 2023 Sharpay’s all-pink fits deliver serious Barbiecore inspiration. Her pink cowboy boots from the third movie walked so that Margot Robbie’s pink cowgirl look from Barbie could run.


Horny, campy, unhinged: Bottoms is a high school sex comedy, following the (mis)adventures of Ado Edebiri (The Bear) as Josie and Rachel Sennott (Shiva Baby) as PJ. The film follows in the tradition of classic teen flicks like Superbad and American Pie, whereby Josie and PJ are on a quest… to hook up with their cheerleader classmates. To do so? They decide to start a fight club – spun as a feminist self-defence club to appease teachers. Directed by Emma Seligman, it’s a raunchy, bloody and unique flick that carves out a meaningful space for badly behaved girls and queer people. And as for the styling? Costume designer Eunice Jera Lee riffed off of some O.G. teen classics for inspiration, (think Heathers, Clueless and Bring It On). Expect Gen-z-ified double denim, oversized polo shirts and an instantly iconic bloodstained cheerleading costume worn by Kaia Geber.




High-gloss lips, bold lip liner, ultra-straight hair – Y2k beauty is here to stay.




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