Feb 5th, 2018, 06:00 PM

'90s Babies Are Back

By Cassandra Ovalle
Image Credit: flickr/The Doll Cafe
Is '90s fashion Gen-Y's escape into the past or just a natural comeback?

From our favorite vintage denim jacket to the tracksuit hype, the '90s are back in the fashion industry. The last wave of '90s kids will soon be graduating from college, an intimidating thought when reflecting on the state of the world. Trump is president, world tensions are high, the climate is changing due to global warming, and prospects for work after graduation are bleak. With all these problems in hand to manage once '90s kids transition into the adult world, they look for a way to escape. Regressing to the '90s through fashion provides a feeling of comfort that allows and inspires this generation to create, gives them the strength to be ambitious, and make the best of their reality.

It was the '90s babies who got the first taste of a new cyber world beginning in the 2000s. Although they were pioneers of the digital age, '90s kids also experienced playing outside, scraping their knees from running around in schoolyards, and only watching television during Sunday morning cartoons. Parents dressed '90s kids in funky windbreakers, frilly socks, overalls, and chunky sneakers. Their hair was in piggy-tails with scrunchies, and bangs were rampant as parents sent them into the future (looking almost as chic as themselves). Skipping ahead almost twenty years, '90s kids now find themselves living in an ever-changing society. Luckily for them, they have one of the best decades to escape back to.


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According to an article in Time, millennials are characterized by older generations as "selfish", "entitled", and "wanting it all". Millennials may have been raised to believe that they deserve the best, but this is partially due to the state of the economy when they were growing up. Between 1992 and 1999, the economy prospered by four percent each year; the unemployment rate was low, dipping from eight to four percent in just 1992 alone; and the median American income rose by 10 percent within the decade. These factors allowed new families from various social classes to prosper which in turn enabled them to consume more goods, move to better areas, and therefore send their children to better schools. '90s kids were encouraged to reach to the stars as new breakthrough technology rose after the turn of the century, but were unprepared for the downfall.

The recession hit many Americans hard and it deeply affected the views of millennials on political, economic, and cultural issues that resonate with what is going on in the contemporary world. For a short moment, hope was introduced but the years of optimistic, progressive recovery brought by the Obama administration went by quickly. Recent events such as the threat of nuclear war and a celebrity elected into the White House have led to mass confusion and anxiety. Whereas in 2005 millennials were too young to properly express themselves, millennials now are able to project their sentiments and opinions on the world environment and '90s escapism as a coping mechanism.


The simplicity of the '90s is a significant factor to why it is millennials' ideal escape. Writer Anne T. Donahue defines the concept of escapism as "a powerful coping mechanism. It can keep us buoyant in moments of heaviness and can work to give both our brains and hearts a break." A large component in the concept of escapism is nostalgia. Nostalgia is a powerful trait that '90s babies have learned to utilize out of necessity, and it feeds escapism. Instead of running away from problems by regressing to older times, '90s kids are, as psychologist Dr. Routledge says, just reviving "cherished experiences that assure us that we are valued people with meaningful lives" in times of much chaos. It aids millennials in getting through hard times when life becomes overwhelming.

'90s babies, now young adults, have seen more change than most generations in relation to the amount of time they have been alive. The rapidness has caused them to become chronically nostalgic, where we see an event that occurred recently as if it had happened years ago - an effect that derives from the fact that so much has occurred in a short amount of time. Nostalgia has become millennial's most common trait and it is being used to reach back into the '90s to achieve some normalcy in a time of world comfort.

Image Credit: Flickr/ilovesorbet.blogspot.com

The idea of escapism through fashion and culture from prior decades is not unique to millennials. Looking back to the '90s, the designers and fashionistas of the era were turning heads to the 1970s. '90s brands and designers produced a denim and leather craze inspired by the '70s but added the funky colors, chunky accessories, and comfort that is the basis of '90s style. An article published by the New York Times in 1993 titled "In Paris, Escapism Is The Fashion for the 90's" illustrates that even back in the '90s, the young adults of the era also looked for an escape. The article depicts these '90s designers as "designers who are not yet set in their ways but still searching for a personal mode of expression," which parallels the designers of millennial fashion today.

The work of fashion designers both in the '90s and now depicts the "generation's malaise". '90s critics called it 'reconstructing deconstructionism', or minimalism, a style that is becoming increasingly popular among self-made designers, fashion students, young adults and even youths. Brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Helmut Lang, Gucci, and Calvin Klein are among those that reached their peak in the '90s. Of the top brands of the '90s, some are discontinued and some have been revamped,  yet their clothing remains a vintage staple or a high selling piece on apps like Depop. These are the brands that have formed millennial's fashion perspective and, though '90s style evokes elements from prior decades, they remain the icons of today that inspire ambition and provide comfort in a confusing world.