10 Terrible Fashion Trends We Thought Were Cool as Kids
Nineties nostalgia is in full swing, and with it, the era's music is making a comeback. But the return of Nirvana and Pearl Jam doesn’t necessitate a wholesale revaluation of ‘90s fashion, which, by and large, consisted of extreme choices and seriously absurd styles. (Ultra-baggy JNCO raver jeans and riot grrrl babydoll dresses may have seemed like good ideas at the time, but …) What follows are 10 terrible fashion trends we thought were cool as kids. Looking back two decades on, we realize — and are thankful — that things have changed.
The Flannel Shirt
The standard centerpiece of all proper grunge outfits, the flannel shirt rose to popularity in the early-'90s right alongside grunge music. This was mostly due to bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, whose frontmen Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder (pictured) frequently wore plaid-patterned flannels. The connection can be attributed primarily to geography, as Pacific Northwest loggers would pass on their well-worn flannels to the local thrift stores frequented by the young and hip searching for new threads.
Dr. Martens Army Boots
While a precisely placed pair of Dr. Martens is an accessory that, in rare circumstances, can still be pulled off today — oversized flannels, fishnets and steel-toe Docs is a timeless look, if worn sparingly — the ubiquity of army boots back in the '90s lead to many ill-advised style combinations. Even worse were the numerous unnecessary varieties of boots introduced once Docs became big, from plaid and paisley to corduroy and, of course, flannel.
Gaining recognition in the '90s with ultra-wide, straight-legged denim jeans featuring elaborate pocket logos, JNCO quickly caught on in the hip-hop, skater, hardcore and raver/club subcultures. The super-baggy-pants look — a natural fit for our 10 Terrible Fashion Trends We Thought Were Cool as Kids list — was especially ubiquitous in the rave scene, but back then, trousers were generally worn loose and roomy, which in contrast to the tight, skinny-legged look popular today, seems especially ridiculous.
Another popular raver item, colorful visors were often used to top off a complete look that included the previously mentioned ultra-baggy pants, often paired with a wife-beater or some sort of mesh jersey top and completed by an assortment of accessories, including neon bracelets and necklaces, pacifiers, facemasks, goggles, glow sticks and even whistles.
Body / Tongue Piercings
Remember the Jim Rose Circus — the travelling freak show that hit the road with everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Lollapalooza and exemplified the growing interest in extreme body alteration in the ‘90s, which impacted youth culture on the whole by making tattoos and, even more surprisingly, body piercing widely acceptable? Earrings, of course, were already common, but suddenly nose rings, tongue rings, eyebrow rings and more were suddenly everywhere.
Skrillex tried his damnedest to bring this look back in the last couple of years, but the half-shaved haircut – a Terrible Fashion Trend achieved by, you guessed it, shaving one side of the head and keeping the rest long — was actually first popularized by the so-called Grebo music movement of the '90s in middle England, where bands like Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned's Atomic Dustbin and Carter USM ruled the airwaves.
We're not quite sure what made chain wallets all the rage for a spell in the '90s — they weren't exactly uncertain economic times, that's for sure — but nothing protects your billfold quite like a chain holding it down to your belt loop, and protected money will always be en vogue. Popular with punks in the '80s, chain wallets enjoyed wider appeal in the '90s, as skaters, metal heads and even some grungers picked up on the trend.
What's the point of wearing glasses without lenses? When it comes to fashion, the point is there doesn't have to be a point. Not surprisingly, the trend can be traced back to the overly stylish and fashion-conscious girls of Harajuku in Tokyo, Japan, who donned giant, thick-rimmed glasses with no lenses so they wouldn't be reflected in flash photographs.
Gas Station Attendant Shirt
In the late '90s, punk bands like Rocket from the Crypt and the Reverend Horton Heat popularised a trend that seemingly came out of nowhere: wearing gas station shirts and dark-colored bowling shirts. Both retro looks commonly come as short-sleeve button-downs in solid colors, and the bowling shirts were often complimented with large, gaudy lettering. Gas station shirts, meanwhile, weren't complete without a name tag, usually featuring a common name like Ed, Bob or Rick.
The rise of the '90s riot grrrl movement also marked a spike in the popularity of the babydoll dress, often worn with knee-length socks and platform Mary Janes to complete a style known for being universally flattering for all ages and body types. Courtney Love, Kat Bjelland of Babes in Toyland and, of course, the Spice Girls' Baby Spice were known for rocking said garments — the final entry on our Terrible Fashion Trends We Thought Were Cool as Kids list.