In-person school welcomes a new era of style for Los Altos seniors

STORY BY DANA HUCH, PHOTOS BY ARYA NASIKKAR

After a year and a half minimized to pixel boxes, Los Altos High School students are finally returning to campus and showing off their evolved senses of style. These are a few stand-out looks from seniors the first week of the 2021–2022 school year.

Grace Kloeckl preserved at-home comfort for in-person school with her “Casual PJ Day” look. Caught striding briskly through the quad in baggy red plaid trousers, Kloeckl made a statement with her outfit about her appreciation of both aesthetics and utility.

“I really like baggy clothes because I’m the most comfy in baggy clothes and they’re also just fun,” Kloeckl said. “I feel like you can move with them.”

Paired with her bold pants (Urban Outfitters), Kloeckl wore a white tank top (Urban Outfitters), a butterfly necklace and Reebok sneakers which she called “the comfiest shoes I’ve ever worn.” She added an extra touch of pizazz with her blue mascara inspired by a friend.

“Adding little things like that to your style can really spice it up,” she said.

In the first week of the school year, Kloeckl has witnessed evidence of a widespread fashion evolution.

“I’m noticing that more people have defined styles,” she said. “A lot of people are taking risks.”

Reed Keenan’s passion for New York thrift shopping came through in his Tuesday look, which he titled, “Brown.” He wore a New York Yankees hat, plain black Gilden t-shirt, thrifted brown pants and Converse sneakers. The jacket not pictured was also brown; Keenan said this is “a super underrated color.”

Also underrated is the power of thrift shopping, according to Keenan. He used to shop at only the mainstream stores, but recently the accessible prices and sustainability of secondhand clothing won him over and he is staying loyal to his new style plug.

Keenan’s words of wisdom for novice thrift shoppers are, “Be selective, try different stores and different areas and a lot of it is just luck.”

His newfound appreciation for thrift shopping has allowed Keenan to tap into his unique sense of style rather than following the trends preplanned and by name brands.

“I think that through clothes, you can discover truly who you are,” he said. “I encourage everyone to do that however you want to. You should not care about what other people think about how you dress and it’s completely up to you. Just own it and be yourself.”

Lauren Grady thrift shopped before it was cool, and her outfit featuring preloved treasures shows it.

“My mom has always been shopping secondhand since I was a little kid and she used to be really embarrassed about it so I would always go with her,” Grady said. “I’m glad that it’s popular [now].”

On Monday, she wore a thrifted Giants shirt, off-white baggy “little boys’ pants in a larger size,” Reebok sneakers her mom picked out and a bracelet from a Peru hiking adventure.

Between having moved recently and waking up late, Grady’s outfit she titled, “I set my alarm for 7 p.m. by accident” was a rushed and low-stock invention. Still, her style shines through.

Others appear to be embracing their unique styles, too, and Grady has noticed a new collective confidence across the board with back-to-school looks.

“From what I remember two years ago, people weren’t as bold,” Grady said. “I see a lot of people standing out more.”

You can follow Lauren on instagram @laurengradyyyy.

Mayah Rengulbai’s Tuesday “AP Stats at seven in the morning kind of ‘fit” showed off her creative eye for hidden gems that can be found anywhere — the thrift store and Mom’s closet, namely.

She threw together the borrowed green button shirt, thrifted brown pants and Doc Martens before rushing out the door. Mornings without time for hesitation often supply her most original style ideas.

“I feel like [with] spontaneous [outfits], you kind of experiment with that spur-of-the-moment, ‘Let me see what looks good together’ [mindset],” Rengulbai said.

Instincts are the strongest force when it comes to guiding her choices, but Rengulbai also finds inspiration in the creative TikTok fashion community.

“There’s so much ease to just uploading a video and having other people see your style and gaining inspiration from other people online,” she said.

Like many others in her class, Rengulbai has come out of her shell more after the distance learning (and style studying) period.

“I literally wore just leggings and a hoodie every single day of freshman and sophomore year,” she said. “But I think even with [the pandemic], people being at home, really getting to curate their own style and gain inspiration from other influences is something we’ve all been able to do.”

Emelie Enser said that recently, her clothing choices have started to reflect the mood or season of life she is in at the moment. Since gaining stronger footing in who she is, expressing her internal state outwardly has come naturally.

Enser’s “Go Green” outfit featured layered necklaces from family members, a t-shirt with text reading, “Out of this World” (Pacsun), thrifted green slacks and Nike Air Force Ones.

She enjoys experimenting with vibrant colors and layering, often inspired by outfits she sees on Pinterest and TikTok, but Enser said her style “switches up a lot.” The past year has given her a chance to find a balance between comfort and style.

“I was still figuring myself out freshman and sophomore year so I was wearing more regular clothing,” Enser said. “Then over quarantine I was kind of locked by myself for a while so I was trying to figure out who I was and I found clothing that represented that. Now I feel like I’m getting more energy seeing people again and my clothing became a lot more vibrant, so it kind of does express how I’m feeling at the time.”

In a “Mob Psycho 100” hoodie, Vans and double-knee Dickies pants (so they don’t rip when skateboarding), Matthew Hoke was caught for the interview with his pizza. He called his typical uniform “The Big Baller Look.”

“It’s just how it is,” he said.

If Hoke can’t skate in it, it’s a no-go. Concocting outfits isn’t something Hoke spends much time thinking about. Although his clothing shows personal flare, practicality and knee-versus-concrete durability comes first.

“I wear the same thing every day,” Hoke said. “I don’t think about it too deeply.”

Chloe Burcell’s mixed-era look, which she called, “How I’m Feeling Today” featured 90s-inspired baggy overalls (Urban Outfitters), a 70s-style halter top (Urban Outfitters), and a handmade necklace from her grandmother which carries family heritage.

“My necklace is really important to me,” Burcell said. “Culturally, I am white and native American. In California — especially coastal California — native people make necklaces out of abalone seashells. My grandma and my aunties make these necklaces. … I think it’s really cool that it’s made up of all the natural elements from California such as pink abalone, amethyst, volcanic stones and bits of amber.”

Burcell has been a pioneer of bold fashion, making big moves since freshman year, but she feels that more people have been stepping into their own recently.

“Even two years ago, it felt so much more nerve-wracking to make choices and strong statements with our outfits,” Burcell said. “I think it’s cool that people are finding the confidence to just not care and do what they want to do.”

Lately, Aida Yezalaleul has been “in a hat moment,” appreciating how this simple accessory can elevate an outfit. A pop of color among more muted tones has also been a useful tool for putting together a look, she said.

Yezalaleul’s uniquely titled, “Cat Going Out for a Walk Sheep” outfit featured a Brandy Melville shirt, bell bottom jeans from Urban Outfitters and a borrowed baseball cap.

The “serial clothes borrower” brings fresh flavor to the wardrobe she has become accustomed to by using items from family members to reinvigorate her fashion creativity. Sometimes, all it takes is a younger brother’s green-accented hat to lend a new lens and spark inspiration.

“Everybody’s like, ‘I have nothing to wear today,’ even though their closet is full of clothes,” Yezalaleul said. “So, it’s always good to take a peek where you haven’t seen.”

An outfit compliment from Yezalaleul — occasionally called from afar — is a sprinkle of glitter on any person’s day. Yezalaleul said giving and receiving these unexpected moments of appreciation is “a break in routine.”

“You never see it coming,” she said.

Julie Broch’s muted tone wardrobe alchemized into a last-minute, yet effortlessly cool ensemble. She wore a thrifted Michael Kors jacket (Goodwill), a thrifted t-shirt (ThredUp), thrifted trousers (Goodwill), One Star Converse sneakers and layered jewelry (Etsy).

“As long as you have [good basics], whatever you throw together will look fine.”

Through her thrift store chronicles, the seasoned secondhand shopper has learned the elusive skill of pinpointing potential in a heap of randomness.

“It’s kind of a hit or miss,” Broch said. “Sometimes I’ll come back with nothing but the other day I went to Goodwill and came back with like eleven things. So it kind of depends on the day. Just luck, I guess.”

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