If you’ve looked at TikTok or Instagram (or flipped through a fashion magazine) lately, you’ve probably already noticed that the ’90s are back. Over 20 years after the decade ended, many of its most iconic fashions (think: scrunchies and Mom jeans) that were once mocked are now being embraced by Gen Z.
Such is the cyclical nature of fashion, and with looks—from grunge to goth to hip-hop, and more—throughout the decade, there’s certainly a lot of inspiration to pull from. Here are just a few of the many ’90s trends that have reentered the culture lately. Just don’t wear them all at once!
Once famously mocked in a 2003 episode of Sex and the City, this humble—and stretchy—fabric hair tie has since become popular again. More comfortable and forgiving on sensitive manes than the typical elastic, the scrunchie has been rediscovered for its versatility, ease of wear, and ability to add an unfussy extra bit of style to a casual outfit.
These comfortable sandals, easily recognizable for their cork soles and buckles, were a staple of the ’90s hippie wardrobe, but today you’re more likely to see them worn by a more fashion-forward crowd. Birkenstocks fit right in with the so-called “normcore” concept of unpretentious, comforting clothing from the ’90s actually being subversively stylish. While the classic Birkenstocks come in drab earth tones, today you can buy them in a wide variety of colors and styles.
Shop: Urban Outfitters
3. Clunky footwear
Platform shoes, which had previously been trendy in the ’70s, reached new heights (pun fully intended) in the ’90s. Platforms were seen everywhere, from the Doc Martens of grunge kids to the sky-high sneakers of ravers (and the Spice Girls!), and even the Mary Janes and loafers of trend-loving teen girls. Given the ’00s-era popularity of spindly designer stilettos, it makes sense that the edgier, more comfortable clunky shoe would finally come back in style. And unlike in the ’90s, you can get Docs made from vegan leather now, as the brand has offered this as an option since 2011.
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These seductive necklaces, which often have a goth look, were all the rage in the ’90s. The tattoo choker in particular—a looping, cheaply made, plastic variation on the theme—was especially ubiquitous later in the decade. These chokers, as well as more traditional velvet and rhinestone ones, have once again become popular, primarily worn by teen girls and young women looking to add an edgy accessory to their respective outfits.
5. Mom Jeans
Mom jeans (or as they were known in the ’90s, simply “jeans”) have gone from object of derision (most memorably ridiculed in the 2004 Saturday Night Live sketch seen above) to a cool-girl staple. Jeans used to be high-waisted and rigid by default, but as more stretchy fabrics came onto the scene, tight-fitting skinny jeans became popular, and by the ’00s they were inescapable. Low-rises were also the norm then, and the high-waists of so-called Mom jeans have proven to be more flattering and comfortable for many, and can have a surprisingly timeless feel.
6. Bike Shorts
These stretchy, skin-tight shorts were the height of athleisure before that word even existed. Often paired with oversized T-shirts or sweatshirts, bike shorts are comfortable and casual, with a touch of sex appeal in their formfitting silhouette. Many people discovered the benefits of bike shorts during the pandemic, as they’re a good alternative to being pantless on Zoom calls. They also can have an understated, chic quality outside the house, as evidenced by the many pictures of ’90s style icon Princess Diana out and about in bike shorts that often circulate on Instagram.
7. Slip Dresses
Beloved by ’90s “it girls” like Courtney Love and Drew Barrymore, the slip dress is underwear-as-outerwear at its finest. The silky fabrics and spaghetti straps of these dresses have a flirty vibe without trying too hard, and they’re easy to throw on and dress up with some accessories. The slip dress can look Old Hollywood or riot grrrl, depending on how it’s styled, and its versatile sexiness and association with ’90s rebels has led to a new appreciation for the style.
Shop: Urban Outfitters
Plaid has always been around, but in the ’90s it was everywhere, from the flannel shirts of grunge musicians to the yellow skirt suit famously worn by Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. Putting on a plaid piece is an easy shortcut to the boldness of ’90s style, as evidenced by pop star and Gen Z fashion maven Olivia Rodrigo’s penchant for plaid dresses and miniskirts.
Frequently paired with the aforementioned high-waist jeans in the ’90s, the bodysuit gave casual outfits a more put-together look. While some may scoff at the inconvenience of a bodysuit when it comes to using the bathroom, these body-conscious pieces (which can be minimalist, athletic, or boudoir-ready) are coming back via celebrity-backed brands like Kim Kardarshian’s SKIMS and others.