As vintage fashion trends are becoming popular, many people are casting their gaze back towards the ’90s. Many young professionals also came of age during this period, so with fatter wallets compared to their student years, it comes as no surprise that their nostalgia for the decade reflects in their shopping choices. It’s also been 30 years since the beginning of the ’90s, so movies from this generation have had time to be rediscovered by new audiences and acquire cult status for their enduring popularity.
The ’90s were also a time of rapid technological innovation, especially in the second half during the dot-com boom. This event divides the first half of the decade looking having a more analog appearance compared to the modernity of the later years. It was a period of eclectic and changing styles that draw inspiration from a variety of subcultures.
10 Boyz N The Hood (1991)
Centering on gang culture in the south-central Los Angeles area of Compton, 1991’s Boyz in the Hood is a touchstone for the early ’90s aesthetic of the west coast Black community. Snapbacks with Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Dodgers logos emblazoned on the front, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s now-iconic yellow and black Crenshaw shirt, the bold color patterns and affinity for denim, as well as the convertible lowriders the characters cruise the streets in, comprise the stylistic staples that the movie popularized.
9 Clueless (1995)
Beverly Hills glamor captures the spotlight in 1995’s Clueless. The movie’s popularity rests in its focus on the cultural role of malls, especially its popularity with female high school students, which in the current trend of online shopping is becoming a relic of the past. Colorful plaid outfits, headbands, floral blossom hats, and shopping bags are a form of self-expression for Cher Horowitz. She uses her good fashion sense to lift her friend Tai out of social obscurity, transforming Tai’s plain grunge aesthetic to a more posh Beverly Hills’ look.
8 The Matrix (1999)
Arriving late in the decade but marking the movie industry with the futurism of the dot-com boom, The Matrix combines technological innovation with the underground techno culture that developed throughout the ’90s. The characters’ scrappy attire in the real world belongs to a primitive age. When they enter the digital reality of the Matrix, they look outfitted for a rave, wearing black trench coats and leather suits. This contrast in apparel shows how the technological advancements of the time were revolutionizing the appearance of society into a modern world.
But the Wachowski Sisters’ dystopian vision of the future is not invulnerable to aging. The phone booth, which has since been erased from the world’s city streets, also functions as a fundamental plot device that shows how quickly the digital age has progressed.
7 Mid90s (2018)
Jonah Hill’s 2018 directorial debut Mid90s transports audiences back to southern California, telling a coming of age story that uses the burgeoning skateboard scene as its backdrop. N64’s didn’t release until 1996, the year in which the movie takes place, so the main character Stevie lounges in an oversized hoodie and denim jeans, playing an old school Playstation. Other popular culture references from the time flourish, such as Stevie’s Street Fighter II t-shirt and his brother’s collection of grunge CDs. The blown-out fish eye lens used in the closing sequence is also a call back to the early skateboard videos of the time.
6 Pretty Woman (1990)
Julia Roberts was the biggest female actress during the ’90s, and images of her at that time are synonymous with her portrayal in 1990’s Pretty Woman. She plays an innocently natured prostitute who experiences the high life when corporate mogul Edward Lewis welcomes her into his world. For this reason, the movie portrays a combination of street and boutique fashion, though Robert’s hoop earrings, studded leather bracelets, white crop top, and hoodie classically tied around her waist is her most memorable outfit.
5 Pulp Fiction (1994)
Among the ’90s most iconic movies, 1994’s Pulp Fiction uncovers Los Angeles’ dark side. The art direction from the movie has become the subject of parodies and recreation by other pop artists that include names like Banksy. Jules’ and Vincent’s black and white three-piece suits, while never out of style, associated the outfit with the characters’ wise-cracking nonchalant bravado, giving it new life. Uma Thurman’s black bob cut has since become timeless, and is as popular today as after the movie’s release. Audiences have also been trying to recreate the dance sequence between Mia and Vincent at Jack Rabbit Slim’s for decades now.
4 Reality Bites (1994)
Entering theaters in the first half of the decade in 1994, Reality Bites reminds audiences of what it was like to be young without computers and cellphones. Ethan Hawke plays as a jaded New York City slacker, brimming with intellect yet short on ambition. He stars alongside the darling of the decade, Winona Ryder, styled with her signature crop cut.
The two share an apartment with two other friends, one of which works at the Gap, a clothing chain synonymous with ’90s mall culture. In their spare time, they gather on rooftops overlooking the city, seated on abandoned grungy couches smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, eating Pringles, and tossing around a slinky.
3 Singles (1992)
As director Cameron Crowe worked towards his smash hit Almost Famous, he directed 1992’s Singles, which revolves around a group of twenty-somethings living life in Seattle during the booming years of its grunge scene. Whether tied around their waists or thrown around their backs, the gang has an obvious affinity for flannel. The long parted hair, tucked in baggy shirts, and black Dr. Marten’s that sculpt the grunge look are all part of the characters’ fashion wheelhouse.
2 Wayne’s World (1992)
At a time when Saturday Night Live was taking over television, it was only natural that there would be a movie about two die-hard rock fans that use their fandom to turn into commentating personalities. The titular pair’s knee ripped jeans are a call back to the ’90s era of Nirvana, especially the album Nevermind which was released the same year as the movie in 1992. Besides many turns of phrase that have since become mainstays of popular culture, the movie’s celebration of rock music throws back to a time before electronic music began to take over.
1 White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
One cannot reconsider the ’90s without thinking of Michael Jordan and the sensationalism around basketball. In 1992 during the middle of Jordan’s superstardom ascent, White Men Can’t Jump had a timely release that captured the spirit and trends of the basketball craze. Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson star as two street league basketballers that appropriately wear mid-top ball shoes, tube socks, snapbacks, and loose-fitting jerseys and shirts, most of which are synonymous with retro looks today.
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