I approach this article with great joy since this was the decade that marked my coming of age, but I also carry a little sadness in my heart as I reflect back on those times. In my mind, it seems as if the ’90s were just a few years ago, but as I look at my calendar I am reminded that over a decade has passed since the age of AOL, “alternative” rock, NBC’s “Must See” TV, Discmans, and the hoarding of canned soup.
For those too young to remember the ’90s, this will serve as a primer on the key fashion styles of the Clinton-era, and for those who lived it, you will like be inspired to throw a ’90s-themed party. Think about that for a minute. Those ’80s-themed parties are so 2004.
Nirvana’s “Nevermind” record bumped Michael Jackson off the top of the album charts on January 11, 1992, symbolically pushing the ’80s glam lifestyle to the side in favor of the grunge revolution. The ’90s grunge fashion was defined by loose-fitting clothing and flannel, lots and lots of flannel. Dark earth tones ruled the color palette of the ’90s grunge fashion, and if the weather ever became too hot to wear that flannel shirt, you could just tie it around your waist, exposing your drab, earth-tone henley. Stovepipe-legged pants were all the rage and corduroy was a popular alternative to blue jeans; blue jeans were grungy (obviously), faded, and ripped. Looking homeless was key in the grunge scene.
As the grunge revolution that was spearheaded by Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam came to a close, it gave rise to a watered-down era of “post grunge” music, and the fashion worn during this time and by these musicians was symbolic of the music’s watered-down nature. As bands like Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind, and the Goo Goo Dolls took over the radio waves, it became clear that more accessible post-grunge sound was also tied to a slicker wardrobe. The tones remained on the natural end of the color pallet, presumably because everyone’s eyes were still healing from the ’80s hyper color fad. The silhouette of the clothing became trimmer, but nowhere near the tween-girl like shape of the modern day hipster. Jeans remained popular but they were just faded and lacked the completely tattered look of the grunge era, while corduroy remained popular but with narrower cords to look more refined and less homeless. Button-down polyester shirts with embroidered dragon designs from brands like BC Ethic and Dragonfly were huge, and the work shirt was commonly worn by attractive males who didn’t know how to change their own car’s oil. During the post-grunge era, dudes donned necklaces with greater frequency than any other point in world history; hemp and silver ball chains could be found around the necks of every dude of the day.
Abercrombie & Fitch Preppy
Traditionally, preppy fashion has been defined by a put together image, but during the ’90s, Abercrombie & Fitch gave the “preppy” style a more slovenly image. The brand took staples of the preppy wardrobe like khaki chinos, plaid button-downs, and cable knit sweaters but displayed them in their stores with front tucks, distressed hems, tattered collars, and even went as far as purposefully wrinkling the items. When the models in Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs did wear clothes, it looked as if they had raided their older brother’s clothes hamper and just put the garments on while only taking enough care to spray Woods cologne on them. Cargo pants were huge for the Abercrombie boys and girls, which allowed them to carry their Sony Discman and Counting Crows CDs, although the pockets were rarely used for such utilitarian purposes – remember this was also the era when SUVs roamed mall parking lots in droves. Flip-flops became the footwear of choice with the Abercrombie & Fitch “beautiful people,” making it acceptable for dudes to wear thongs and show their bumpy feet, even when on dates.
More from this contributor:
The Top 10 Movie Soundtracks of the ’90s
Sport Classic Style on College Game Day
Three ’90s Alt-Rockers Who Crossed Over to Nashville Twang