On Accepting That My Teens are Trendy Again

Every so often, I see my teens come back into fashion.

I was an alternative kid in the 90s. I turned twelve in 1990, twenty-two in the year 2000. I was there, clad in my DMs, my plaid shirts, oversized T-shirts and babydoll dresses and toting my discman as it whirred and skipped its way through Siamese Dream.

The first time I noticed a nineties revival, I wailed, "I'm not old enough to be retro! And they're doing it wrong! Their lipstick's not smudged and their clothes fit them properly!"

But I've come to accept it now. I remember walking around Topshop sometime last year (whilst remembering walking around Top Shop in the late 90s when it was the place to go for suit jackets, pencil skirts and self-coloured T-shirts), marvelling because it was like being inside my adolescent wardrobe. There were the same washed-soft tartan babydoll dresses, the biker boots and, for heaven's sake, the exact same band T-shirts but crisp and clean and without any cracks in the logos.

"I wish I'd kept all my 90s clothes," I texted Steff. "I could have made a fortune on eBay."

But I didn't mind. I didn't mind that I was retro. Because at least it meant that kids these days had temporarily excellent taste.

(Yes, yes, I just used the phrase "kids these days"; I've long since accepted that I'm no longer one of the "young people".)

But recently something alarming occured to me.

It occured to me that, back in the 90s, I happily pillaged 70s fashions and styles. I wore maxi skirts and garish florals; I listened to Joni Mitchell on my dad's old record player and I read a lot about zen. The 70s were retro to me and I pictured them in a romanticised and slightly patronising way based on photos of my mum and her friends wearing headscarves; the 70s were all about babysitting circles in handmade dresses sitting around sunny gardens on stripy deckchairs. Everything was over-saturated and tinted orange.

The 70s had happened twenty years earlier and that made them The Good Old Days When People Were More Innocent.

Well, the 90s happened twenty years ago.

Which, for the kids donning their plaid shirts and listening to Nirvana now, might make them The Good Old Days When People Were More Innocent.

Me in the 90s celebrating National Leo Day
Those kids may picture my adolesence in a romanticised and slightly patronising way based on album sleeve photos of riot grrrls wearing velvet jackets; the 90s to them may be all about screenprinted flyers and Simpsons stickers and smoky clubs and furniture dragged up six flights of stairs from the skip. Everything may be bleached out and tinted blue.

And, while I can handle the fashions being retro, it unsettles me to realise that my formative years are, too. That the actions and lives and habits of my teens are sentimentally seen as quaint.

But what I think disturbed me most was the realisation that my own view of the 90s is seen through a pair of rose-tinted John Lennon glasses, too. It's long enough ago that none of the drama hurts or particularly embarrasses me any more; it's long enough ago that my social circle has almost entirely changed and when I run into people I knew back then I struggle to recognise them or to reconcile their careers and offspring with the unambitious stoners they used to be; it's long enough ago that I can talk about it in clichés (DMs; Siamese Dream; smoky clubs) without defensively listing the ways in which the stereotypes were not me.

So perhaps that's why it no longer bothers me each time my teens become trendy. Because they were long enough ago that they're not me any more; the fashions are a pastiche of another girl, another time in my life - they don't feel like a stylised twist on me.

12 comments

  1. It seems to me now that the 1990s were probably the last era to have consistent trends that can be looked back at. I was born in 1991, so I spent my teens in the 00s. And I don't remember us (even though I was never really a member of "us," so I'm generalizing here) having any distinct fashions or favourite bands. But I think that with time, the defining characteristics of the 00s will, somehow, emerge, or be made. And I wonder how I'll feel about that.

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  2. It was really weird for me to realize that the teenagers now were born in the late '90s, and that to a large extent it is them driving pop culture. Like all of a sudden I didn't get the music anymore and I didn't understand any of the slang. So weird!

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  3. I think I am past the baby doll tartan dress stage sadly, no matter how much they call my name, it feels wrong to re-live it...I did see a Dad picking out tiny Doc Marten's with his kids in Glasgow recently, which was kind of adorable. I had a similar revelation a few years ago that Lollapalooza was officially as old as Woodstock was to me in my youth...sobering!

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  4. I've decided we can get away with bits of 90s fashion (a babydoll dress with big boots, say) provided we rein in the messy hair and the shoddy make up.

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  5. Right? And their bland, samey music videos - where did all the plot lines go?!

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  6. Interesting... I think the current era will be remembered for hipsters - bow ties and nail art, city bikes and the rise of the freelance career - but I don't have a clear image of the 00s. I wonder if that's because the alternative kids were busily connecting on the internet so didn't need such a visible image? Or perhaps it's just that it was one of those periods with plenty jobs and accessible mortgages and shiny new gadgets so people had less need to build a counter culture?

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  7. I always imagine the 90s as way cooler than now, it's funny to think that is now seen as 'vintage' and is making a 'comeback'. In my mind I guess it never really went away. OK, I gave up on lots of it but I still pull the indie and grunge CDs out now and again, I still wear biker boots akin to those I wore in my teens, I still wear black nail varnish and band tees. I guess I've come back into fashion again...sort of. Not sure if that's good or bad?!

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  8. I always think of the 90s as being this amazing time, mostly because I was just a *little* too young to properly enjoy it. I was 16 in 2000, so the grunge stuff was largely petering out by the time I was a teenager, making way for boy bands, pop punk, and nu metal. (*Shudder*)



    Still, I can't help but feel nostalgic for the music of my childhood. (I've been going through a Smashing Pumpkins phase lately, reviving a lot of great memories.) Also, I was shocked--shocked!--when I saw the words "vintage" and "90s" paired together.

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  9. I'm a bit older, but it always seemed like my teens didn't have any distinctive fashion trends either. (I was a teen in the late 90s, early 00s.) However, when I watch movies of that era--that's when all the fashion trends really jump out at me. Give it a few more years and watch a movie from the mid-00s and you'll really notice all the distinctive mid-00s fashions.

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  10. It WAS this amazing time. *rubs smears off rose-tinted glasses*

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  11. I've been told my style is 90s as if that's a bad thing. Crazy talk.

    I don't get the current snideness towards hipsters; it's basically just the 90s ethos with modern gadgetry and I see nothing wrong with idealism or bucking against mainstream expectations. But, then, the 90s stole those attitudes from the 70s so I guess we can't take too much credit.

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  12. Oh, that's true - I'd forgotten about nu metal because it came in while I was still doing my 90s job; I forget it was a wee bit later. :)

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Please play nice.