In my opinion, the ‘90s were the best decade. Am I biased because I was born in ‘95? Perhaps. But seriously, think about it—MTV and Nickelodeon were in their prime. The Disney Renaissance happened. Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys, and Spice Girls made some of the greatest bops in pop music history. Possibly my favorite thing about the ‘90s, though? It spawned some truly iconic trends that I think will always be relevant, in one form or another. I say this with confidence because ‘90s styles have continuously resurfaced on the fashion scene in recent years, and for that I’m thankful.
From grunge fashion like ripped jeans and Doc Martens, to bold statement wear such as chunky sneakers and animal print, ‘90s fashion is making a comeback and let me tell you, the nostalgia is real. If you want to get in on the action, here are 16 retro-inspired trends from the ‘90s that are big again in 2019.
1. Scrunchies that are actually good for your hair
The reason I’m glad scrunchies are popular again is twofold. First, they make me feel like one of the Tanner girls, or better yet, Kimmie Gibbler, and second, they actually protect your hair from breakage because they’re way gentler than regular elastics. These satin ones from Anthro come in so many different colors, so I love coordinating them with my outfit as well as wearing one on my wrist to signal to strangers that I was definitely born before 2000. Looking like you just walked off the set of Full House and avoiding damaged hair? It’s a win-win.
2. Birkenstocks that are ‘ugly’ yet chic
I’d like to personally thank whoever pioneered bringing Birks back. You are the hero we not only need but deserve. While they are a fairly divisive sandal (some people even liken them to wearing Crocs, yikes), I personally love my Birks because of the comfy footbed and how easy they are to slide on. I’m warning you now though, jumping on the Birk bandwagon will change your life and ruin all other shoes for you. Trust me, you’ll never want to change out of a sandal that’s perfectly contoured to your foot shape.
3. Overalls to awaken your inner child
Unless you’ve already been dabbling in ‘90s styles, the last time you presumably wore overalls was when you were a toddler. Yet overalls—bib, metal clasps, and all—are now a grown-up trend and will be right up your alley if you love an off-duty, casual look. This time around, looser silhouettes are being favored by the likes of Emily Ratajkowksi and Margot Robbie, who pair their overalls with a simple bandeau. There’s also plenty of other styles to choose from, whether you prefer “shortalls” for the warm weather or linen ones for a more modern, summery look, and ASOS in particular has styles we love.
- Get the Casual Strappy Overall from ASOS for $56
- Get the Denim Short Overall Romper from ASOS for $56
4. Mini backpacks that make fun-sized travel accessories
One of the most iconic lines in ‘90s cinematic history is when Bianca Stratford said, “I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack” in 10 Things I Hate About You. Though I don’t own any Skechers, I very much resonate with her sentiment regarding her mini black nylon Prada. I feel like she, along with Cher Horowitz, would definitely welcome the return of mini backpacks, which have been spotted on the backs of current it-girls Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, along with a slew of other celebs. If all the Insta models and influencers are taking part in a trend, you know it’s hot. Here are two of my favorite takes on the mini backpack, by brands Herschel and Longchamp.
5. Animal print for an eye-catching ensemble
Not sure if you’ve heard, but the leopard print midi skirt is having a serious moment right now. It’s so ubiquitous that there’s even some major drama surrounding the trend. For the time being, the leopard midi seems here to stay, but if you’re trying to branch out, python and zebra prints are also very on point for spring 2019. Whether you want to rock some snake print booties like these Steve Madden shoes or a cheetah print jacket like Free People’s crop jacket, these ‘90s patterns can be a sophisticated and stylish addition to any neutral outfit.
6. Utility pieces for fashion-forward practicality
Who would’ve thought that after all the slander that cargo short wearers have endured over the years, a similar pocket-heavy trend would become popular in the fashion community once more? That’s right, army pants and combat jackets aren’t just for the Lindsay Lohans and Lindsay Weirs of the world, but are now a full-blown, safari-esque aesthetic. To achieve the utilitarian style, you can opt for a simple pair of neutral-hued trousers, or this khaki jumpsuit from ASOS that will have you looking chic without going full-on Tomb Raider.
- Get the Stradivarius Paperbag Utility Pants from ASOS for $40.50
- Get the Bershka Utility Jumpsuit from ASOS for $56
7. Mom jeans, because Levi’s 501s are forever
Good news for moms everywhere, because their favorite pair of jeans is finally back in style! You know the ones—they’re faded, stone-washed, and high-waisted with a straight, tapered leg, and your mom has been wearing them forever—duh. In keeping with the “death of the skinny jean” movement, baggier, loose-fitting jeans are now considered cool again, which is great news for all of us who crave comfort, because these types of jeans fit so many body shapes. If you want to partake in the trend you can always go for the classic Levi’s 501s, or try out one of the Levi lines at retailers like Urban Outfitters.
- Get the 501 Originial Fit Jeans from Levi for $48.99
- Get the Levi’s Wedgie High-Rise Jean from Urban Outfitters for $98
8. Tie-dye apparel for your inner flower child
Up until recently, the only tie-dye I would ever consider wearing were the ratty bed shirts I made with my siblings one summer long, long ago. Then I saw Beyoncé wear a tie-dye dress in Italy last year, and suddenly I had a newfound appreciation for the formerly hippie pattern. Fashion designers made quick work of elevating the look, with classy tie-dye shift dresses and A-line skirts springing up at Fashion Week this year, and the rest was history. Here are two cute tie-dye pieces that I love from Anthropologie and ASOS.
9. Slip dresses you can wear outside the bedroom
The slip dress is not a new trend, but rather one that has come and gone in waves since the mid-1900s. Its resurgence today, however, is definitely tied back to the ‘90s wave in terms of styling, as you often see the silky frock paired with a simple t-shirt underneath or flannel tied at the waist. Whether you want your look to be more feminine or edgier, the dress is so popular right now that’s it’s easy to find it in any length or print you prefer, but we love this one by high-end brand Reformation.
10. Dr. Martens to embrace the punk life
Docs were originally designed as a more comfortable military boot alternative, and quickly became symbolic of the U.K. alternative subculture in the ‘60s through the grunge scene of the ‘90s, but have since filtered down to the masses and are now considered a versatile wardrobe staple for every style. From winter to summer, you’ve probably seen hipsters sporting the brand’s chunky combat boots on the street, and wondered if you should get a pair yourself. If you’re still a non-believer of the Dr. Marten renaissance, just know this: my own pair of Docs has lasted me for over 10 years (and through countless music festivals) without ripping or tearing, so the quality speaks for itself.
11. Bike shorts that aren’t straight outta the Tour De France
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, cycling shorts, which started getting extra trendy last year, are not going anywhere. But hey, if you’re looking for someone to blame, point the finger at the Kardashians. I personally became a fan of bike shorts when I heard the analogy that they are basically just leggings for summer. They’re comfy, sporty, and can surprisingly be dressed up or down with blazers and kitten heels, or a t-shirt and sneakers depending on what vibe you’re going for. They also come in a bunch of funky patterns and neon colors, like these from Urban Outfitters, so all you need to go full ‘90s with your sportswear look is a fanny pack.
12. Barrettes so your hair looks sexy pushed back
If you told me a few years ago that the glittery barrettes and snap clips I used to use as a kid would be back in style, I wouldn’t have believed you for a second. Yet here we are in 2019, and the spring runway was filled with barrettes both big and small, like these ones from Anthro, with many girls using them as an everyday accessory to push back their hair on one side and add a nostalgic touch of fun to their locks. I honestly need to prepare myself, because butterfly clips may be next.
13. Clunky sneakers that even Dad would approve of
So the chunky sneaker apocalypse has been upon us for a while now, which is just another example (like the Birkenstocks) of the objectively “ugly-cute” aesthetic. I’ll be the first to admit that I still don’t understand the appeal of those white platform Fila sneakers that I’ve been seeing at every turn, but I digress. This sneaker trend shows no sign of slowing down, so you might as well find a fresh pair to invest in, like these Adidas Falcon sneakers.
14. Tiny sunglasses because Kim and Kanye said so
While this may not be a trend that’s here to stay, the Kardashians and Hadids are certainly trying to make sure that tiny sunglasses are on everyone’s radar for the time being. Huge sunglasses are so 2000s, so it only makes sense that small frames now have their time in the spotlight once more. If you don’t want to look like Neo from The Matrix though, just make sure you find a flattering shape for your face, like these cat-eye or rectangle frames, perhaps.
- Get the Nova Slim Cat-Eye Sunglasses from Urban Outfitters for $18
- Get the Gigi Slim Rectangle Sunglasses from Urban Outfitters for $10
15. Fanny packs that aren’t just for festival season anymore
One of the most polarizing trends on this list, fanny packs are not for the faint of heart. If you’re going to opt for a “belt bag” as they’re now called, you have to do so boldly and potentially wear it across your chest, because that’s how the youths pull them off, apparently. Both fashionable and functional, they are lightweight, hands-free, and look hella cool, which is basically what geeky tourists have been trying to say all along. Personally I like my pack to have a fun pattern, like this one from ASOS.
16. Embellished denim jackets for a touch of individuality
I’ll be honest, I still have a collection of patches, stickers, and other trinkets in my room that I collected back in the ‘90s. Customizing your backpack or marker box was something every kid loved to do, and now the trend has been revitalized in the form of, drumroll please, denim jackets. Recently, designers and retailers have been adding pearls, pins, and other embellishments to add a bit of ‘90s flair to the wardrobe staple. Whether you want to DIY your own jacket or buy one pre-made like these Levi and Madewell jackets, your outfit will be a little more unique and on trend either way.
- Get the Levi’s Embroidered Denim Trucker Jacket from Nordstrom for $128
- Get the Madewell Embroidered Denim Chore Coat from Nordstrom for $168
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.