Girls dressing like Kelly Kapowski has generally been accepted as a good thing, so there hasn’t been a ton of criticism of '90s trends reappearing in recent years, despite the unsettled feeling you get when you realize your hot new 20-year-old girlfriend basically dresses like pictures of your mom from 1992. In the menswear hemisphere, '90s nostalgia has us refusing to let old ass Michael Jordan’s legacy continue on it’s rightful trajectory from greatest NBA player ever to worst NBA owner ever (all because you keep wasting money on shoes you lusted after when you were eight.) It’s easy to understand. Children who remember the 90s as an innocent time of excess before they were old enough to make life-ruining decisions are now tastemakers or, at least, willing sheep consuming the calculated, regurgitated nostalgia repackaged to us by the older, smarter, actual tastemakers.
But something is lurking just up the alley. A glint. A sparkle. Just some broken glass, you think. A streetlight reflected. No, no, it's much bigger than that, beyond your ability to ignore. And it's fucking dangerous. The cyclical nature of fashion is an elder among clichés, but one as certain as Kimye’s eventual custody battle. Yes, sooner than expected a handful of trends from the universally derided, unanimously regretted, WTF-was-going-on 90s and early 2000s will start to emerge, re-imagined and repackaged, causing us to forget the travesty that was 1999 Justin Timberlake and think it might be a good idea to frost our tips. Shit, by the end of the decade, having endured two or three more recessions, we’ll long for the plastic excess of budget surplus and pre-mp3 radio pop like forlorn lovers.
The waterwheel is already turning. It takes years for trends to drip from high-fashion to the everyday consumer. Maybe the era didn’t mean much to you, falling a few years before or after you started caring how you looked, but it’s there in the shadows, lurking, cemented in the subconscious and stored latent in the brain of an undiscovered design student in Antwerp—in a sea of black, she sketches in purple gel pen. Everything she draws resembles the *NSYNC aesthetic of her youth. Her peers mock her. She remembers being made fun of for having off-brand four-stripe Adidas All-Star knockoffs—the cruel laughs on the playground. She relives finding her Abercrombie’d crush making out with her best friend beneath the bleachers. She keeps her head down in critique. But with the encouragement of one teacher (“Pay no heed to their jeers”) she will find her voice. Her debut collection in 2018 features white ostrich sneakers with four black stripes, her torment reclaimed and resold to her bullies at $800 a pair. Her models sport short, Redken-spiked hair. This is where it starts, with a trickle. Womenswear then influences menswear and eventually there is no escape.
I know, it sounds like fiction. “No way man, that 6th grade class picture is boxed in my parents’ basement never to be seen again!” Lie to yourself, but it’s coming—that perfect balance between ironic nostalgia and genuine desirability. Be prepared for the return. The return that you will be powerless to resist.