Samara St. Preux, of Lindenhurst, who’s going into sixth grade,...

Samara St. Preux, of Lindenhurst, who’s going into sixth grade, wears an inspirational tee and shows off her back-to-school sneakers.  Credit: Donesia St. Preux

The back-to-school buzz is in the air. Ask Kerry Sluker, 40, an Islip mom whose 4-year-old daughter Juliette can’t wait to start pre-K. 

“We’re very excited for back-to-school events, which are happening in person this year,” she says. “We’re looking forward to meeting her new teachers and seeing who will be in her class.” In the meantime, they’ve been preparing and planning — and shopping.

What’s cool for school this fall? We polled Long Island parents and business owners for the 411 (or ABC’s?) on what’s popular this year.

Here are seven big back-to-school trends. Use our cheat sheet as a shopping guide wherever you are — local mom-and-pop stores (you’re apt to find one-of-a-kind items), outlets, big box locations and online. 


Tees that beam inspirational messages are one of the most popular picks on back-to-school lists. Chalk it up to the push to put a little optimism into the world. Options are practically endless and include everything from "Girl Power" and "Mr. Dynamite" to "Enjoy the Little Things." 

Lindenhurst mom and SamaraScents candles co-founder Donesia St. Preux says her daughter, Samara, who’s going into sixth grade, added a tee to her wardrobe with a message that speaks for itself: “Overcoming your fears will make you more powerful than you already are.”


Credit: Pooja Hathiramani

Starting from the ground up is a time-tested way to make a style statement. That’s why shoes are go-to staples in school-day looks. Converse high-top and low-top sneakers in an array of hues are always fashion front-runners.

Vans are also very much in step. “My 10-year-old daughter Diya has been asking me, ‘Mom, can you get me Vans?,’ ” says Seaford preschool teacher Pooja Hathiramani, 35. No wonder. They come in fun colors and patterns, they’re comfortable and go with everything. (P.S. Diya got her Vans.)


Every T-shirt tells a story, so wear it and share it. That’s why they’re hot. Love animé? Into K-pop, the Rolling Stones, Bob Marley? Dig dinosaurs, stars, space, cats, smiley faces? Rockville Centre mom Cindy Mata Gross says her daughters Anabel and Ceci, who start third grade in the fall, love horseback riding. “They’re very proud of that and like wearing tees that celebrate that,” she says.


Juliette Sluker, 4, of Islip, has a matching backpack, lunchbox...

Juliette Sluker, 4, of Islip, has a matching backpack, lunchbox and pencil case for back-to-school.  Credit: Kerry Sluker

“Matching backpacks and lunchboxes are becoming a trend more than usual,” says Sluker, who upped the ante at Koukla Children’s Boutique in Bellmore. They left the shop with a backpack, lunchbox and pencil case all in pink tie-dye with a smiley face and sparkles. The design is up to the students. “It’s about choosing one that fits their personality,” says Sluker.


Even in class you can be in a class of your own with personalized items — backpacks, tops, caps, you choose — featuring names, initials and patches.


Comfort never goes out of style. Roomy jackets and hoodies make the grade this fall. As always, denim is a back-to-school mainstay, according to Koukla co-owner and mom Elli Krempa. “What’s popular now are denim styles that are soft and cozy,” she says, “and not stiff.”


Mini hair clips are a back-to-school trend inspired by the...

Mini hair clips are a back-to-school trend inspired by the '90s. Credit: Top Trenz/Top Trenz

Education is about looking forward, but styles often reflect backward glances. The ’90s loom large this fall, so expect oversized coats, friendship bracelets, denim skirts and scrunchies. Mini barrettes and clips “worn by the gazillions” are also back, according to Jamie Glassberg, vice president of Ronkonkoma-based Top Trenz. Among the many gotta-get-it designs are butterflies, berries and flowers.