Through The Lens: The History Of The 90's Fashion Revival
A insight and history of the 90’s fashion revival and trend.
Written by Jordan Gibson of Checks Downtown.
Our Through The Lens series is a deep dive into cultural brands, topics and more to give you more insight and education.
They say that fashion rotates in twenty year cycles, I’m in an interesting position where the generation I grew up a part of is in the eye of that 20 year storm. It was the era that I began to come of age and was really blossoming culturally, and the fashion world is currently having its moment with all things ‘90s and ‘00s. Cultural moments that I grew up with and watched grow from the outskirts of popularity have become the dominant currency.
It is funny now to think back to growing up in the South Island, as a teenager that was very into clothing, hip hop, metal as well as rugby, cricket and having a good time with the homies. These things were at odds. Now it is very normal to be a young guy and idolise fashion designers.
Skateboard style is recognised as unequivocally cool, to distil this down, it makes sense. Its style is purpose built out of practicality, comfort, affordability and swagger. The adoption of cheap and easy to find staples from workwear, sports shoes and military surplus garments makes it easy for anyone to dress the part. Whether a skateboard is involved or not. I can’t throw stones though, that was my entry point as well. My brother would skate a homemade ledge in our driveway and I was fascinated by his chunky sneakers and Limp Bizkit posters. I wasn’t such a fan of falling down and grazed knees, but that was an entry point to brands like DC, Shorties, Blind and then Nike SB, Undefeated, Supreme, and then Visvim, Wtaps and so on.
The late 90’s and 00’s also saw more primed and waspy styles having their moment, with prep and the #menswear era. Leading the charge in bringing this back in to focus are ahead-of-the-curve New York labels like Noah, Aimé Leon Dore and Rowing Blazers, and in Japan coming back to the era that introduced them to American style, brands such as Beams and United Arrows & Sons are also looking at prep and ivy league style as their major inspiration point. I think the key to this look is taking the elements that appeal, giving it a rougher edge and maintaining comfort, rather than entering in to costume territory. Naturally heritage labels like Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Brooks Brothers and so on are heavily influential at this moment, it would be great to see a fresh take on their heritage from within one of these brands. Perhaps the Palace & Ralph Lauren project could see some fun new energy.
For me, I am most interested in a multi generational approach to style and using clashing inspiration points. Both in designing for Checks Downtown and the references the brand draws in as a whole, and my personal style. I would rather be hard to place, hard to box in. It is not interesting to me to dress while referencing one style or era only, it feels a bit pre-dictated. I feel personal style should be a mash of your interests, I like a dash of 50’s elegance with a dash of hip hop and some punk energy all at the same time. This all makes up the Checks universe and I think a unique point of view that you can see without being told.
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It’s curious to see the more extreme and niche inspirations return from this era like the chunky skate shoes, rave pants, harnesses and platforms. A$AP Rocky and his team are dishing out the nostalgia heavily, like their shoe with Under Armour. I enjoy the literalness in the similarities to the original Osiris shoe and that they worked with the designer of the D3, it sparks nostalgia for me of that bad boy in primary school that had the gold pair and they were polarising even then. A more tender and genuine appreciation of this decade appears evident in Jonah Hill’s new movie and directorial debut in the A24 backed Mid 90s. It looks packed with nuanced moments and on point wardrobe choices.
This places us in an interesting moment. Looking at what is popular now or had been recently and wondering will that be relevant in 15-20 years and reimagined through a new lens. It seems to me that the 2010’s are about re-working a myriad of references and generations and what you do with that is what is interesting. So was there a style of this decade that could be visually distilled and reinvigorated. Perhaps we might see a return to favour of dark moody designers like Rick Owens, it seems natural that aesthetic will make a return.
I definitely think that we are about to see a revival of simple elegant styles and staple garments that do not rely on logo driven design. I feel that myself in my desire to wear nice knitwear, leather shoes and even suits – albeit very casual ones. I think we already see this change happening, I’ve noticed people wearing more quintessential garments like French labourer jackets, Doc Martens, Chuck Taylors and so on. We may also see the continued rise of elegant designer labels that focus on silhouette and material like Comme des Garçons, Maison Margiela, Helmut Lang and Dior.
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I’m enjoying this moment of connecting back to items, style and the nostalgia of youth. I suppose the twenty-year trend cycle formula is calculated in that the generation who were born in the 90’s are now working professionals with income to support purchases and are triggered by touch stones from their formative years.
Designing product for Checks Downtown, this filters naturally in to the process where what is relevant and what I’m consuming culturally manifests in the products. It’s almost a feeling, a sea change that you don’t necessarily see coming but feel its ripples. The 90’s were the era that I began to find out what I liked and developed independent thought, and it’s true that what you discover of yourself in that time often forms your interests for the rest of your life.
Author: Jordan Gibson