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Opinion – Gen Z is invoking the carefree spirit of the 90s

Y2K fashion is on the rise and musicians are striving to create a happier 90s sound. Gen-Z is bringing positivity to the troubled, modern world they’ve found themselves in.

Kids of the 90s and early 2000s had it made. Crop tops, bucket hats, tie-dye, beaded bracelets, and fluffy anything was considered fashion forward.

Climate change was not yet looming relentlessly in the back of our minds, online bullying wasn’t occurring so frequently, and digital privacy breaches were a concept that lived mainly within Silicon Valley.

This carefree era has become ultra-cool with Gen-Z – particularly on TikTok – and is manifesting itself most evidently in both fashion and music.

Teens are flocking to vintage thrift stores in search of one-of-a-kind baby doll tees, low-rise jeans to complete a double denim look, and authentic leather mini shoulder bags currently donned by fashion influencers everywhere.

While fast fashion brands have scrambled to meet the demand for Y2K styles, a large portion of today’s youth are well aware of the damaging environmental and socio-economic practices of these companies.

Refusing to subscribe to fast fashion practices, Gen-Z is taking matters into its own hands by using the tool it knows best – the internet.

The online resale platform Depop has reported over a billion pounds of vintage merchandise to date. According to its website, ninety percent of its 30million users are under the age of 26.

Fusing current trends with style from the 90s is being called ‘nowstalgia’, bringing a happy-go-lucky feeling back to the present fashion scene which has become increasingly colour-neutral and futuristic.

In doing so, Gen-Z are consuming fashion in a more intentional and sustainable way than perhaps their older counterparts ever have.

We are also getting the soundtrack to match. Pop-punk is back on the charts (shout out to Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album) and boy bands are thriving once again – just take a look at BROCKHAMPTON.

In light of this newfound nostalgia, huge pop musicians such as Lorde and Troye Sivan are drawing inspiration from the noughties to create a happier, lighter sound.

While there have been a fair share of top charting feel-good hits over the last two decades, these often sound over-produced with loads of synths, strong bass, and ‘soulless’ subject matter.

By contrast, music of the 90s was clean sounding in its production and the lyrical content was simple.

What it lacked in complexity, it made up for with optimistic beats and melodies, accompanied by lyrics that weren’t overtly sexual and didn’t lean on references to illicit activity to gain listeners.

The tongue in cheek, bumble-gum pop style of the 90s wasn’t considered to be particularly ground-breaking at the time, but is now a cultural marker which encapsulates the spirit of a world before it became a more serious place.

The early 2000s brought drastic change, with the event of 9/11 and the fear that followed, individual omnipresence online, and the realities of global warming becoming more evident.

Growing up in the midst of this, on top of the current pandemic, has produced a generation that yearns for an S Club 7 party in their lives and isn’t hesitating to make it happen – can you blame them?

As with all trends, the popularity of 90s fashion will surely fade away over time, only to be replaced by another distinct era shortly after.

However, the functionality and user-profit incentive that online resale apps offer ensures that all generations can rediscover old trends responsibly without sourcing from the demon that is fast fashion.

As for music, the soundtrack of the coming years could be a reversion to a more light-hearted feeling – at least in the genre of pop.

Revelling in memories of the late 90s-2000s is one of my favourite pastimes, so to that I say,  ‘that’s hot.’