Tshirts with message graphics in neon make a statement. Check out also her neon beaded bracelet and the girl on the right in neon denim, and neon arm sleeves.

Photos by Christina Ko and Tom Wallace

Each summer we send our researchers and reporters out on the road to discover latest fashion trends from youth culture markets. One of the most prominent across the board, from San Diego, CA, to Scranton, PA, is the ongoing fascination with neon. Neon elements now in plaids, T-shirt graphics, pants, dresses, shoelaces, beaded bracelets, and of course strips of hair.

Where’s it coming from? As we reported last summer when neon was starting to simmer to a boiling point, lots of inspiration is coming from top band merch T-shirt graphics, including The Devil Wears Prada, Attack Attack, and others. Even Blink 182 has recreated their band merch to coincide with the animated, neon graphic trends favored by their younger fans. Other brands such as Glamour Kills and the non-profit youth brand To Write Love on Her Arms have all been using neon characters and letters which have also spawned a growing movement for neon.

Attack Attack band merch is typical of summer trends in animated gore graphics in neon rich colors

The inspiration is also coming from young people saying they simply want to wear color. It’s more “hopeful” and fun. And in an economy that’s bleak and gloomy, collisions like animated, gory monsters in bright neon colors makes total sense. “Wanting color” is also the same explanation that actress Dakota Fanning announced in the sci-fi thriller “Push” when her costar asked why she had pink neon stripes dyed in her hair. (The movie, which takes place in Hong Kong, is actually saturated with neon colors throughout.) The nod to neon hair didn’t come from Dakota, but the movie hair designers picked it up from real live street trends among young girls. Colored hair also can be accounted for thanks to lead singer Haley from Paramore, and before that, Gwen Stefani from No Doubt. It’s just that now, with neon in many aspects of personal youth style, it’s even more prevalent in hair -but done in specific streaks.

Pink streaks are hot, as well as blue and green. Again, paired with animate T-shirt graphics.

Other aspects to note about neon are that with this generation, it’s a crossover characteristic. Guys are just as into it and think nothing of wearing neon pants, or corresponding neon headbands and necklaces. Call it part of the metro-sexual movement, it’s simply not considered a gender-specific thing.

Explanations for the attraction to neon also come from the fact that punk has changed its stripes in some musical subcultures, morphing into emo and crossing over with nu rave. Dance, synth sounds, and other elements of ’80’s and early ’90’s rave have influenced what punk is today, and picks-up on the neon elements. This stretches also to the suburbs of Paris and the development of Tecktonik dance, which is a growing subculture moving into New York that is fully into neon (and a heavy dose of spandex).

Beaded bracelets and I.D. beads with letters are an important part of current youth culture trends in accessories.

Other key trends are beaded neon bracelets and necklaces, often with alphabet names for personalized effects. Neon in belts and arm warmers are capping trends.

One thing to note here is that neon trends tend to be reflected most among the younger demographics of youth culture -13-17-olds mostly. The older the age group, the less neon is used and paired once again with black. (But you’ll see neon in tiny, repeat graphics ranging from T-shirts to caps, and various logos.)

For now however, while many in the fashion industry have predicted this trend to be so over, given that it’s still in full-stride yet again this summer, you can bet it’s seeping into favorite fall and winter styles. And frankly, those that do think it’s over may be in for a huge upset when youth culture once again has to re-fashion their styles with their own creative neon elements if so-called leaders in fashion design don’t understand their marketplace and stop creating what’s in demand.

Plaids in neon are key. Some brands started creating this last summer, but expect more grunge X nu race trends to emerge

Neon logos in sneakers and/or pairing neon shoelaces are key.

Multi-neon colored hair. She has all of the key colors. Kept back with bows or bobbie pins are a part of the look.

Purple is key part of current color trends. Check out the DIY neon colored necklace and headbands. Neon is for everyone.

Tutus are so punk rock but especially in neon and paired with bright-colored bikin tops, bright shoelacecs, and Converse sneaks. Clearly, you can never be too saturated in color.

Purple denim with Rubik%uFFFDs cube colored belts are key.

Color saturation from the back.

Band merch from Devil Wears Prada is popular on guys. Also electric blue sunglasses in Ray Ban style are trendy.

Multi-colors and tourquois especially are important. Note also the coordination with neon streaked hair, plus various animal charms on necklaces, cell phones, and backpacks.

Neon green pants in bold patterns has turned prep on its nu-rave head.

Peace graphics in neon are popular, especially on T-shirts and necklaces.

Pink and purple combos

Super bright pink sundresses and cover-ups are a summer 09 statement (circa %uFFFD90%uFFFDs)

Skinny denim pants in neon on girls and guys makes this a genderless trend.