For those of us who lived through them, the 90s were a very interesting time to be alive. Straddling the old millennium and the new one, the 90s were all about breaking barriers and pushing boundaries. This lent 90s culture the very unique aesthetic it was known for. By any measure, the 90s were an exciting time for fashion as well. From avant-garde street fashion of brave denim outfits to arguably the best sneakers ever, the 90s were truly a smorgasbord of diverse fashion trends. So it is not so surprising that 90s fashion is making a comeback…over 20 years later in 2021!
The 5 Keystones of Wearing 90s Fashion
90s fashion may seem very appealing thanks to social media influencers and retro fashion trends. And it really is! Bad fads rarely make a comeback. The problem, not everyone understands how to balance a throwback-to-the-90s outfit with a touch of modernity. The result, you pair a perfectly good pair of khaki pants with an orange button-down. In other words, at best, you end up looking like a time traveler, at worst a fashion disaster.
90s fashion is all about being brave, confident, and possessing a studied but cool indifference. These are all things that you can teach yourself to feel. But 90s outfits can be tricky, which means you need to have a base to build future outfits on. Don’t worry though. We got you covered. Here are the five keystones of the Holy Grail that is 90s fashion:
- The Denim
- The Sneakers
- The Pants
- The Shirt
- The Statement Piece
Let’s dive right into them.
Although it has been around for much longer, no fabric screams “90s!” quite like denim. Denim jackets, denim jeans, and even denim shirts! In the 90s, streets were a sea of denim. There were even a few full-denim outfits…yes, we’re uncomfortable with those too. That’s exactly why you need to be careful about not going overboard with the retro denim clothing in your wardrobe.
Safe bet: Darker, stonewashed denim jackets with a warm inner lining.
You might already think we’re a bit ga-ga about sneakers, and you’re absolutely right. Sneakers are a statement piece in their own right. There’s nothing “sneaky” about them, they’re designed to be noticed. Very often, they’re the first thing people notice. 90s grunge culture, skate culture, and sneaker culture. They overlap so much it’s hard to separate them. But there’s no denying the 90s culminated in some of the best sneakers ever designed. Many of these are now being revived, like modern Air Jordans, Air Forces, and Superstars. So, you hopefully won’t have to hunt through mothballs at thrift stores for an authentic sneaker plug. Just order one of the new retro-throwbacks brands like Nike, Adidas, and others are coming out with.
Safe bet: When in doubt, always choose high tops. Comfort, style, and panache, all in one.
Pants will inevitably make or break an outfit. Personally, we never really got full onboard the skinny jeans hype-train. Not that a good fit doesn’t matter. More that people find it hard to find good fits. The blocky straight-leg jeans and airy trousers from the 90s however, relieve you of that problem. Many find 90s pants styles particularly useful in hiding the fact that they haven’t done leg-day in a long time. Of course, you will need to experiment with different textures and fabrics before you can find the perfect fit for your body. A chunky belt buckle should serve as the perfect accessory to go with them.
Safe bet: Boot-cut stonewashed or ripped jeans won’t look out of place, while still looking authentically 90s.
Shirts are tricky at the best of times. With retro fashion, it is very easy to go wrong. You might think your flame-patterned beach shirt is the best thing since Velcro straps, but you may end up being a laughing stock. Just because 90s fashion was great doesn’t mean it didn’t have its lows. Luckily, there are other options to choose from as well, such as band tees. A truly authentic 90s look should always have a band tee-shirt, preferably a band appropriate to the period. Nirvana, Audioslave, and Linkin Park are a few era-appropriate choices, but look them up so you don’t feel like a complete pretender when wearing their merchandise.
Safe bet: A band-tee or a plaid shirt are as 90s as it gets without going off the rails.
The Statement Piece
The trickiest outfit ingredient of them all. A statement piece is a piece of clothing that jumps out at whoever looks your way. It is the ideal attention grabber, maybe even a conversation starter, and the epitome of your entire look that day. Statement pieces can vary. They can be a jacker, a blazer, a shirt, jewelry, and so many more articles of clothing. Choosing a statement piece will depend on what outfit you want to wear. But there is a good rule of thumb: muted is always better than loud. Don’t end up being the guy who looks like he just came from a Chumbawumba gig.
Safe bet: A plain but well-fitting black biker jacket can often be the only statement piece you need.