Blast From the Past

Students find comfort in rewatching childhood movies, listening to old music and going through nostalgic possessions.

Hiding the colorful silicone bracelets from the view of the teacher, hearts flutter with anticipation as the clock ticks down to the class bell. No one dares to reveal their stash without the safety of recess. But, as soon as the elementary school kids hit the yard, off to the trades they run. 

Silly Bandz were one of the most popular trends of the early 2000s and one of many keepsakes people associated with fond memories. Students like Paly senior Zander Leong are turning to entertainment and products from familiar times as a way to cope with the uncertainty that comes with the combination of a pandemic, wildfires and social justice movements.

 “Being at home, away from all our friends and from school… and the desire to [be] with people, has increased our drive to connect [with] our childhood,” Leong said. 

People are comforted by their childhood memories that were integral to their development which was influenced by characters acting on their screens or singing in their iPods.

Being at home, away from all our friends and from school… and the desire to [be] with people, has increased our drive to connect [with] our childhood.”

— Zander Leong

 “I know I’ve definitely learned and grown so much just from seeing characters like me, which really speaks to the power of media in influencing the world and for a lot of people, that includes shows or media that really made an impact on them,” Leong said. 

Because those forms of media played such a large role in shaping individuals and the trends of the 2000s, it is no surprise that they have naturally resurfaced in popular culture now. 

Photo by Rachel Ellisen

With more downtime in quarantine, people have been able to rewatch TV shows and movies they watched as kids from popular networks including Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. 

Paly senior Marina Buendia recently rewatched movies like Cheetah Girls, Lizzie Mcguire and movies starring the Olsen twins. 

“Watching [nostalgic movies] makes me feel way closer to the younger me,” Buendia said. “Those shows and movies are definitely correlated with a less stressful time in my life, so watching them again makes me feel automatically calmer and safe.”

Love for nostalgic shows and media not only provides students with comforting objects and entertainment, they also have the power to serve as an inspiration for the comeback of 90s and  early 2000s fashion trends. 

Watching [nostalgic movies] makes me feel way closer to the younger me. Those shows and movies are definitely correlated with a less stressful time in my life, so watching them again makes me feel automatically calmer and safe.”

— Marina Buendia

Buendia fields much of her fashion inspiration from her older cousin and mom. 

“They still have catalogs that they used to get in the 90s and the early 2000s with all the clothing in them,” Buendia said. “I saw what they were wearing and thought it was really cute.”

Sourcing the vintage inspired pieces has also led Buendia to shop sustainably, most notably through thrifting. “I’ve just accumulated a lot of different pieces [from thrifting], and most of them happen to be from that time period too,” Buendia said. 

But with traditional in-person thrift stores out of commission during the pandemic, students have turned to digital alternatives that sell vintage and “preloved” clothes, including Depop and Poshmark. Much of the inventory from thrift stores and online thrifting apps is older clothing that was designed and worn in the 90s and early 2000s.  

Whether students are intentionally making efforts to reminisce about their childhood or are being influenced by returning trends, the feeling of nostalgia is everywhere in these isolating times. 

Photo by Rachel Ellisen

Seniors are feeling especially reflective, with the end of their high school years coming to a close and a new chapter of life right around the corner. “A lot of seniors are writing college essays, which often involve looking back at your childhood or moments that made a difference in your life,” Leong said. 

But, nostalgic moments are not always comforting because remembering the past can also be a saddening experience. “I’ve been thinking about [my childhood] a lot recently because of college applications,” Buendia said. “Right now, I’m trying to grasp even more onto [my childhood] because it’s sad we have to let go of it soon.”

With more students at home, many are sifting through their past by going through their old possessions, which further encourages sentimentalism. “Being at home, [more of us] are redecorating, which forces you to go through your old things which brings all those memories back,” Leong said. “The world is going through such a period of [drastic] change that searching for sources of support and comfort and looking for a way to connect with yourself and with others while you are at home has been a real movement.”