Rob Beschizza at 8:29 am Thu, Feb 23, 2012
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Buzzfeed's vision of the 1990s seems close to that of many Americans. From the other side of the pond, I offer a single addendum.
Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Email is dead, but you can try your luck at besc...@gmail.com
The 1964 World's Fair opened 50 years ago today
Hannibal: Guilt is a divine beast of burden in "Su-zakana" [Season 2, episode 8 recap]
I loved those trousers :)
I never could understand why anyone would wear clown pants (as I thought of them) at the time. Just look at them, particularly the guy on the left wearing loafers with his high-water clownies, showing off his pretty ankles. Tres masculine.
You could spill anything, and I mean anything on them, and it would never show.
Every pair started out as plain white pants, consuming every bit of spilled solid and liquid in their immediate vicinity. Those pants didn’t stain, they assimilated.
Hammer pants FTW!
Dude, have you seen the skinny jeans people wear these days? At least clown trousers didn’t make you look like an anorexic twat.
Hating someone because of the fit of their jean is pretty twatty, fyi.
That said, if I could choose it’d likely be the para pants; but nothing beats a good tailored trouser.
But in the spirit of @toyg: “I HATE ANYONE WHO ISN’T LIKE ME!”
Dude, I’m doing my best to push down prices for skinny jeans everywhere. You should thank me.
I had a room-mate that owned several businesses, and one of them happened to be a T-Shirt Design Shop, and he had a custom line of these pants, that he carried, and made by a local seamstress, and he sold them to a lot of the local Gym’s around town. Needless to say they were quite comfortable, and through him I owned a ton of these pants. I got them for cost, and let’s just say the mark-up on them was ridiculous. They were fantastic, and very, very LOUD. We called them Genie Pants. I kinda wish I still had them. They’d be great for knocking around the house.
From 2004, somewhere in Idaho:
You think I got where I am today because I dressed like Peter Pan over here? [points to Kip]
Take a look at what I’m wearing, people! [MC Hammer pants with stars and stripes motif] You think anybody wants a roundhouse kick to the face while I’m wearing these bad boys? Forget about it.
It’s a little heavy on “look at these people who are adults now who used to be kids.” However, some of those pictures really brought me back to a time when I sat on the floor in my Austin apartment wearing white and black flannel, drinking a Miller High Life watching the OJ car chase, hoping my VCR was set properly to record The Next Generation and Who’s Line is it Anyway.
Thankyou… TNG set design was archetypal 90′s style and I thought it was missing from this list.
Will Smith playing Nintendo: Badass.
Wow, that really is pretty close to mine. Just needs some X-Files, Star Trek TNG, slap bracelets and flying toasters.
And a couple of Magic Eye stereogram posters!
And where are the Hypercolor t-shirts?
They were mistaken for tie-dye because mom put them in the drier.
Slap bracelets were great!
I always got the feeling that the ’90s were largely a reaction to all that: i.e. more combat boots and Kurt Cobain, less day-glo/poofy bangs, which I always pinned (perhaps unfairly) on the ’80s. Actually, the other missing thing is all the ’70s retro-nostalgirony, my generation’s true crime against humanity.
Memory’s a selective thing, though.
Early 90′s were still day-glo, but by the time the late 90s (and Nirvana hit) it was alllll about grunge. So you’re half right!
Smells Like Teen Spirit was ’91 for what it’s worth. Gangsta rap and grunge were in full effect by ’92 (baggy pants *and* flannel).
Man, you’re right. I feel like there was a bit of a lag, though, before the flannel because mainstream.
I FEEL OLD.
Ten and Badmotorfinger came out in the same year…if I was listening to them in highschool in Jonesboro, Arkansas, before the Internet, it must have been going strong…
I’ve seen it claimed that the ’80s ended in 1992.
I can verify this!
‘Strue. Within a year, both Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, two iconic metal bands of the 80s, had lost their lead singers, and ended up playing much smaller venues for the rest of the decade. And Metallica’s James Hetfield got blown up on stage and they didn’t release another studio album until 1996. 80s metal, at least, kinda fell over and died after 1992.
I was in college in the mid ’90s and there was definitely a lot of “’70s retro-nostalgirony” meets grunge meets gansta rap going on. I remember the overly obnoxious polyester disco shirts combined with baggy pants and combat boots. People were always drinking 40s and playing Sega Genesis. Piercings were a big deal.
Between changing majors and vigorous underachievement, I was in college for pretty much the entirity of the ’90s.
People were always drinking 40s and playing Sega Genesis. Piercings were a big deal.
Phew, thank goodness that’s over.
My ’90s started in 1992, when I went to university. I believe the worst stuff of the 1980s may actually have happened in 1990.
I dunno; watch any of the 80′s top of the pops and you’ll get a visual feast of colour.
Watched one the other day and was actually a bit jealous; they may have lacked any traditional design prowess, but man was it fun. They all looked different too, all weird, but differently weird.
Things have become a little more homogonised; but then, youth culture is kind of dying (or reverting?).
As to the Mullet: it was the mid-’80s, I was broke and living in Boston and I couldn’t afford a haircut so I did it myself and I couldn’t see the back. Then one day, we drove to Revere Beach for roast beef sandwiches at Kelly’s.
So, sorry. My bad.
One thing that sucks about historical views of pop culture is that only one view or version seems to endure. There are many classes and cultures within society, and each group has its own uniform. It wasn’t like Kurt Cobain plugged in his guitar and then for the next 9 years everyone wore a flannel shirt. (Flannel was huge, but West Coast rap was influential to that as well.)
Thanks for adding the Teletubbies. It’s the only picture that makes any sense to me. The rest of them look weirdly more like the 80s than the 90s to my British eye, and I’ve never heard of half the people featured.
It’s not just you, some of these look like 1990 at the very latest.
I think the transition completed by very early 1991, i.e. put one of these haircuts with “Desert Storm” swag.
Maybe the US was just late in fading out the day-glo and mullets?
But yeah: a lot of these felt really 80s to me. But some were just spot on! Mostly the computer based ones: any computer reference will always date a show or picture pretty accurately.
I have thought of this dissonance in perception of US-90s and Europe-90s before. Much more metal and bleakness, much less day-glo as far as I remember.
I just remember baggy jumpers, block colour shirts and beige jeans.
It was a horrible decade.
Both the 80s and 90s were different in the US/UK though, in fact most decades have significant differences in fashion, even now.
There tend to be vague themes, but that’s normally as close as it gets.
My 90′s highlights were certainly more sci-fi inspired with the likes of X-File, Star Trek everything, MTV’s Liquid Television and AMP, along with an unusual show called Weird TV. Notably Weird TV was the first place I learned about SRL and burning man…
I agree that this list of photos is very selective, with a strong sense towards white pop-cultural, family-safe elements. There was Grunge, there was NIN/Industrial/goth, there was computer geeks, there was The Disney Afternoon. There was Ross Perot, ADD, Viagra, Fargo. As someone who was a teenager during the 90s, most of these things I associate as remnants of 80s culture that drifted into the 90s until it was beat back down into it’s proper decade.
HAHA! I was part of the Perot grass-roots movement in FT.Worth back in those days. I can still remember going to the campaign meetings and Town Halls. That was my first experience with being disillusioned with the Political System in the USA. Once you see behind the curtains and realize The Wizard is just a Man, there’s no real recovery from that.
90′s teen thinks the 90′s were better than the 80′s.
Out of all the decades, at least in the 20th century, the 90′s was easily the lamest. Not that the 30′s/40′s were full of fun and games, but they knew how to wear that wool.
Maybe the 90′s were cooler in the US – in the UK at least, it was all bad.
I say this as a member of your generation.
No, you’re certainly right on that point. The 90s were no cooler in the States than they were in Blighty. As always, assuming the 90s began with the Clinton Administration.
Prosperous, sure. But cool? Nope.
Uncle Jesse’s Mullet… Is that a band name?
Go start a tumblr with that name.
No post-90210 sideburns? No pictures from the Lewinski scandal? No Furby?
Hillary, blue dress. The ’90s were subtle like that.
I agree with some of y’all. This really seems more like “1991 in forty-eight pictures” with a few bones thrown to the rest of the decade here and there. Most of that neon, puffy pants crap was drawing its last gasping breath by then, and in that context it seems weird to portray it as iconic 90′s.
The 90′s were an exciting time for new music until towards the latter half of the 90′s once I realized we had exceeded music genre bandwidth and only sub-genres were left.
The 90′s was the end of new music genres. That’s why a lot of music in 2002 is pretty much the same as 2012. It’s also the same with popular fashion in many respects (see links below)
Fashion in 2002:
Fashion in 2012:
Depressing, but there’s still very good music being made in the sub-genre-sphere (and otherwise), thank goodness. It’s just not groundbreaking anymore (in the sense of new genres being created).
Grunge and HipHop were the last new music genres the human race will ever see. Genre bandwidth has been exceeded. And we’re fast running out of new sub-genres as well.
It’s not the death of new, great music. But, it’s still a bit depressing if you think about it. Seriously, there was 50′s music, 60′s, 70′s, 80′s, 90′s …. but 2000′s music isn’t really differentiating itself from the 2010′s music like genres used to do each decade.
We were saying the same thing about ’80s music, and ’90 music… you need to wait a coupdl of decades, see what survives the wash, and trust me, it will have a flavor all its own.
We were saying the same thing about ’80s music, and ’90 music
Incorrect. Music from the 1980′s was called “80′s music” by the early to mid 90′s and was very distinctive from the genres before it and certainly distinctively different from grunge in the 90′s. And grunge received its well-known genre moniker as it was getting popular in the very early 90′s as it was happening, not later.
Name a new genre from the 2000′s that’s not a blatant sub-genre. You can’t.
I know a lot of people want to remain in denial that music has a genre bandwidth because it’s disconcerting to them, but it’s 2012 and enough time has gone by. New genres are dead and gone forever.
That is also what I remember about the 90′s. I graduated in ’91 and was in Atlanta in ’94 and I remember tuning into the radio station and suddenly there was all this cool girl rock like Melissa Etheridge and, hey, remember when Sheryl Crow was cool? And then also I was so sick of classic rock and I found all the Smashing Pumpkins/Nirvana/Live stuff. I remember I was so desperate for a new sound that when I first heard it I couldn’t understand any of the words, but I just kept listening until I figured out how to listen to it. I was so excited that finally it seemed like Rock N’ Roll had found a truly new progression (not like all the annoying REM/Smiths stuff that was around when I was in college), and then poof! it seemed like suddenly all that stuff was off the air and none of it advanced anywhere. Like it accidentally slipped into the mainstream off the indie networks and the record companies had to shut it all down.
He is right; look back in 10-20 years and your opinion will likely be very different. Oftentimes it’s difficult to pinpoint significant aspects of the decade you’re in, mostly because you’re immersed in it. But these are all stereotypes anyway; I didn’t see many East London style hipsters back in 2002, something tells me they’ll be a prominent feature. Actual people in the 80′s just had big shoulder pads, big hair, and big glasses – but that’s not necessarily the stereotype that’s applied – (in fact, ironically, much of the current hipster look is borrowed from the ‘real’ 80′s, while the hyped up 80′s remains the stereotype) it’s the extremes that go down in history.
I remember thinking that the 90′s lacked anything that made it the 90′s – now looking back: wow.
Your example is actually very interesting, but I’d still hold that thought if I were you.
Oftentimes it’s difficult to pinpoint significant aspects of the decade you’re in, mostly because you’re immersed in it.
Not sure if you really read my response to him or if you just didn’t comprehend what I wrote…
I soundly addressed this. By 1992, the Grunge genre was already very well established in popular culture. The American public didn’t look back on it later in the 2000′s and then finally label it “Grunge”.
New music genres are a big deal in popular culture and people know when it’s happening (as it’s happening) and genres are labeled accordingly within magazines, radio, Internet and TV as it’s happening. Grunge was certainly no exception.
Your anecdotal experience doesn’t match what was going on for the majority of the public. Grunge was a very well known genre and mentioned directly by name on the cover of Rolling Stone, Time, SPIN, Newsweek, etc., etc…during the early and mid 90′s.
You are literally the only person (aside from perhaps Dewi) I’ve ever talked to who was an adult in the 90′s and didn’t know about Grunge during the 90′s as it was happening.
Dudes, we’re heading into 2013. What was the new genre for the 2000′s? (not talking about sub-genres).
If you can name one, be sure and add it to this Wikipedia entry which is entirely devoid of new music genres:
Hey, I don’t like it either. I really wish there wasn’t a limited bandwidth for new music genres… but that’s the reality and we reached it in the nineties.
And, we’re fast running out of new sub-genres as well. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but denial won’t change this fact.
If you still don’t believe.. read this:
The 2000s have been criticized as creating a lack of new genres. Whilst music in previous decades had a defined sound producing two or three genres, the 2000s produced no epoch defining trends.
There was a great article in Vanity Fair that makes the same point, but stretches the stagnation to 20 years.
Since 1992, as the technological miracles and wonders have propagated and the political economy has transformed, the world has become radically and profoundly new. (And then there’s the miraculous drop in violent crime in the United States, by half.) Here is what’s odd: during these same 20 years, the appearance of the world (computers, TVs, telephones, and music players aside) has changed hardly at all, less than it did during any 20-year period for at least a century. The past is a foreign country, but the recent past—the 00s, the 90s, even a lot of the 80s—looks almost identical to the present. This is the First Great Paradox of Contemporary Cultural History.
Thanks for linking to that. I’ve long suspected that the thesis behind that article is true. I’ve been wearing the same Levis 501s and Iron Maiden t-shirts since the mid-80s, and though I’ve never been remotely fashionable, I’ve also found that I don’t get laughed at (or even noticed) as much as I would have had I been dressed in, say, whatever these gentlemen wore over their Dynamite by Munsingwear undies. I’ve worn plaid flannel shirts all my life, except for the period between 1991 and 1994, when the shirts became fashionable and overpriced. My musical taste, while never cutting edge, should seem quainter than it does.
And here’s another indicator: since I started working in TV post production twelve years ago, I’ve had occasion to select a whole buttload of stock footage to use as establishing shots. I’ve worked on shows that were set in New York as well as on the west coast, but none were period pieces; all of them had contemporary settings. And yet I’ve been able to use stock footage dating back to the mid-80s (depending on whether cars drive through the shot) and they cut right into modern footage with no trouble, more often than not. Pedestrians only begin to look really dated once you get back to the 70s, but the only weird thing about NYC stock footage from, say, 1996 is that you just don’t see that many Chevy Caprice taxicabs anymore. The presence or absence of the World Trade Center is a more readily noticeable indicator of the age of footage where the skyline is visible than any fashion or automotive trends.
That’s like complaining the 1910′s to the 1940′s had a lot of sameness to them.
Just because there’s two or three decades that radicalized everything doesn’t mean technology is slowing down.
The point is that the 1910s to the 1940s didn’t have a lot of sameness. In the 1910s large swaths of the nation still weren’t electrified. Airplanes were a novelty, and flivvers had to compete with horses on downtown streets. By the late 1940s freeways were beginning to be built, and television networks were broadcasting.
Here’s an example. Check out these views showing the history of Times Square. The difference between 1910 and 1935 is enormous. You almost expect to see Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders kicking up dust down Seventh Avenue in the former, whereas by 1935 you have cars and electric lights everywhere, even an iconic Coca-Cola billboard. Now compare the 1985 picture to today. Sure, you can tell it’s dated. But the differences in the last twenty-seven years are subtler. And again, there’s a strong chance that if you traveled back in time to 1985 wearing exactly what you have on today, you just might not raise a single eyebrow (unless somebody notices your cell phone or iPod earbuds).
Well, they’d probably do a double-take at your facial hair, if you have any. Beards and mustaches were few and far between in 1985, outside of biker bars and ZZ Top.
The huge shoulder pads and mass of curly hair would give it away for me.
Maybe when you reached maturity you stopped noticing the subtle differences?
I suspect that’s the case in the above article. Anyone with 2 eyes and ears can see the 90s differed greatly to the present day – unless you’re looking at everything very broadly, from a single, unchanged perspective; which I suspect is the case.
The huge shoulder pads and big hair, while emblematic of the 1980s, were still not ubiquitous into the 1990s. You can look at beads and tie-dye and think “1967-1973.” You can look at platform shoes, bell-bottom slacks, polyester and sideburns and think “1975-1979.” And you can look at skinny ties, spiky hair, suspenders, and shoulder pads and think “1980-1987.” But what from the 1992-2012 era could you point at and definitively pinpoint to a specific handful of years? Tattoos and piercings? Baggy pants? Goatees?
There was a revival of late-60s fashions in the early 90s, followed by a revival of 70s crap culminating in the broadcast of That 70s Show, right around the same time as the swing revival. But outside of certain hip hop elements, I’m having trouble remembering a distinctively 1990s fashion or trend that wasn’t deliberately evocative of another distinct era.
Thanks for the link! I’m checking it out now. Yeah, I’ve been saying this for about a decade as a theory. I kept telling friends that I hoped I would be proven wrong, but I didn’t think I would be. Unfortunately, enough time has gone by now where if a new genre was going to happen… it would’ve happened.
Wait, no pictures of heroin addicts? ‘Cuz that’s what I remember doing in the ’90s.
Clearly I lived in a fairly different 90s — and I lived in Los Angeles. Not a single nod to grunge? That shit was everywhere. Flannels tied around waists while wearing leather jackets & Doc Martens.
Way too many celebrities — that’s a pretty easy way out when it comes to nostalgia. Gotta give em props for the skrunchees, though — I used to wear one with combat boots, and I’m a guy. Yikes.
I’m surprised they didn’t mention the swing dancing resurgence that took off around late 1997. Nobody seems to remember that.
I do! :)
Man, that was refreshing, wasn’t it? Music that required talent, dancing that required skill and more than a little homework, and style for miles. I didn’t embrace the movement (never could dance worth a hoot, and my musical chops stop well short of three-chord punk), but after every other crap fashion of the mid-nineties it was nice to see one last gasp of class.
But just as recent retrospectives on the Best Movies of The 21st Century So Far seem to have utterly forgotten the achievement of LOTR (and the absolutely enormous popularity of those three movies a mere decade ago), so do most retrospectives of the 90s zeitgeist seem to forget how hot the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Royal Crown Revue, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra became.
I was sorry to see the world’s interest fade.
Swing: a last gasp of class, or a naive grab at post-WWII nostalgia?
Well, since most of the swing dancers and musicians of the late 90s were GenXers, I have to doubt they were particularly nostalgic for the actual era itself. I think they just really got into the fun and style, the energy and exuberant showoff qualities of the dancing and music, giving no thought at all to the society or politics or zeitgeist of the 1940s.
I dunno where you live in SoCal but there are thriving swing dance places in Orange County (I forget where but maybe Costa Mesa or Huntington Beach?) and Pasadena (where Bill Nye the Science Guy is said to dance almost weekly), and I know about them even though no one I know does it and I’ve never gone (too intimidating for me due to lack of dance talent or skill).
I actually live in Pasadena, but not being a dancer myself I have no idea who’s dancing what these days. I know there’s the Fred Astaire Dance Academy over on Lake St, and by the look of the place people have been learning to lindy-hop there for the last six or seven decades. And God knows the older folks have kept their own dance styles alive. I have no idea where the nearest square dancers are to my house, but I have no doubt that they’re out there still. Somewhere.
I remember it — I was doing the Lindy Hop at The Derby in Los Angeles. But I thought it was mostly a West Coast fad?
The Derby was the first place I saw it, during a wrap party I attended in 1997 or so. I don’t know if it caught on in the rest of the country, but it did get huge in L.A. for a while there. I guess it got big enough for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy to play the halftime show at the Super Bowl in 1999.
You know what’s refreshing though?
SO. MUCH. LESS. AIRBRUSHING.
Someone call Yolandi and Ninja, please.
Everything was ugly in the 1990s. The cars, the houses, the way you should have the interior of your house according to the ‘experts,’ … everything! After 2000 everything got better.
Well of course Buzzfeed included not-apparently-90s references, controversy and argument gets pageviews. Not to mention that their captions are bald-faced SEO.
BB swallowed the bait on this one.
That practically androgynous “So Cal Sun Wear” picture is the reason why people get confused about their sexuality. Why enjoy the human form when you can soak up all those erotic florescent colors?
That Gap ad is the only thing that doesn’t look dated. I like it.
page 27 catalogue, upper left corner? I have that very clock, in my bathroom, still functional! :)
One of my roommates in SF in the 90s, who looked like a beautiful fetish gear model, went back to her small town in Massachusetts to visit her family. Her hair and make-up were roughly comparable to Audrey Tatou in Amélie. When she came back, she said that her friends had taken her to a bar where all the men and women her age treated her like a repulsive circus freak because she didn’t have a giant teased-up mullet and blue eyeshadow.
I know it’s been said a bunch of times above, but this describes the 1990s like 48 pictures from 2000 would describe the 2000s. Just imagine a bunch of pagers, ads featuring guys yelling at you, and Nickelback.
Mondo 2000, Might, SPY, and Ben is Dead. I seem to remember the 90′s through dead magazines.
What no Polly Shore?
Respect the Weasel, buuuuuuuudy.
My second job after I moved to Hollywood was as a post production assistant on Encino Man for nine months, and I barely remember Pauly Shore.
With Brendan Fraser around, who would remember Pauly Shore?
A very sound point indeed. Of my (limited) interactions with Shore, Fraser, and the pre-LOTR, post-Goonies Sean Astin, Fraser was by far the coolest and most talented.
Ugh, long sleeves and shorts; my single greatest fashion pet-peeve.
Class of 1990 over here. Goth/industrial stuff was my memory of the nineties. Zines, too. USENET. BBSes. That floppy-on-top-shaved-underneath haircut that seemed to show up on all genders and races. Cars with cassette tape players. Hefty, thick CDs. FOX’s line-up was pretty minty back then, too. Record stores, coffeehouses, indie bookstores, vintage clothing stores with shit from the 1970′s.
I’ll be 40 this year. I foretold the nostalgia for my generation twenty years ago. Which is a typically “Generation X” thing to say, so, uh… sorry.
Class of 93 yo…good riffs you mention: I…had that haircut. But shaving the sides slowly crept up until half was bald and the other half down my back.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Actually the prom picture of the goth-esque kids was a fair approximation of my people in those days…I worked at a comic book store in the early 90′s: it was a good time for that particular culture, Dark Knight and Watchmen, Sandman and manga translations…Robin died, Spiderman got a black suit, the Batman movie etc…before the death of back issue values…there was a lot of interest.
I met my friends in high school through music: I sewed a huge Iron Maiden patch on the back of my 49ers starter jacket (those things were a throwback too as a matter of fact)…but it really was the end of hair metal: hip hop and grunge made it seem, I dunno: fey and foolish.
By the end of the decade I was all about raves and the drugs and music that go hand in hand with such a lifestyle: of course everyone was always bemoaning the fact that ‘the scene was WAY better when it was underground X-years ago…’
But it seemed pretty cool and fun to me.
Also I remember the feeling after Yeltsin calmed the coup: ‘I guess the Russians WON’T be nuking us into annihilation…sweet!’
I was just a kid in the 90′s (high school class of 20004) but that’s how I remember it too. Also, my car has a cassette tape player. The thing that’s outdated for me is the CD changer – I use the cassette player with an adapter to plug in my phone or other audio source because there’s no aux-in. There are some burned CDs in the changer, but I never listen to them – it’s either NPR on the radio (which is delightfully old school!) or podcasts and occasionally music from my smartphone.
In the 90′s, Europe was basically on fire; between economic recession, a huge neo-nazi resurgence fuelled by impoverished East Germany, race riots in France and UK, a certain Soviet empire being taken over by the mafia, and the Jugoslavian genocide just a few miles down the road, things were pretty heavy.
That’s probably why I’ve found this collection of images incredibly shallow and entirely devoted to the worst consumerism. As a euro-teen, my 90s were clearly quite different.
Serious: Was hating on grunge just a Brit thing or was it common in the mainland?
In the 90′s, Europe was basically on fire….As a euro-teen, my 90s were clearly quite different.
No doubt! I was an United States pre-teen/teen in the early ’90s, living in a small town bubble that was isolated even by my adult standards, let alone by teen standards. My experience of the 90s was of relative peace, optimism, and economic prosperity. Especially compared to what I’ve experienced since! The US was involved in its usual share of military actions, but in retrospect, nothing of the scale or dubious motivation of what has come since. (Though, this could just be I was less aware of what was happening in the 1990s.) I remember listening to Rage Against the Machine. In retrospect: why the anger?
The only thing I remember thinking about Europe was having a certain fantasy shattered. See, I had somehow imagined that there was no racism or sexism or religious bias in Europe, that everyone lived in this big, multicultural society, that social programs had largely defeated sickness and poverty. As I learned more about the world, especially in the 1990s, I realized this was far from true. The United States was not the only country in the world that has sexism or racism; in fact it handled some things pretty o.k.
I remember listening to Rage Against the Machine. In retrospect: why the anger?
You said it! I remember thinking this very thought during the ramp up to the Iraq War. ”Move in to ’92, still in a room without a view.” If ever there were a band precisely a decade ahead of its time, it was RATM.
That picture of RuPaul holding Frances Bean is the best thing I’ve seen all day.
Possibly the sanest moment in her young life.
To my eye, almost all the stuff that looks dated throws back to the 80s.
Can’t see anything all that dated about late 90s; seems to me that’s when the dominant trends reached a fairly subtle place, and a fashion singularity occurred, and from then on you could pretty much rock any look and get away with it with enough confidence.
Totally agree. Grunge was about the the last overall fashion trend to take hold nationally; since then it’s been pretty much do what ya want. It makes it difficult to put a label on a decade, but the more I think about it, the more I think it’s a Good Thing (as Martha Stewart would say).
Hard to feel nostalgic about any of that.
I’m agreeing that most of those pics seem more like the last stalwarts of the eighties. All my friends were wearing grunge crap or doing that industrial tribal tattoo having, multiple piercing thing. I worked in a really fun place for a while and every weekend, before the breakfast shift, we would watch Teletubbies and have tiny bloody marys. Teletubbies were great for hangovers. Good times!
- except those dark surf pants on the right remind me of going to Fishbone concerts…
the 90s as remembered by squares and children. not a SINGLE hip hop photo (yes, I am mindful of the Will Smith photo. he does not count.) Not a single “rave”/party photo? these are all pics of things your mom and jr high students remember; and only from 90-93, it seems. fucking wack.
Thank you for posting this. I feel the same way.
I skimmed the Vanity Fair article, but it’s wrong to think, there is a big difference between ’92 and ’02. But ’02 and ’12, not so much. Anyone who grew up in the 90′s knows this.
In a nutshell, this dead zone (most of the 21st Century) is rooted in corporate conglomeraton. Since a handful of media companies now control the major media outlets, TV, radio, print, they don’t want flux, they don’t want new ideas that jeopardize to render their investment in Spice Girls or Bieber Boys worthless. They don’t want a new music trend to explode and force them to sign and promote a bunch of new bands, least of all, one with any social relevance.
For example, back in the 90′s, indie support pushed Nirvana to the top of alternative radio which helped them break out into a legitimate force, and even break onto the pop charts:
But kids as a function are stupid and are easily influenced by what they see on TV. Those who attempt to something outside the defined norms are readily chastised, and with the rise of technology and social networks, this chastisement has near infinite and global reach.
If you were to show up to high school today, dressed up as ridiculously as some of the 80′s and/or 90′s, you’re just cell phone click away from being the latest 4chan meme, not just the pariah of your grade. So is it worth the risk, or do you go with the flow?
The internet was supposed to change everything for the better, but at least culturally, in the US, it feels like we’re slowly suffocating under the weight of corporate avarice and youthful ignorance.
Yep. There’s a lot of Vanilla Icey 80′s hangover in the mix. Only a few pictures remind me of snapshots of my high school years – notably the second “gothy” prom picture, and that was still fairly early in the decade.
I see a conspicuous absence of the Cure, Depeche Mode, Ministry, Disposable Heroes of HipHopricy, Consolidated, Ween, Chilipeppers, They Might be Giants, Nine Inch Nails, Animaniacs, 90′s Bat Man cartoon, Freekazoid …. I agree the “gothy” guy kind of at least shows a lot – but we obviously were running in different circles.
Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb… I’m sure my hind brain will be throwing stuff out all day.
Anyone who still had a mullet in ’91 is probably still wearing it today.
Or they “signify” with a rat-tail.
I found the photo of Kirsten Dunst wearing a Jumanji t-shirt oddly comforting. Even Kirsten Dunst looked like a dork in the ’90s. It makes me feel less embarrassed about how much like a dork I looked.
Donald Peterson — seeing as I couldn’t reply to your reply to my reply up above, I thought I’d pour out my honey down here, and say to you: what fun is discussing a frivolous cultural movement without supposing nefarious and/or backwards motives?
Ah. Well, you got me there.
I don’t really associate most of these pictures with the 90s. If anything, they represent an inter-era: 1985-1995. Except for the picture of the Chicago Bulls, none of them clearly represent the late 90s when I was in high school.
Show the 1980s/80s!
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