In the fall of 1993: Tupac Shakur was charged in the shooting of two off-duty police officers; Pearl Jam released their sophomore effort Vs.; Nirvana performed an “Unplugged” concert for MTV; Dazed and Confused was connecting with kids at the box office; future teen idols Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aguilera joined the cast of The New Mickey Mouse Club; Boy Meets World met the world; Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place continued to fascinate teens, and all of it was influencing the way they thought, talked, and dressed. Here’s a look at what the kids were wearing in the early '90s.
1. PLAID, PLAID & MORE PLAID
Image courtesy of LOTHIAN
The grunge movement continued to gain momentum in the first half of the 1990s and its defining item of clothing—for both genders—was the plaid flannel shirt. But it didn’t take long for the checkered print to crawl its way onto other items, including mini-skirts, dresses, pants and sweaters. There’s just one rule: reds, browns, blues, and greens rule; bright colors were the immediate mark of a poseur.
2. BABYDOLL DRESSES
Image courtesy Cherry Bomb Magazine
Grunge style went beyond flannel everything: the idea was to take a formerly standard item of clothing, like an intact pair of jeans, and give it a grungy makeover. Few celebrities understood this fashion mantra better than Courtney Love, lead singer and guitarist for Hole and wife of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. Among her most copied fashion statements was the super-short babydoll dress, which was most often paired with a pair of black tights and combat boots. Solid colors were Love’s trademark, but floral prints were just as in.
3. DOC MARTENS
Image courtesy Dr. Martens
Speaking of combat boots: While there were plenty of brands to choose from in a variety of price ranges, Dr. Martens was the first choice of 1990s fashionistas, with their signature yellow-threaded soles being somewhat of a status symbol. High-top or low-top, black or brown, worn with a girly dress or destroyed jeans, Doc Martens could be paired with any outfit.
4. SKIN-TIGHT DRESSES
Image courtesy Cineplex/TriStar
Blame (or thank) Sharon Stone for the skin-tight dresses that ladies of varying ages and body types were wearing well into the mid-1990s, following her infamous turn as murderess Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct. Yes, even teenage girls were rocking the “body conscious”—a.k.a. body-con—trend.
Image courtesy Totally Awesome Teen Pinups and Magazines
The second-skin style was available in a bodysuit version, too—a skintight, leotard-like top that may or may not snap at the bottom and was typically worn with a skirt or pair of high-waisted jeans … which were then cinched with a thick leather belt (yes, we’re cringing).
6. MOM JEANS
Photo courtesy Kate-colored Glasses
Every generation has its of-the-moment style of denim. Unfortunately for teens in the 1990s, that style was high-waisted, unnecessarily bunchy in the front, tight in the backend and unflattering in every way. It wasn’t until a decade later that Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch famously dubbed the style “Mom Jeans” on SNL. But in the 1990s it was the kids who were wearing them—guys and girls—as evidenced in this photo of the entire trend-setting cast of Beverly Hills, 90210.
Photo courtesy Etsy
The fascination with too much denim didn’t end with Mom Jeans. Overalls were a huge hit with teenagers in the early 1990s, with traditional, farmer-like styles for the colder months and a shorter version—known as shortalls—to be worn during summer vacation. Extra style points were awarded for leaving one strap hanging!
8. THE JEAN SUIT
Photo courtesy Starcrush
Think we’re done with denim? Hardly. For those opposed to a jean one-piece, there was another option: the jean suit, a (usually) monochromatic denim-on-denim fashion catastrophe where a pair of jeans were topped with either a denim button-down, vest or jacket. Even the usually-fashionable Britney Spears rocked the look as a kid. Yes, that is Ryan Gosling sitting next to Brit, who would actually come to resurrect a dark-washed version of the jean suit in 2011’s Drive and somehow make it look good.
9. CARHARTT JACKETS
Photo courtesy Old Bailey
Introduced in 1889, Carhartt jackets were designed as a sort of uniform for hunters and farmers, their heavy-duty, wind-resistant construction being a perfect match for keeping warm while spending hours outdoors. In the 1990s, a new brand of businessmen caught on to Carhartt’s many charms: crack dealers. “They needed to keep warm and they needed to carry a lot of stuff,” Steven J. Rapiel, the brand’s New York City salesman told The New York Times Style section in late 1992. “Then the kids saw these guys on the street, and it became the hip thing to wear.”
10. HIGH-PRICED KICKS
Photo courtesy CounterKicks
Sneakers were big business in the 1990s, with Air Jordans ruling the jock market and Converse All Stars catering to the grunge crowd. But sensible young ladies got their own pair of custom kicks when ever-reliable Keds debuted a sporty pair of sneakers dressed up to look like a baseball. The sneakers even managed to make a comeback in 2011, when design house Opening Ceremony re-released a limited number of them, newly constructed to replicate the 1993 version.
Photo courtesy Etsy
Is it a skirt or a pair of shorts? No one could tell… at least not until you turned around and made it clear that you were wearing a pair of shorts with a flap in the front for some reason. If you want to make it look like you’re wearing a skirt, why not just wear a skirt? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question. We’re not going to put too much thought into this short-lived trend because the designers who attempted to move this womenswear hybrid from the tennis court to the classroom didn’t waste a lot of brain power on its logic either.