Chances are, if you were alive in the 90s, you are super nostalgic about them. And honestly, who can blame you? Any 90s kid will tell you that they are the best decade to have grown up in. We were on the cusp of great change in the 90s — in a time before everything was documented with a selfie and you and your friends took pictures with disposable cameras. Which is probably for the best, because some of the outfits we wore in the 90s were a lot. 90s fashion is definitely less outrageous than 80s fashion. But truth be told, not by as much as you’d think.
Some of us would very much like to forget the fashion faux pas that came out of the 90s, especially the ones we wore. Lest we forget, MC Hammer style harem pants, denim on denim, or the time people were wearing their clothes backward because of the rap duo Kris Kross. Just about anyone who was a kid in the 90s is thankful that our awkward middle and high school days aren’t lurking in the dark corners of the internet. 90s fashion was all kinds of things, but here are some of the most popular styles we rocked. Shockingly, a lot of 90s fashion is making a comeback, which proves not only that fashion is cyclical, but that we’re getting old.
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Doc Martens are more than just a shoe, they’re a lifestyle. And if we’re being totally honest, they actually have managed to stay popular this whole time. Docs are better than your average combat boot — you can find them in a bevy of designs and colors that most perfectly express your individuality. Even though they are a heavy looking boot, you can literally pair them with anything. And in the 90s we did just that. Doc Martens went just as well with baggy jeans and flannels as they did with a babydoll dress. Few shoes can say that and still have lasting power!
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Babydoll dresses were a must for girls in the 90s and were a pinnacle of 90s fashion. There are two main styles — the version with spaghetti straps, or the one with a ruffle cap sleeve. More often than not, babydolls dresses are some sort of pastel or white. If they’re patterned, it’s almost always a floral (florals were very big in the 90s.) Daisies, rosettes, and sunflowers are especially popular. Since slip dresses were also hugely popular, the strappy babydoll was quite exposing. If you wanted to incorporate a little modesty, you would pair your babydoll with a baby tee. This look has recently come back into fashion for a whole new generation.
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JNCO stands for “Judge None, Choose One,” which sounds so 90s it’s unbelievable. Acronyms were very popular in 90s fashion. You may not know what JNCO means, but you know what they look like. They’re jeans that have such wide legs you could probably fit a small child or puppy under one pant leg. Boys especially loved wearing JNCOs — they’d look like they were floating down the hallway of your high school because you couldn’t see their damn feet. Even though they became less popular after the early 00s, they are still in operation. It was reported that they were ceasing business in 2018, but that’s not entirely true.
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If you were a girl in the 90s, and you didn’t own a pair of platform sandals, what were you doing with yourself? These sandals had the thickest soles known to man. And they were usually made out of foam, not really something sturdy. They were usually fashioned with a thick stretchy band to keep them on your foot — so people could hear them slapping against your foot from a mile away. This is doubly true if you were rocking a flip flop style. Some of the most popular ones, made by Steve Madden, are actually making a comeback for all of us who didn’t screw up our backs enough back then.
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Any 90s tween girl worth her Sanrio trading cards wore butterfly clips. Butterfly clips were best when worn in bulk, meaning you had at least six in your hair at once. They were perfect for adorning elaborate braids, for tucking away the bangs you insisted upon having. And there was a butterfly clip for every occasion. You could dress them up (using pastels, iridescent and/or glitter ones) or dress them down (primary colors.) Plus, if you didn’t want to wear them in your hair, you could use them to decorate your shoelaces or your backpack. Who doesn’t love a versatile accessory?
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Flannel came into 90s fashion via the grunge movement from the Pacific Northwest. It’s a perfect fashion choice there — the weather is often rainy and chilly. Throwing a flannel over your tee shirt is quick. Soon, everyone was wearing flannel, whether or not they actually listened to Nirvana or Pearl Jam. Flannel is a perfect match for things like Doc Martens, a babydoll dress, or overalls. And the coolest kids wore one that was several sizes too big, tying it around their waists. You can never have too many flannels, especially plaid ones. Flannel has seen a resurgence in recent years, thanks mostly to hipsters.
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Neon was a trend started in the 80s that didn’t cease to exist in the 90s. It just took on new forms. If you’ve ever watched an early episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, chances are you can recall the incredibly bright neon clothing Will wears. Will Smith popularized neon tank tops, and sweat suits. But he wasn’t the only one. On Clarissa Explains it All, Melissa Joan Hart rocked some serious neon ensembles herself. As did Mario Lopez’s character on Saved by the Bell, AC Slater. Neon was most commonly used in spandex as well...who can ever forget wearing lime green bike shorts?
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No one knows why, but literally everything was baggy in the 90s. Seriously, it’s like, the baggier, the better. It’s safe to say that no one actually knew what size they wore back then. Pretty much all of your clothing needed to be at least a size bigger than you wore. For things like tee shirts, you could go at least two sizes bigger, if not more. 90s women and girls couldn’t find a pair of jeans that didn’t look like they were drowning, and belts weren’t an accessory, they were an absolute must. Several other fashions on this list benefitted from this choice.
Denim overalls were popular with just about everyone, no matter your age or race. If you ask anyone who was alive in the 90s if they wore denim overalls, they should say yes. And if they say no, they’re probably lying to you. Bringing them off the farm and into the rest of the country was really something. Denim overalls were at their best when they were at least one size bigger than you needed them (seriously, clothes in the 90s were so big.) And they paired best with construction boots, even if you never set foot on a construction site. Plus, they came in a short version, and of course, the jumper (skirt) version.
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It’s hard to know why this was such a popular look, since everyone looked like they had these tiny little lips. Girls would line their lips with a dark lip liner (or even eyeliner if desperate) in cocoa brown or even black. Then they would fill their lips with a nude lipstick. Or if they were feeling particularly snazzy, something frosted, like silver. Or maybe even gold for shimmer purposes. And if they were feeling really cool? They would skip a lipstick color altogether, opting solely for maybe a little clear lip gloss or balm. Seriously, this look truly didn’t look good on anyone..
For those who opted to actually wear a lip color, brown lipstick was very popular. Actually, it was a combo of browns and brick red, which turned into some sort of signature lipstick color of the decade. They were all the same indeterminate shade of brownish red, and yet, literally every makeup company had at least two different shades for different skin tones. Usually, you would line your lips with a brownish-red lipliner (lip liner was very popular in the 90s) and then filled your lips with a similar color. Usually, the lipsticks were called something like “raisin” or “coffee bean.” We can still picture them.
Glitter was huge in the 90s. Honestly, we’d find any excuse to use it. You couldn’t go to a middle school dance without seeing at least 10 tween girls awkwardly dancing, their faces blinding you every time the light hit them. 90s glitter isn’t as subtle as glitter is now — the flecks were chunky, which means it was totally obvious you were wearing glitter. And since it conveniently came in a rollerball, you could glitter on the go. Which was perfect for a night out that ends at a rave, naturally. Because that’s what older folks wearing glitter were going, let’s be honest.
Adidas breakaway track pants were a signature style of the 90s. You thought they were cool because they had buttons all up the side. And they were cool — until someone would come and try to rip your pants off your body. Then they weren’t so fun. These pants came in a variety of neutrals, including black and white, or navy and white, or if you were really lucky, red and white. Clearly they were meant to mimic the kind of tearaway pants basketball players wear before a game. But basketball players were wearing shorts under their pants. Most 13 year-old girls were not. It led to some embarrassing moments.
90s fashion was almost equal parts function and style. Starter jackets are the perfect intersection of fashion and practicality. These jackets were the real deal — if you got a puffer coat (which of course you did, it was the 90s) you didn’t even know it was negative degrees. Yes, it keeps you that warm. You could walk into a tornado in a Starter windbreaker and not even realize it’s windy. But the best part? Showing off your team pride of course. Every sports team (especially basketball) had a Starter jacket. How else was everyone supposed to know that you loved the Charlotte Hornets? This made for some epically horrible color combos.
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Shoes with thick soles were the norm in 90s fashion. And we’ve already established that platform shoes were the business then too. Chunky heeled loafers are the perfect blend of the two styles. First, they had that thick sole — especially the stacked heel, which often resembled a brick. Usually the front looked more like a traditional loafer, sometimes complete with tassels. Shoes like these were quite popular in replicating the private school girl look, complete with knee socks and a plaid skirt (or skort.) Think Alicia Silverstone and the crew in Clueless, or Britney Spears in the “...Baby One More Time” video.
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These necklaces were the choker equivalent for guys. An offshoot of California skater culture, these could be found at stores like PacSun or maybe Aeropostale or Abercrombie and Fitch. More often than not, these necklaces were paired with JNCO jeans and some sort of band tee or flannel shirt. Sometimes, you could find the two styles combined into one necklace. Which means the hemp held the puka shells in place instead of an invisible thread. Hemp necklaces were usually braided into different patterns, and occasionally you could find puka shells in a color other than white. Usually these necklaces were paired with that signature bowl haircut that was a popular 90s fashion for boys.
For some reason, khaki was a really big 90s fashion statement. For example, it was so popular, there was an entire Gap clothing campaign for it. Not just a couple print ads, we’re talking the whole shebang, print ads and commercials on TV. And there was no particular style of khaki pants that were most popular. You could find them in just about any style you were looking for. This includes chinos, which made you look even more preppy. Or maybe you wanted to rock the bootleg khaki, or perhaps a khaki cargo pant. But the best was probably the khaki bell bottom, which looks as ridiculous as it sounds.
Chokers are actually another 90s fashion accessory that’s making a comeback in a big way. 90s girls wanting to rock a choker didn’t discriminate — there were several kinds of choker to choose from. If you were trying to class up your babydoll dress, chances are you were going with a cameo style choker. And yes of course it’s velvet. Velvet is one of the most 90s fabrics out there. Another go-to choker style was the plastic ones that kind of resemble some sort of tribal tattoo. So they look like they’re drawn onto your neck. These were the most readily available, you could get them in any one of those toy machines for a quarter.
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Before they became one of the most hilarious fashion punchlines, scrunchies were the hair accessory. Why in the world would you put your hair back with something as basic as a black hair elastic when you could use a scrunchie? And they double as a bracelet? Sold! One of the best things about scrunchies is their versatility. Which means they intersect with several other 90s fashion trends. Neon scrunchies? Amazing. Velvet scrunchies? Oh my god, amazing. Shockingly, they’ve come back around to be popular again. We can’t believe it either. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of people who aren’t buying into that insanity again.
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Okay, this is a look that should never come back...ever. Mullets definitely had their time in the sun though. Honestly, who wouldn’t want a haircut people describe as “business in the front, party in the back?” Having a mullet almost guaranteed you could pass through any honky tonk or truck stop without anyone messing with you. Because you were apart of the club. Before he was known for singing the hook on ‘Old Town Road’ or for being Miley’s dad, Billy Ray Cyrus had an epic mullet. Come on, how many of us associate the mullet with the song ‘Achy Breaky Heart?’ They’re almost synonymous.