The comfortable cable knits and thick-skinned chinos are great for the colder months, but the recent blast of sunshine makes such sartorial choices completely impractical. Yes, summer fast approaches, bringing with it a whole host of warmer activities that us Brits seize with both sun-starved hands. Whether it’s the odd pint that turns into a five hour session in the nearest beer garden you can find, or a mate organising a barbeque at the slightest ray of sun, the less restrictive pieces come out quickly (as do typical pasty arms and legs in need of a good airing).
Judging by seasonal trends however, it seems a certain blast from the past will be dominating our springtime looks this year. The spring/summer 2012 previews featured garish prints from Etro, fluoro brights from D&G, sportswear pieces from Dsquared and Gucci’s own take on leather grunge, which can only mean one thing – the 90s are back on the style radar.
Now, most who know me understand my great disdain for the era; there are no words that express my hatred of carpenter jeans, bum bags (fanny packs for our American cousins) and, dare I say it, day-glo. On the other hand, my words are not all fire and brimstone – it’s all about channelling the 90s effectively. Make reference and take inspiration, placing a contemporary slant on the 90s look without looking like a member of Backstreet Boys.
The 90s may have introduced all sorts of depravity into the mainstream conscience (Mr Motivator, dungarees, Steps etc) but there’s the potential for plenty of playful looks that still remain effortlessly on-trend. It’s all about a looser fit, an eye for modern vintage and pulling off a daring print.
Before we break down the key components of a 90s inspired look, feast your eyes on some of the outfits below that have a certain 90s flavour. This trend isn’t about dressing like you are actually still living in the nineties – you should take small influences from the era, modernise it, and then integrate seamlessly within your current day style:
You may think that loose-fitted, wide-legged short shorts belong on the streets of Harlem, but they have become more and more popular on our side of the pond in recent years. Go for the bright colours with the hems folded a couple of inches above the knee – but don’t get carried away with it. Short shorts are a great piece that is reflective of the 90s era, but hot pants most definitely are not.
Topman currently offers a selection in bright red, jade and orange, with the usual allure of student discount for us skint university-goers. Light blue denim shorts are also extremely popular right now, with a leaning towards stone-wash and acid-wash jeans for the chillier days this season.
Experiment with fit and fabric, in order to achieve a laid back approach to your bottom half this spring – find the degree of 90s inspiration that suits your own taste.
Opting for a bold print is not only on-trend, but also highly reminiscent of 90s US street wear and the UK acid house scene. As a general rule however, limit garish Aztec, Mayan or check patterns to one piece only – clashing/matching shorts, shirts and trainers will only end in embarrassment and/or being sectioned.
Basic t-shirts often have elements of the era, with pocket detailing injected with 90s camouflage and animal print: a perfect example of modernising past trends.
For those who are impartial to such fashion plunges (it’s not a style move that finds praise amongst everyone), vintage logo and sports jumpers are a solid choice. Championed by fashion Goliath Givenchy during their SS12 show season, the bright and bold oversized graphic jumper has been an unsung wardrobe staple of mine for a couple of years now.
Keep it casual with a pair of shorts and a tee underneath, or pair with a shirt – collar tucked in. There are plenty of these on the market right now, both high street and vintage, but try to keep a level of authenticity:
Slogan or novelty pieces are unacceptable on too many levels to discuss, and keep away from the popular brands or you’ll see plenty of others donning the same piece. This immediately detracts from the vintage element that channelling the 90s is all about. Thrift stores in the same vein as Beyond Retro offer plenty, as do smaller chains and shops with equally appetising price tags. Aim for around the £10-20 mark for vintage gear – anymore and you’re overpaying for a piece that is second-hand and probably not in the greatest condition.
If neither option tickles your fashion tastebuds however, don’t fear; the classic white tee is an effortless (and perpetually stylish) piece, and you’ll get extra kudos for going a size larger and rolling those sleeves up a fold or two.
Another alternative lies in the checked flannel shirt, no longer the sole reserve of Californian stoners circa ’96. No matter how big, how baggy or how ill-fitting, a little Kurt Cobain never hurt any 90s-inspired look:
That leaves us with footwear, which opens up a whole new area for style experimentation and flexibility. Don’t fight the temptation to drag out your old Converse, which are always a strong combination with rolled-up jeans or shorts. The iconic styles in classic colours will ensure a subtle and effortless ensembles. Think white, blue or red as opposed to limited editions and juvenile patterns.
A more cost effective option lies in the humble pump (sandshoe, plimsoll or gym shoe, depending on where you’re from). Whilst not known for lasting quality, pumps – whether elasticated or lace-up – are a simple choice that will undoubtedly bring back memories of being six years old in your primary school hall.
Don’t be afraid to hunt for any retro styles either. Adidas Samba’s and original Nike hi-tops are always a smart move, exuding a timeless sense of casual-cool when paired with most pieces. Bright, bold colours are just as acceptable as whites and greys, but steer clear of anything remotely considered ‘formal’ if you’re aiming to stay true to the 90s.
Believe it or not, the heart-throb hunks from television shows of the era are highly fashionable when compared to what’s available on the high street right now; the likes of Sweet Valley High and Home & Away could be considered cool again (stylistically speaking). Hell, even that guy that climbs through the Clarissa’s window on Clarissa Explains It All is pretty cool (if not slightly creepy).
Accessories, like always, are usually an optional element to any good outfit – but they will inevitably separate the Screeches from A.C Slaters of this world (Saved By The Bell reference, for those of you in the know.)
The snapback cap has been around for a couple of years now, becoming an integral piece in men’s casual wear, and they’re also a perfect accompaniment to 90s style. However, New Era simply won’t cut the mustard, so search high and low for something a little more reminiscent of vintage. Plus, 90% of people I know have some form of the New Era brand, and a lack of individuality usually equates to a humdrum style.
White or fluro Casio watches (a firm favourite of Urban Outfitters) are a clean and classic choice, which won’t break the bank. As are rucksacks; whether canvas or skatewear-inspired.
If a little unsure, I would advise to keep it simple. Nobody wants to look like Ash Ketchum from Pokemon – complete with fingerless velcro gloves, a naff cap and wrist snapbands in abundance.
So, what else is there to do? Try and ignore the harsh (and often embarrassing realities) of 90s pop culture, and look to the loose-fitted style and garish patterns that are going to be extremely popular in the upcoming warmer months.
Your local park may not be Laguna Beach or the Sunset Strip on a hot afternoon, but that doesn’t mean you have to dress otherwise. Americana street wear in, British sensibility out – whatever the weather.
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