Fashion Faux Pas: Trends from the 90’s

New Kids on the Block, Luke Perry, Beanie Babies – just a few fads from the 1990s that are better left alone and repressed in the darkest corners of our minds. But beyond these wincing examples lays the real culprit of the 20th Century’s last decade – the God-awful fashions that in hindsight leave us all with the burning question — what were we wearing? Granted each decade has its own fashion faux pas to reconcile, but at least most other time periods could be credited for having a modicum of character. Trendy clothing in the 1990s seems to have been made for either out-of-touch soccer moms or the homeless. Here are some of the, um, “interesting” trends of the decade. Enjoy reminiscing!


Hammer Parachute Pants

  1. MC Hammer Pants: M.C. Hammer may not be remembered for his vast contributions to music, but he will forever go down in history as the man who brought possibly one of the worst clothing items of all time to popularity. Hammer Pants, also known to some as Diaper pants, first came on the scene in the late 1980s, but carried over into the first part of the 1990s.
  2. “Button Your Fly” Shirts: OK, so this is just a campaign slogan printed on a T-shirt – how bad can it be? Well, considering the level of saturation these shirts had in the market, pretty bad. Rough cotton, an unflattering cut, and the fact that people tended to sport the shirt smugly and with a suppressed giggle at the slogan’s suggestiveness, renders this fad a shoe-in for the garbage pile.
  3. Neon Colors: It’s possible to debate whether or not the popularity of neon colors can be attributed to the 1980s or the 1990s, but personal memories place this trend squarely in the late and early part of both. Unique shades of pink, green, and what was bewilderingly classified as yellow graced mostly every piece of trendy clothing from ski jackets to jeans. Yep, neon jeans. Jealous you missed this one? No worries, it seems like many modern designers are trying to bring neon into style. Stay tuned as neon becomes fashionable in the form of custom neon shirts and custom neon tank tops.Printing on Custom Neon Shirts
  4. Butterfly Clips: If you were a raver girl or if you were simply alive between 1996 and 1999, you’ve probably seen and/or worn these cutsie little butterfly clips, which were sported by many an “alterna-teen” during the time period. Popular among raver girls in particular, these clips were usually implemented to somewhat girlify some of the decade’s wardrobe standards, like combat boots and severe eye makeup. They were also the one feminine accessory popular among females of the Goth persuasion, but today would probably only be attractive to the 5- to 7-year-old crowd.
  5. Scrunchies: Oh, the scrunchie. Perhaps one of the most widespread, staple pieces of any female’s wardrobe in the 1990s, the scrunchie – a big, bulky, overdone hair accessory – practically rendered plain ponytail holders and elastics obsolete. And any girl with a basic knowledge of a needle and thread is probably guilty of trying to start their own homegrown scrunchie business, or at least crafting their own supply – custom made to match various neon outfits.
  6. Flannel: What trend did a bunch of heroin addicts and your father make famously popular in the early to mid-1990s? Oversize, beat-up flannel shirts worn unbuttoned over a plain T-shirt. Following the fashion lead of Seattle musicians who rarely bathed, many a teenager could be classified as “grunge” in the 1990s, slumming around in frumpy, holey flannel shirts either stolen from the closet of a familial adult male or purchased at a thrift store. How this lumberjack-on-sedatives look became so chic is beyond comprehension. Thanks Kurt Cobain!
  7. Overalls: Farmer or fashionista? If you were spotted wearing overalls in the 1990s, you would fortunately be considered the latter. Iowa residents had never been so effortlessly “in vogue”. But, overalls are ugly, so this trend had a short lifespan on it from the outset (especially when considered it was “the bomb” to wear them with only one strap fastened). And while some designers are trying with all their might to bring some this awful fashion back into style, here’s to hoping the overall stays dead in the morgue.
  8. Doc Martens: On the surface, Doc Martens don’t seem so bad. They actually have a pretty simple, no-frills, albeit clunky, design. So maybe it’s just the way that they were implemented in the 1990s that made them so awful. Worn most typically with light, taper-cut jeans or a short Union Jack dress, these shoes were supposed to lend an edge to a person’s image, but really just succeeded in making them look like a 3-year-old in their parent’s shoes.DocMartens
  9. Stirrup Pants: Oh the horror of stirrup pants, which were so very popular during the early part of this decade. Spandex leggings that wrapped around the bottom of a woman’s foot, there isn’t much to say about stirrups other than they were just bad, bad, bad on so many levels. While leggings have come back with a vengeance in recent days, attempts to resurrect the stirrup have, thankfully, failed thus far.Stirrup Pants
  10. Sun-In: Want to go blond? No prob! Just head down to your local Walgreen’s or CVS and pick up a handy bottle of Sun-In. A few spritzs and in no time you’ll have … splotchy orange hair. Sun-In succeeded in convincing a whole population of girls with a blond ambition that the product could make them look like Madonna with just a few hours at the beach. Unfortunately, this claim wasn’t exactly true. A whole other “Just Say No” campaign should have been created for this product and for the orange hair it produced.
  11. Umbros: There may be some clueless soccer players out there who still wear Umbros because they either think they’re still cool or because they appreciate their functionality. But you didn’t have to be David Beckham to rock these bi-tonal, parachute shorts in the 90s – they were popular with just about every guy, no matter whether they were on Varsity or the Chess Team. I’ve even seen one daring dude wear them over a pair of taper-cut jeans. True story.
  12. Jean Cut Offs: Another arguable trend, jean cut-offs can be and have been done in an attractive manner before. But in the 1990s, the look was generally botched. Consider the fact that the trend was to wear your cut-offs knee length and then delicately roll them to hide any frayed edges. Oh, and don’t forget to pair the outfit with a nice, thick set of scrunchy socks and some Keds. No bueno.
  13. White & Colored Denim: Another trend trying desperately to elbow its way back into mainstream society, courtesy of kitsch designers like American Apparel and Marc Jacobs, is colored and white denim. The way this craze played out in the 1990s is truly a movement to be forgotten like yesterday’s news. I don’t care who you are, purple jeans are not awesome.
  14. Hot Pink Leggings: Unless you are Cyndi Lauper, you should stay far away from hot pink leggings. In the 1990s, people liked to sport oversized button down shirts over these awful things (some of them with stirrup feet) and the bolder the pattern on your shirt to complement the craziness of your leggings, the better.
  15. Champion Sweatshirts: “All I need in this world is a turtleneck and a crew cut Champion sweatshirt.” This seemed to be the mantra of the less fashion-forward crowd in the 1990s. Preppies and jocks alike loved sporting this combination, especially if they lived in colder climates. Champion is still around making sportswear, but thankfully no one confuses the brand for being “designer” anymore.
  16. Glitter: Send another thank you card to the raver kids for introducing facial glitter as an annoying fad in the 1990s. Maybe they took too many drugs or maybe girls covered in glitter just looked better when they took too many drugs – who knows. While having a shimmer to one’s face is nice, chunks of gelled glitter (usually concentrated near the eyes) is really not too suave looking unless you are a member of Jem and the Holograms.
  17. Tapered Jeans: The 1980s had tight roll, or “peg-leg,” jeans. In the 1990s, it seems designers were more concerned with helping people be more efficient in the morning. Hence the taper cut jean – pants already pegged – which helped people in shaving a good 30 seconds off the getting-ready-for-school routine, in addition to helping them look like total idiots once they got there. The cherry on top of the tapered jean look was the fact that the pants were usually cut with a pretty high waist, making people’s thighs appear enormous and their asses long.
  18. Manic Panic: People who were really rebellious in the 1990s usually had a nice hearty supply of Manic Panic stored under their bathroom sink. That way, whenever they had an unruly whim, they could instantly change their hair color from Vampire Red to Electric Lizzard (the latter of which glows under a black light – score!) The number of teenagers who shaved a good 10 years off their parents’ life spans using these hideous hair dyes is large. Surely it’s not worth damaging your parents’ health just so you can look like an alien.ManicPanic
  19. Chain Wallets: Chain wallet = tough. And if you wanted to maintain a cool air of apathy in the 1990s, you had to have a chain wallet. It was requisite, and it was wrong. Let’s leave this trend to Harley Davidson enthusiasts and janitors.
  20. Body Suits: Akin to the taper-cut jean and the stirrup pant, one can only assume that the body suit was designed by the same proficient clothing maker who knows that life is short and every second should be relished. From a functional standpoint the body suit, a glorified swimsuit meant to be worn with jeans or under business suits, seems to have been created so that people don’t have to tuck their shirts in – timesaver! But, in retrospect, there is something wildly inappropriate about the body suit. Plus, can we talk about how much less daunting the lady’s room seemed once this fad died off?
  21. The Rachel: On some level, Jennifer Aniston must be embarrassed. Sure, the boxy, layered haircut she sported on “Friends” was all the rage for a few years, with girls and women clamoring to their salons for the same treatment (author included). But in hindsight, this cut was sort of cheesy and really not super flattering to too many facial structures. Like the trucker hat craze of more recent times, The Rachel is one look that is best left forgotten.
  22. Raver Pants: If you can go swimming in your pants without even being near water, then something is wrong. These gi-normous pants popularized in the rave culture, and manufactured by brands like Jnco and Kikwear, really marked one of the lower points of the decade. While baggy pants have always been associated with a level of thuggishness, these pants were so baggy they could easily be mistaken for skirts or culottes on steroids, thereby reversing the effect that many ravers were surely going for.
  23. Fanny Packs: Unless you are a 60-year-old American woman sightseeing in Paris, you should be utterly ashamed of ever wearing a fanny pack in public. For a time though, this was considered acceptable for pretty much anyone, even the popular crowd. Maybe it was done with the “it’s-so-awful-it’s-cool” mentality, but that train of thought should have been derailed before it even left the station.
  24. Chunky Shoes: Brought back from the 1970s, chunky shoes were a “must-have” item for a woman’s closet in the previous decade. The higher and more clunky they were the better. In fact, they were so popular a Stanford undergrad even did his thesis on the very fad (see link above). But when your shoes weigh more than your book bag, you might want to take a serious at your life. Thankfully this badly-implemented style came and went with the wind.
  25. Starter Jackets: Once Starter Jackets were so popular that it was possible to get shot for owning a particularly nice one. Now, you would just be ridiculed. Brought to popularity by the hip-hop crowd, puffy Starter Jackets were a thing to have for every “gangsta” and townie on the scene, and enthusiasts were famous for refusing to ever remove theirs, even in indoor spaces with the heat on high. Mysteriously the fad disappeared without a trace, leaving kids to shoot each other over lesser things, like sneakers.

With as bad as some of these trends maybe were, they weren’t all THAT bad, were they? They were fun, at least for their time, and that’s all that matters. Now you might not want to rush out and get some Hammer pants to celebrate the 90’s, one thing you can do is customize a t-shirt, which never goes out of style! Express your love of the 90’s with a customized t-shirt!

22 thoughts on “Fashion Faux Pas: Trends from the 90’s

  1. Another thing I would like to add is that you talk bad about ravers, stating they all do drugs. This is untrue and very offensive.
    I do not agree that butterfly hair clips and eye glitter were trends started by ‘ravers.’
    Butterfly hair clips were all the rage in middle school, so was eye glitter (even though parents said it would make wearers go blind). I highly doubt middle school girls were running off taking drugs and ‘clubbing’ or dancing wildly at raves. The hair clips were completely innocent. Again, I completely disagree with this article and find it sounding unresearched. Many the above two commenters were too young to remember the 90’s but I do.
    And according to most fashion websites, butterfly hair clips were in style in the early 2000’s, not the 1990’s.
    The same goes for eye glitter.

  2. Whoa Sandy. Don’t get your Umbros in a bunch.

    Man, fashionwise the 90s were sooo much worse than the 80s… The only thing that saved us was the music.

  3. butterflies clips were DEFINITELY the 90’s. i loved them and they were this great obsession of ours when i was 7 and 8 – 1997, 1998.
    it was like we thought it was cool to wear a butterfly house on our heads. lolz.

  4. Nobody wore stirrup pants in the nineties. It was a huge fad from 1985 to 1988. Also, you mentioned hot pink leggings and Cyndi Lauper. By 1990, Cyndi Lauper wasn’t talked about and nobody listened to her music. She was only popular during a brief period in the 1980s. Also, nobody wore hot pink leggings in the 90s, maybe it was a brief fad, nothing more. I remember the 80s well because I was a teenager then.

  5. Also, those awful Dooney & Bourke handbags were carried around by middle aged women in the nineties. They also wore those horrible, puke-worthy Christmas sweaters around the holidays. Clothing styles were, overall, too conservative and frumpy from 1990 to 1995.

  6. Stirrup pants were in the 90’s. My mom made me where different colors to school everyday. : ( Tramatizing

  7. I was goth during the 90’s and NEVER remember butterfly clips being big with the scene.

  8. I am in disagreement with some of this stuff. Doc Martens still kick ass as does flannel. I would say you are missing “daisy dukes”, and birkenstocks

  9. Hahaha! This is so funny! I went to high school from 90 to 94 and I remember going through some of these fashion phases myself! I wore a starter jacket in 90, but the look was never complete without some baggy pleated front girbeau jeans and those little low top vintage Nikes! You could change up the look by wearing some tapered leg guess jeans with a bow at the bottom! Then I went polar opposite in 91 after being shot at a few times and having my shoes stolen! LOL. The goth scene was loads of fun….and yes I had butterfly clips! A great pair of baggy ripped up 501 jeans with a studded belt, the basic white tee, and a black leather vest probably scored in a thrift store, and of course my Docs! Yeah boy!!! Dancing to euro grunge bands and sleeping to ‘mazzy starr’. By 93′ black was too dreary and hippie was in! Flannel shirts…ooh so comfy…and overalls…well I think you are completely wrong about them!! They still rock! You forgot about the ‘baby doll’ dress fad! worn with my birkenstocks and sportin ponytails!…. By 94 it was pretty much whatever, kind of like it still is today! “………some advice from a now 35 yr old….drop the negative outlook and enjoy the fun in fashion….it will recycle itself anyhow!

  10. Nice trip down (bad) memory lane! To this list of horrors I would add short Catholic schoolgirl skirts, high-waisted pleated pants, oversized blazers with padded shoulders, and eye makeup that only a raccoon would look good in.

  11. LOL! My friend is having a 90’s themed party. I’m so glad I found this list! I have kept some things… yeah, yeah I did. Crop tops with a pierced belly-button was also a big trend in the late 90’s. However, I do blame the 80’s and 90’s for people wearing their pajamas out. It was matchy-matchy sweatpants and windbreaker pants and just went downhill from there! LOL!

  12. Flannel started in Seattle because we needed something that was warm and kept the rain off of us. Beats me why people in super warm places started wearing them. Although, they are super comfy and I’m not gonna lie, I still have at least 5 flannels in my closet.

  13. I Love This! I only twelve, but have heard all about that stuff. Th rRachel haircut looks fine on Jennifer, but the raver pants are BY FAR, the worst

  14. Great list – I’m an eighties collector and noticed that neon Started showing up in the early nineties on electronics esp. around 1991 – hot pink and forest green were big too. I’d add that southwestern (santa fe?) look from about 1990- 94 ish – it was in clothing, as well as architecture and house decor – yech! Lol!

  15. for history we’re doing “decades projects” my group is doing the 90’s, this really helped out for the fashion section! Its great to have first hand sources! (And don’t worry, this post is cited in our bibliography XD) the only other first hand source we had was our teacher, who’s in her late twenties and went on for 15 minutes about furbies and gak haha 😀

  16. I love that 4 years after this blog post 1, 3, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 24, are all major fashion trends right now, and I’d hazard a guess that 22 (as well as other versions of wide-leg pants) are going to come back soon and with a vengeance.

  17. You realize the 90’s is huge in high fashion right now right? doc martens have always been cool, and Drop crotch or harem pants(what you call mc. hammer pants) look great on us guys, and bright colored or soft pastel hair is bigger then ever right now, so get with the times, the only thing we’re missing out on is the good music :(, but the whole rave thing is in and buffalo platform shoes or spice girl shoes ARE HUGE right now.

  18. I personally think overalls look sexy on women. I like the 90’s styles more than the modern styles that try to make them sexy… the baggier the better. Also the skirt-bottomed ones are great for the CFNM fetishists.

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