Habits That Were Cool In Your Teens (But Are Downright Embarrassing Now)

Habits That Were Cool In Your Teens (But Are Downright Embarrassing Now)

We all have a few cringe-worthy skeletons from our teenage years. From those questionable fashion choices to the slang that makes us shudder now, here are some of the things that seemed oh-so-cool back then — and leave us seriously embarrassed now.

1. Wearing multiple polo shirts with popped collars

This was the epitome of preppy cool… or so we thought, Culture Trip recalls. One popped collar was questionable, two was entering dangerous territory, and three or more? Absolutely excessive. What were we thinking? Bonus cringe points if the shirts were in blindingly bright, clashing colors.

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2. Decorating everything with glitter

Glitter had a chokehold on everything we owned. Hair, makeup, clothes, school supplies, even our cell phones – if it could be covered in glitter, it was. The problem? Glitter sheds like crazy and never fully washes out, leaving a sparkly trail of our teenage years haunting our lives forever.

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3. Using the phrase “like” in every single sentence

We were, like, the masters of totally butchering the English language. “Like” was our go-to filler word, peppered into our conversations so excessively that it, like, rendered our sentences almost unintelligible. Thankfully, our vocabulary improved over time… we hope.

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4. Sending chain emails with ridiculous warnings

Remember the panic you felt if you didn’t forward that email to 10 friends within 5 minutes? Bad luck, a tragic accident, or eternal social outcast status would surely befall you. Looking back, it’s laughable, but in the moment, that illogical fear felt very, very real.

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5. Spending hours agonizing over your AIM away message

Away messages were an art form. Song lyrics, passive-aggressive digs, inside jokes – they revealed our deepest teenage angst with a side of MSN Messenger emoticons. The pressure to craft the perfect away message caused more stress than most exams.

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6. Excessively baggy or skinny jeans (take your pick)

Denim trends in the ’90s and early 2000s were unfortunate. Either you were drowning in insanely baggy jeans that tripped you with every step, or squeezing yourself into skintight skinny jeans that cut off your circulation. Finding a happy medium was clearly not important in our teenage quest for coolness.

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7. Overplucked eyebrows

Thin, pencil-like eyebrows were everywhere. We ruthlessly plucked, waxed, and shaved our brows into oblivion, unaware of the long-term brow hair loss we were causing ourselves. Thankfully, bold brows are in now, but many of us are still trying to recover from the past tweezer trauma.

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8. Excessive use of tanning beds

We prioritized a deep, crispy tan even if it meant turning ourselves a disturbing shade of orange and seriously damaging our skin. Teenagers often feel invincible, but the scary health risks of tanning beds are very real, per the American Academy of Dermatology. These days, a healthy glow from gradual self-tanner is the way to go!

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9. Leaving voicemails that were basically just the same song over and over

Before texting took over, leaving a voicemail was a common way to say “I’m thinking about you!” …or was it? Sometimes we’d just call and let a friend’s favorite song play as the voicemail. Was it cute? Creepy? Efficient? We may never know, but it certainly seemed like a good idea at the time.

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10. Owning a pair of those impossibly low-rise jeans

Somehow, we were convinced that the lower the rise, the better the style. These jeans would reveal way more than anyone cared to see with the slightest bend or sit. The constant tugging them up, worrying about flashing the world – how did we even tolerate them? (And how on earth is Britney Spears still rocking them?!)

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11. Writing in your diary with cryptic codes and symbols

Protecting our teenage diary from prying sibling eyes was a top priority. Instead of just, you know, hiding it well, we invented elaborate codes that usually involved substituting random letters for numbers or drawing weird symbols. Chances are, if we reread those diaries now, we wouldn’t even be able to decipher half the drama we documented.

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12. Filling your bedroom with posters and magazine cutouts

Our bedrooms were a shrine to our favorite pop stars, actors, and heartthrobs of the moment. Every inch of wall space was covered with posters taped or meticulously pinned up, creating a chaotic (and slightly creepy) collage. Our current, more minimalist decor sensibilities are breathing a sigh of relief.

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13. Frosted tips (if you were a guy)

Every boy band, every teen actor – it seemed like every guy in the ’90s and early 2000s had frosted tips. That bleach blonde streak at the front? The ultimate in cool-guy hair, apparently. Thankfully, this trend died a much-deserved death.

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14. Wearing chunky platform sandals

These Spice Girls-inspired shoes gave us some serious height but also a serious risk of ankle injuries. Clomping around in those sky-high platforms was a challenge, but looking extra tall was worth the occasional stumble.

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15. Obsessively checking your social media minutes after posting

Whether it was MySpace, Facebook, or an early version of Instagram, we were addicted to those likes and comments. The anticipation and rush of the first few notifications after posting a photo or status update was everything. Now, we realize social media validation isn’t nearly as important as we once believed.

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16. Deliberately misspelling words to seem cool

This was the era of “kewl” “skool,” and other cringeworthy mutilations of the English language. We wanted to seem laid-back and too cool to care about something as trivial as spelling. Thankfully, most of us eventually realized that proper spelling does, in fact, matter.

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Harper Stanley graduated from Eugene Lang College at The New School in NYC in 2006 with a degree in Media Studies and Literature and Critical Analysis. After graduating, she worked as an editorial assistant at The Atlantic before moving to the UK to work for the London Review of Books.

When she's not waxing poetic about literature, she's writing articles about dating, relationships, and other women's lifestyle topics to help make their lives better. While shocking, she really has somehow managed to avoid joining any social media apps — a fact she's slightly smug about.