In 1998, Britney Spears sauntered down the halls of high school, dressed in uniform, singing about the boy who broke her heart. " ... Baby One More Time" let the world know that a new pop starlet was in town.

"I decided to try this idea that someone had thrown at me and they hated it — they absolutely hated it," the video's director, Nigel Dick, told MTV News. "So I jumped on the phone with Britney and she says, 'Well, I now I think it should be about me in school and there be lots of hot boys around,' and that was pretty much it — oh, and a bunch of dancing. And my response was, 'OK.' "

In a 1998 interview with MTV, Spears revealed that she wanted the video to reflect the lives of her fans, so she wanted to set it in a school. "The first idea we had for the video was so off the wall," she said. "I was like, 'I want something a lot of kids can relate to.' It's just a fun video."

Britney's "Lolita"-esque schoolgirl look may have resonated with kids, but it didn't exactly please their parents. And Dick gives full credit to Spears for that idea. "My idea originally was just jeans and T-shirts, and we were at the wardrobe fitting and Britney holds up the jeans and T-shirts and says, 'Wouldn't I wear a schoolgirl outfit?' " he said. "Every piece of wardrobe in the video came from Kmart, and I was told at the time not one piece of clothing in the video cost more than $17. On that level, it's real. That probably, in retrospect, is a part of its charm."

Later on, in 2000, Britney would sit down with MTV and explain why she decided on the semi-risqué fashions. "Me showing my belly? I'm from the South; you're stupid if you don't wear a sports bra [when you] go to dance class, you're going to be sweating your butt off," she explained. "It was such a wonderful experience. All these people there, working for you. I had my own trailer. It was an amazing experience."

Dick said at the time all his colleagues wondered why he would want to work on a video for a 16-year-old unknown, but he had his reasons. "My response was, 'It's a great song. I don't know anything about Britney. I never watched the "Mickey Mouse Club." She seems like a great kid and she's very enthusiastic,' " he said. "But I just love the song. It's just a great song."

When Britney sat down with MTV in 1998, she echoed the sentiment, noting that as soon as she heard it, she knew she had to record the track. "It's a song every girl can relate to," she said. "She regrets it. She wants him back."

With the release of Britney Spears: The Singles Collection, MTV News is looking back on the pop star's career through interviews with video directors, music-industry insiders and Spears herself, as she reflects on some of her greatest hits. Keep coming back for all things Britney, and let us know your favorite Brit songs, videos, memories and more in the comments below — and if you think you're Britney's biggest fan, enter our contest to win a free copy of the album!