Neon is a fashion trend that might be best suited to the cool kids — or real kids.
Unlike so many looks that trickled down from designer runways to mass retailers and into teenagers' closets, the almost electrifying shades of pink, green, yellow and orange have been hanging out in high school hallways for a while. And they're back again for the new school year.
"Teens stayed with neon because for them, it's so easy to wear. It taps into youth, emotion and standing out, which they like doing," says Seventeen senior fashion editor Marissa Rosenblum.
The highlighter colors have evolved this season into accessories, beauty products and outerwear. There are still the T-shirts, colored jeans, hoodies and athletic apparel, but Rosenblum says the way to wear neon is as a single bright pop, not head to toe. (It's probably a safe bet that lots of pint-sized athletes will buy into the bright footwear that has made Nike's track and field sneakers one of the most buzzed-about looks of the Olympics.)
"This is the season of color: color on color, color back to neutrals. Neons are just one of the amazing color trends that are important right now," says Anu Narayanan, vice president of women's merchandising for Old Navy.
She'd like to see mint green jeans with a yellow neon tank with a gray cardigan. "Neon looks best as a surprise within a look."
For its largely grade-school customer, The Children's Place will pair neon with navy as the cooler weather moves in. The brand started introducing neon through bright accents for its summer products but "you'll see even more for the holidays," says TCP senior vice president of design Michael Giannelli. "And it will continue into the spring and probably into next fall. ... We grabbed onto it because we have more freedom in kidswear to play with bright color."
He adds, "The children have a sense of humor about their clothes."
Elena Kiam is creative director and co-owner of the jewelry brand Lia Sophia, which is launching a fashion jewelry collection called Sisters aimed at the tween and teen set. It includes neon, preapproved by Kiam's teenage daughters and their friends.
"They can be a tough crowd. They're changing all the time, reinventing themselves all the time, trying new things. It's an age of experimentation, but they're also a part of the population who knows what's going on," she says. "They're very savvy."