Back to the Future: How ‘90s culture made a comeback

 

It was 20 years ago when orange cassette tapes were where people got their entertainment. You worried about whether your Tamagotchi could die. It was back when Kate Moss was splashed across billboards. Fashion was grungy. Baggy jeans were all the rage among high schoolers.

“People always say every twenty years a look comes back,” said Amanda Dolan, the owner of Spark Pretty, a store dedicated to ‘90s nostalgia. “I believe that it comes back but it a little different every time.”

The cultural, music and fashion trends of the 1990s have been recently recycled—from street fashion to Pinterest boards—with a new generation of young people embracing those bright colored “Saved by the Bell” days.

In the ‘90s, while some top fashion looks were reflected in celebrities like Kate Moss or the group Salt n Pepa, a lot of fashion trends had to do with the lifestyle. The infamous casual skater look was popular at the time, due to skating being a popular pastime. A movie that clearly illustrates this phenomenon is “Clueless.” Common baggy pants made their first appearance during the rise of hip hop culture.

But baggy skate clothes were not the only popular style. According to Nicole Halada, a King’s sophomore and manager at the clothing store Brandy Melville, iconic mini skirts paired with sneakers were also all the rage. The variation of style in the ‘90s were representative of what the decade embodied.

 Photograph by Shannon Mason

Photograph by Shannon Mason

“The ‘90s aren’t just one look, there's so many different looks and that is what makes the decade so interesting,” Dolan said. “The ‘90s took more risks.” 

The ‘90s decade was a time to be bold, whether rocking a full denim outfit or a sleek slip dress.

“You can wear anything you want as long as you’re comfortable,” Halada said. “People were finding themselves and entering a new decade and maybe losing themselves a little bit.”

Losing many traditional rules of fashion, the ‘90s looked to the beginning of the 2000s. Entering a new century, Dolan explained styles became “futuristic.”

“People always say every twenty years a look comes back,” said Amanda Dolan, the owner of Spark Pretty, a store dedicated to ‘90s nostalgia. “I believe that it comes back but it a little different every time.”

The ‘90s were not that far off the track in their futuristic tendencies, because nearly 20 years later, many favorite ‘90s styles are back.

According to Halada, a ‘90s inspired closet contains many staples including mom jeans, plaid mini skirts and tube tops. Arguably, the most vital staple is the jean jacket.

“No matter what the decade, jean jackets are always in style,” Dolan said, “It’s not a regrettable purchase.”

Halada notes ‘90s style can be easily described as taking something dressy and making it casual.   

Why are these nostalgic styles are coming back? They point to the good feeling that comes with looking back on a simpler time.

“You have a soft spot in your memories for the ‘90s,” Dolan said. “We are living in a world that can get quite sad and dark right now, so people love reminiscing and nostalgia.”

It is not simply the clothing of the iconic ‘90s that is making a sweeping comeback, it is the whole package.

“Our love for the ‘90s have no bounds,” Polaroid said when they re-released their 1996 camera. The past few years, Polaroid has tried to revamp their style with modern taste, only to quickly retreat back to the ‘90s, proving the appeal of the decade.

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The return of the ‘90s is also surfacing amongst entertainment. “Roseanne,” the TV show that was first aired in 1988, was rebooted in 2018 to bring back the classic ‘90s sitcom. “Full House,” which first aired in 1988 and was also rebooted in 2016 as “Fuller House.”

For kids born in the ‘90s, reliving the good years is nothing but a breath of fresh air. Putting aside all the sitcom reboots and re-releases of favored ‘90s technology, Alissa Wilkinson, a Vox film critic, believes there is a deeper reason behind our culture that is stuck in time.

“I think people are trying to remember a time before 9/11, because things really did change in pop culture when we didn’t have 9/11 hanging over us,” Wilkinson said.

In the United States, 9/11 changed everything, including culture--kids who grew up in the ‘90s are now living in a post 9/11 world. For people who are now in their 30s, it seems worth it to reflect on the good times that came with growing up in the ‘90s.

Although there are certain benefits of reliving the ‘90s decade, there are downsides. Wilkinson is concerned rebooted ‘90s shows exemplify that the ‘90s might be holding creation of new culture back.

“We cannot keep doing the same thing forever,” Wilkinson said. “The only way to change culture is to make more of it.”

 

“People watched these shows for comfort the first time around with your family or for fun,” Wilkinson said. “It is nice to see some properties of these shows continue to be popular for the same reason. The flipside is that studios have gotten so interested in rebooting everything that they are not focusing on making new things.”

Being stuck in the past can cause problems for moving forward, especially in media.

“These reboots may be taking from resources for shows that would be new and creative that push media forward,” Wilkinson said.

Although the ‘90s might have brought some great things, such as colorful Polaroid cameras and mom jeans, the new found culture of 2018 might need some help.

“We cannot keep doing the same thing forever,” Wilkinson said. “The only way to change culture is to make more of it.”

Be on the lookout for some major culture changes. When mom jeans do not make a statement anymore, and there are no more familiar faces from your childhood on the TV, keep in mind that 2018 culture might be finally taking its turn in the spotlight.