In the aughts, one word separated the popular girls from the wannabes, the haves from the have-nots, the spray-tanned Regina Georges from the wan Janis Ians. And, that word was frequently found rhinestone-spangled and scrawled in Gothic script across the butts of teen titans everywhere: Juicy.
By the end of this month, Juicy Couture will have shut down all its U.S. stores (although the label will live on in Kohl's). Between eternal prom queen Jessica McClintock shuttering its doors, Abercrombie cleaning up its image and lighting up its stores, and the death of Juicy, we're sorry to tell you, but yes, your youth is officially over.
The Juicy tracksuit reigned in a more simple time, when all we asked of our celebs was that they be born rich, pretty, and that they have no discernible jobs except lighting up our red carpets with a succession of Barbie-colored outfits. For that era, the Juicy tracksuit made perfect sense. It was the literal embodiment of the idle rich, a uniform that subtly bragged, "I've got nowhere to be today except lunch at Nobu and maybe the Von Dutch store." And, of course we wanted to emulate the lifestyles of the rich and lazy.
Before Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, and the rest of L.A.'s bright young things adopted it, icons of the tracksuit included Run DMC and the Reverend Al Sharpton — stylish dudes in their own right, but not likely to be pinned to any teenage girl's inspiration board. But, when Juicy hit the scene, comfort suddenly became cool. Paired with a flip phone, Dior shield shades, and Uggs (or, in Britney's case, flip-flops), the Juicy tracksuit felt downright jet-set, like you were wearing the celeb's airport outfit of choice (although, again in Britney's case, the trackies worked just fine for an elegant evening out, too).
Importantly, Juicy Couture (a moniker that stretched the word "Couture" like Paris Hilton did "actress") was aspirational, but not too insanely expensive. Its $200-ish price tag may have been out of reach for lots of families, but the lucky among us managed to convince our moms to spring for one on sale, if we promised it could count for our Christmas and birthday gift, too (this tactic was less successful in securing us a Fendi baguette or a Marc Jacobs Stam bag).
Even for the unlucky among us, knockoffs were easy enough to come by. This writer remembers being very proud of her H&M suit, in a dark-brown velour that she deemed quite sophisticated compared to the bubblegum pink and turquoise versions on offer. When worn with that special celebutante elan (read: with the pants pulled so low on the hip, a Brazilian was advisable), we felt almost as fancy as any L.A. trust fund kid with a TMZ tag.
By the late 2000s, sadly, the era of hot pink and pursedogs was drawing to a close, and only die-hards and "cool moms" still wore Juicy. At a certain point, Rachel Zoe and other celeb stylists swept in to rid Hollywood of its trashy blonde extensions, its ruffly miniskirts, and yes, its Juicy tracksuits. And, simply put, that was a major bummer. Excess bronzer, foam trucker hats, and flip flops may have been trashy, but they were accessible for teenage girls to emulate. By 2006, even Disney starlets were swooping around in elegant, floor-length vintage gowns and Louboutins that we couldn't convince our folks to buy with 10 years' worth of birthdays.
And, the tyranny of good taste has only gotten more intense since then. With brands like Zara translating the runways' minimalism for the masses, fashion has become — let's be honest — a bit of a bourgeois snooze, even at the high street level. This season's profusion of sleek, monochromatic tank dresses and drab athletic slides is almost enough to make you long for the days of pink tiaras and sparkly kitten heels. If only, as the T-shirts once said, Juicy really was forever.