x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

A little nostalgia, now that 1990s style has become vintage

Looking back, it can be said with confidence that this was the era that fashion forgot. That's not to say we didn't do our best.

I am acutely aware of my recent ramblings on age and how it creeps up (it's obviously an issue), but ever since I stumbled across the news that 1990s style has been deemed "vintage", I have felt a little out of sorts - a little miffed, so to speak.

I suppose change brings with it a period of readjustment, but the 1990s was my era, my decade - the decade of Britpop, Doc Martens, denim button-downs and Levi's 501s; the decade I learnt of youth culture, of freedom, of experimentation and coming of age. If the past is a foreign country, I'm not quite there yet. Nostalgia? Perhaps. Vintage? Surely not.

The Nineties are probably the most poorly defined era in fashion, and certainly one that causes us to scrutinise the basic principles of taste. Looking back, it can be said with confidence that this was the era that fashion forgot. That's not to say we didn't do our best. For me, it started as it often does for pre-teens: with the hair. Want to go blonde overnight even if you have dark brown hair? No problem; a few spritzes of Sun-In (a bit like kitchen bleach for hair) and an evening under the hot, heavy hairdryer were guaranteed to ruin nearly every photograph taken of every 12-year-old girl in 1992.

Then we turned 13. Suddenly we had instant access to the coolest club in town. Overnight, we were special, given the much-awaited ticket to experiment with things that yesterday had been unacceptable: tightfitting trousers with elastic bootstraps (a nightmare for people with long legs because either they made you deal with a nervous waistband making a bid for freedom or, due to the strain of the fabric, gave you the appearance of having two inverted triangles for legs), denim button-down shirts, neon colours, drainpipe jeans, oversized sweaters and black leather jackets with fake fur lining.

For the boys it was oversized, flannel shirts worn unbuttoned over a plain T-shirt, giving a nod to the Seattle musicians that made up the grunge movement at the time.

The black suede Doc Martens I got for my 13th birthday were the envy of many. On the surface, they didn't seem so bad. In fact, my mother didn't bat an eyelid, seemingly grateful I wasn't in something else more moronic. Yet paired with the tapered jean, the shoes lost any hope. You see, while the 1980s had the "peg-leg," (not so flattering in itself but made up for it in its unapologetic stature), the 1990s jean was cut with a ludicrously high waist, making our thighs and bottoms appear enormous, hence the birth of the term "the mum bum".

While cross-cultural and high-fashion influences melded more readily in the UK than in the United States, we can't ignore the effect the Spice Girls had. According to the Rolling Stone journalist and biographer David Sinclair: "Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh and Sporty were the most widely recognised group of individuals since John, Paul, George, and Ringo." Formed in 1994, the Spice Girls pioneered "teen pop" and the style that followed for young girls in the late 1990s. Like them or not, we were forced to sit up in our seats.

In our youth we choose to ignore comfort, instead wrestling with the fashion contortions of our time, learning for the first time about self expression and the power it possesses. And "our time" lingers. It stays with us long after we first experience it, running hand in hand with melancholy and sentiment. Perhaps it always will - which is why, perhaps, it is so difficult to accept it doesn't belong to us anymore.