Back-to-school finds for every student, from trendy threads to tech


Leila Navidi

Dianne Lommason takes three of her daughters back-to-school shopping at Target in Las Vegas on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. From left is Jordan, 16, Camryn, 9, and Kristyn, 11.

Back to school may not be a holiday, but it is the end of a summer of family time. Part of celebrating a return to routine is shopping to get your kids equipped. There’s a reason it can be as profitable for retailers as Christmas. But what do children and teens really need for the start of the school year, and what’s simply so new and cool it feels like a necessity? While each classroom teacher hands out a tailored supply list, there are general items every student will probably need.

We scoped the trending goods and talked to Ariel Villalobos, principal of Halle Hewetson Elementary, to get you going back smoothly — and stylishly.


Threadsmiths’ stain-proof white tee is a stylish defense against lunchroom mortification. Kids of all ages can appreciate avoiding embarrassment.

Think ahead to fall: Villalobos says children are “always in need of clothing for the winter months, whether it’s your own kids or if you’re thinking of donating.” This can be hard to imagine when it’s in the triple digits at the start of the school year, but it can cool off quickly come October, when budgets tend to be tighter. “If the school has a uniform policy,” Villalobos said, “then it is important to get multiple sets of the right one,” accounting for changes in weather. Retailers such as Target sell uniforms in-store and online, and on-trend items such as embroidered jeans and bright Toca Boca sweats ($17, Target).

Best foot forward: While hip clothes are on every teen’s list, they and younger kids may need more basics, like new kicks (for ever-growing feet). Villalobos says: “Shoes are one item that everyone seems to need.” Whether from Nike, Under Armour or a more affordable knockoff, breathable mesh sneakers are the popular choice, walking a nice line between comfortable and cute.

Suggested buy: Let’s not forget that, despite the fact that Apple is pushing us all to go wireless, wired colorful headphones are still a big deal. No need for the parents of a not-brand-obsessed kid to spend big bucks on Beats, though, when there are other options. KidzControl headphones ($20,


For messy kids: Elmer’s washable clear glue lets your young ones be makers without wearing their materials.

Plug in to a new necessity: While the tech often depends on where kids attend school, it’s a safe bet your kid will use or need a tablet, laptop or other such personal device in their adventures in the digital realm of education. PC or Mac? Tablet or hybrid? What you choose largely depends on budget and preference, but essential for any educational tablet use is a stand that lets the user sit back in a chair and avoid turning into the hunchback of Notre Dame.

In the classroom: Now that the kids are looking fantastic, remember the “school” in back-to-school. “Generally speaking,” Villalobos says, “schools and students … will benefit from basic materials such as crayons, paper, etc.” But there’s no need to be basic about even the basics.

Suggested buy: Flash drives come and go, but they usually go. So it’s always a good idea to stock up on a way for kids to move seamlessly between devices without lugging their work around. If the jump drive happens to look like their favorite toy, then maybe they’ll hold onto it longer. Legos are cool no matter what. Lego brick flash drive ($23,

Suggested buy: For the crammers among us, flash-cards are a must, and with a smartly engineered card set from Cosmos, there’s no losing them along with your mind while pulling all-nighters. Cosmos easy flip study cards ($6.30,

Suggested buy: Items like Book Sox stretchable book covers protect textbooks without harming your Trader Joe’s paper-bag collection. Jumbo pizza book cover ($2.25,


For teens, tweens and aspiring tweens, the JanSport backpack seems as omnipresent as ever. To avoid the Stormtrooper effect — matching is only cool when it’s intentional — new styles drop every year. The Digital Student Laptop Backpack not only comes in many patterns, it’s updated for contemporary students’ need to lug around (and protect) their devices. Jansport digital student backpack ($55,

Suggested buy: Younger kids might enjoy more whimsical designs, maybe toting around a huge plush confection: The cupcake backpack is nothing if not fun. Plush cupcake backpack ($35,

Suggested buy: The Game Boy pack resembles a classic that parents and kids can get nostalgic about or discover for the first time together. Nintendo game boy backpack ($36,

Suggested buy: The sophisticated teen may be ready to enter the adult world with a more traditional briefcase. The Ecosusi faux leather crossbody messenger bag is an adorable choice for young women and can fit a nearly 15-inch laptop, not to mention it’s vegan. Ecosusi retro messenger bag ($21,