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Generation Throwback

ByLydia Watson

Feb 10, 2015

A recent article on ASOS.com – of all places – drooling over the TV star David Duchovny and excitedly relaying the news of a potential reboot of The X-Files, seems to have made it official: the 90s are coming back in force. From copious fashion trends to TV shows and boy bands, the 90s influence is everywhere, and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. The question is, why has this sudden resurgence in 90s culture and fashion emerged?

A comeback of 90s fashion has been around for years, ranging from red lipstick – the darker the better – and scrunchies, to the iconic ‘mom’ jeans. A recent piece from InStyle points out countless other circulating trends: chokers, floral skater dresses, platform boots, big hair and denim jackets, to name a few. Some are more obvious than others – the amount of midriff on show has surely tripled in the past few years, thanks to the rise of the crop top – but others are more subtle. Tiny plaits, and even the odd cornrow, are slowly emerging, bringing to mind Rayanne Graff in My So-Called Life, and the plaid shirt is also on the rise (think Twin Peaks’ Bobby Briggs). The 90s ‘grunge’ look is evident everywhere from Urban Outfitters to Lorde, and with it has come a relentless enthusiasm for the ‘grunge’ staple: Dr Martens. In 2012, ASOS reported sales of DMs rising by 256 per cent, and the variety and diversity of designs have rocketed.

90s TV is also making a steady return. Friends has, of course, always been a big deal – especially now that the US Netflix is showing all ten seasons – but there are countless other 90s programmes worth mentioning.

Most excitingly, a new series of Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s early 90s surreal crime drama, is launching in 2016. An unexpected success, the show centred on the mysterious and peculiar events of a small-scale US town, following the murder of its teenage homecoming queen. In 1991 it was awarded three Golden Globes awards, and was described by Time magazine as ‘the most hauntingly original work ever done for American TV’. The show’s return has sparked enormous public interest and further prompts the question of exactly why we are so fascinated by the 90s, and so keen to see it return.

On top of this, X-Files fans have been thrilled by rumours of a potential new series. Last month Vanity Fair relayed the news that Fox TV has confirmed a ‘logistical’ phase of reboot, and since both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny appear to be up for it – with Anderson allegedly proclaiming herself ‘fucking overjoyed’ at the prospect – it seems likely that for those who believe, the truth is not far off.

Meanwhile, Nickelodeon have been busy since July 2011 bringing back reruns of classic American 90s teen shows, aired in a midnight-4am slot on TeenNick. Launched under the tagline ‘the 90s are all that’, the slot has resurrected multiple programmes from Hey Arnold! to Clarissa Explains It All and has been met with a positive public response.

Significantly, their decision was based on data compiled from social media that showed huge enthusiasm – and indeed demands – from hundreds of fans for whom shows such as All That and Rugrats epitomised their childhood. Re-runs are admittedly less exciting than a whole new series, but the fact that it was a response to fans’ requests – with ‘the possibility to expand based on viewer suggestions’ – shows that 90s media is becoming big business.

So why this sudden revival of styles and TV shows that are over twenty years old? A PopCrush article puts it down to several factors: internet and social media, nostalgia and boy bands. What the internet wants, the internet gets, and if that happens to be endless blogs, vlogs and articles describing, recounting, expounding on and generally obsessing over the 90s, then so be it. Social media has provided everyone, fans and stars alike, with an entirely new way to interact, and has also made it a thousand times easier to share anything even remotely 90s-related. The stars and creators of 90s TV shows and movies have never been so aware of their fan base, which brings us nicely to the second point: nostalgia.

Since many 90s shows were aired when their viewers were either teenagers or young adults, it makes sense that fans associate them with simpler times. A certain state of wistfulness descends on almost everyone thinking back to their childhood or teenage years, and this manifests itself in a rising enthusiasm for anything associated with them.

This applies to reuniting casts and musicians, too, especially for boy bands such as Take That, Blink 182 and Blue who are seeing their phenomenal past success mirrored in the likes of One Direction and The Wanted. This new crop of quiffed, clean-shaven and romantically inclined adolescents have proved that the market is still there, and are subsequently paving the way for the reunion of their predecessors. Boy bands are here to stay, and it’s the 90s that spawned them.

Additionally, the fact remains that pop culture does inevitably exist in a loop. We never seem completely happy with our own era: in the 70s, people looked back to the 50s for inspiration (take Grease), and in the 90s, they were getting nostalgic about the 60s and 70s. Fashion in particular has a cyclical nature, meaning that eventually somebody, somewhere, will decide that it’s time to give a particular style a look-in again.

There comes a point where people become bored of a certain look: it becomes dated or dull, or too widely circulated so that everybody starts looking the same. As a result, the elites of the fashion industry start looking back to previous eras for inspiration, high street shops take commercial advantage of the hype, and the whole cycle begins again. Sooner or later it’s highly likely that the 90s will lose the limelight, and focus will shift to the ‘80s instead.

However, quite apart from the rise of internet phenomena, nostalgia and the cyclical nature of pop culture, a longing for 90s is also perhaps a longing for a generally nicer time. Our generation has been brought up alongside war, mass production, recession, climate change crisis and advanced technology. Medical reports and investigations frequently tell us that we are fatter, lazier and unhealthier than our predecessors, and our predecessors themselves willingly back this up. A return to the style and culture of the 90s and the accompanying attitudes is, possibly, a conscious rejection of this negative modern environment. The depressing fact remains that there is no reason to believe the 90s were ‘better’ than this generation at all – it remains just a romantic notion, reinforced perhaps by commercialism and nostalgia.


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