“Do you remember the first time?” crowed Jarvis Cocker back in 1994. If the answer is yes, you may have wanted to forget the nineties ever happened – jorts, tinted sunglasses and bandannas all ensured the decade ingrained itself as the era that style forgot.
Despite this unceremonious assessment, the nineties resurgence has hit full throttle. If this thought fills you with more dread than the final scene of Se7en, fear not. They say hindsight is 20:20, and luckily, that means we’re now able to see through the ‘eclectic’ clobber and dodgy hairstyles to pick the good stuff buried under those khaki cut-offs.
“There’s a lot of nostalgia at the moment for things like washed out denim, bucket hats and oversized tailoring,” says Jenny Kennedy, a stylist who has dressed the likes of A$AP Rocky, Jared Leto and Pharrell. “This is partly because many of the people who are now heading up brands are themselves children of the nineties.”
It’s easy to dismiss the decade, but for all of its obvious flaws, the nineties delivered when it came to dressing for personality. “It was very tribal and had a lot to do with self-expression, which is perhaps why it resonates so well today,” Kennedy adds.
Here we’ve rounded up six nineties trends that are relevant right now, along with some simple tips for wearing them without looking like you’ve been mmmbop’d upside the head.
6 Key Nineties Trends
Did grunge ever really go away? It’s been almost 30 years since Kurt Cobain burst onto the scene, fully-formed and resplendent in a shaggy jumper and patched-up denim, and yet it’s easy to imagine him commanding the stage at this year’s Glastonbury or walking the red carpet at the Grammys.
While the word itself used to be interchangeable with grubby, the modern take is all about engineered fits and luxurious textures. Hip-hop’s musical mavericks – A$AP Rocky, Kanye West and Travis Scott – wear their Nirvana influences on their checked sleeves, teaming oversized flannel shirts with ripped denim and leather.
Another easy way to go grunge is one of Cobain’s signature mohair knits. A cardigan can be thrown over an open shirt and band tee, or paired with corduroy for truly tactile comfort. To finish, just add the DGAF attitude.
It’s not unusual in menswear quarters today to consider Carlton Banks a subversive style icon. Everyone knows they were supposed to idolise his cooler cousin Will, but looking back, it’s Carlton’s quiet collegiate style that grabs more than the Fresh Prince’s low-slung dungarees.
The buttoned-up Ivy League look has endured (since the fifties, in fact) largely because it is made up of timeless staples: think cashmere jumpers, navy blazers and leather boat shoes.
To adopt the trend in a way that doesn’t scream fancy dress, mix one or two preppy pieces with contemporary sportswear. A cable knit jumper with slim-fit navy chinos looks modern when worn with gleaming white tennis shoes and a well-fitting bomber. Similarly, varsity jackets can be layered with rugby shirts or polos in an all-American palette of red, white and blue. Just be sure to keep your collars turned down.
Acid wash. Dungarees. JNCO. It’s fair to say that denim came in for a rough ride during the nineties. Despite it all, one trend that has managed to persevere is denim-on-denim.
The Canadian tuxedo isn’t an easy look to pull off, but by and large, double denim is a look that works for all shapes and sizes if you remember to keep things simple.
The general rule of thumb is to aim for contrast between pieces. Then again, this is the nineties, no one follows rules. Though darker denim usually works well on your lower half when paired with a mid-wash jacket up top, don’t be shy about going all out on lighter shades. Those wary of the full Timberlake might consider wearing an indigo chore jacket with mid wash jeans, or a chambray shirt tucked into navy chinos.
Tiny sunglasses aside, bigger was always better in the nineties, with everybody from Tupac to Tony Blair donning maxed-out silhouettes (to varying degrees of success). Oversized gave way to skinny fit everything in the noughties, but the tide has started to reverse as of late. Boxy sweatshirts, louche tailoring and wide-legged trousers are the big things once again, but it’s not quite as simple as just going up a few sizes.
It’s important to choose garments designed to be worn this way, which will be cut to fit correctly on the shoulders or around the waist. Weightier fabrics will also hold their shape better – whether that’s a fleece hoodie, a thick jersey T-shirt or heavy wool trousers.
To avoid the dreaded lampshade look (big on top, skinny below), always balance your proportions. Team a loose fitting top with similarly voluminous trousers, adding a boxy jacket when required.
It could have been one of the greatest tragedies of our time – a generation growing up without the joys of a fresh Ellesse tracksuit or a new pair of Skechers.
Fortunately, the nineties revival has given a much-needed boost to brands such as Kappa and Umbro, whose logo-tastic sportswear is edging out the minimal athleisure of the past few years. Think eye-wateringly bright tracksuits and the type of bulbous sneakers you used to wear when Seinfeld was first on TV.
On the weekends, mix and match bold colours, patterns and insignias all you like. However, from Monday to Friday, tone things down by wearing sneakers with sleek drawstring trousers, or a half-zip sweatshirt underneath your coat.
When Liam Gallagher sang “I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now”, it’s entirely possible that he was serenading his signature green parka, which to this day he’s rarely seen without.
It’s an exemplary piece of Britpop, a style which was a mishmash of technical outerwear, polo shirts and bucket hats. Part sixties Mod, part football hooligan, with a Knebworth-sized attitude to boot.
Musically, it petered out after a few short years, but the eclectic sense of British style lived on. To revive Cool Britannia for the Brexit age, try a Harrington jacket layered over a knitted polo – a style move that Blur frontman Damon Albarn was pulling back in 1993, but the rest of us have only recently cottoned on to.
5 Key Pieces To Nail Nineties Style
Light Wash Denim
Double denim can be a bit Marmite, but it’s not the only way to add a nineties edge to your wardrobe. Swap raw denim for a light or mid-wash in a slim fit, keep rips to a minimum and wear with a slick bomber jacket or overcoat.
Flannel shirts and grunge go together like the cast of Friends and wet look gel. Throw one of over a band T-shirt for a quick dose of teen spirit, use it to break up double denim or tie one around your waist under a hoodie.
In recent years, footwear designers have spent more time digging through their archives than sitting at their design desks, resulting in the revival of models like the Nike Air More Uptempo, Fila Disrupt and Osiris D3. Any of these reissued designs can be brought up to date with smart drawstring or wide-legged trousers cropped at the ankle.
Swapping a plain white T-shirt for one emblazoned with a bold, brashy logo is a subtle but powerful style move. There’s no shortage of ways to wear them, though we’re particularly fond of tucking one into a pair of trousers, underneath an oversized suit jacket.
The most unlikely return from the nineties is without a doubt the bumbag. It’s something of a misnomer, as the correct way to wear one these days is to sling it over your shoulder, holster-style. Oversized is best, while pairing it with a complimentary bucket hat never goes amiss.