Opinions & Editorials

This is not how I remember the 90s

By Adina Pernell

Maybe it’s my post-30s angst talking, but sometimes I wanna tell the “Yo! MTV Raps” wannabes that a gumby haircut has way more designs in it and is cocked slightly higher to the side.

Or that Kurt Cobain would turn in his grave if he knew his groundbreaking, anti-establishment style has been reduced to a pop culture cliche.

Don’t you people know that you need a Drew Barrymore adolescent scowl, a Blow Pop and an exaggerated eye roll to go with the ripped stockings and plaid-shirt-miniskirt routine you’re affecting? Just ask Shannen Doherty.

Like Cher and Dionne, I’m beginning to think everyone is just, like, so clueless. But whatever!

By the time the Grammy-winning R&B group Boyz II Men’s groundbreaking album “Cooleyhighharmony” had hit the airwaves, I vacillated somewhere between the preppy hip-hop look and the styles from my favorite sitcom hour, “Fresh Prince of Bel Airand “Blossom.

Yes, I had an upturned hat and a tam just like Blossom, but my fashion leanings were much more toward her sidekick Six or Carlton’s trendy little sister Ashley Banks. And can I just say that upturned hats are supposed to be decorated with a flower, and tams are trimmed with faux leather?

Illustration by Auryana Rodriguez

I, for one, vote to bring back tams and t-shirts with detached sleeves, especially since I have a bunch of the latter in my closet. Sometimes I think I should show everyone how it’s done.

Goth looks of today are more accurate with their ripped jeans, patched jackets, deconstructed tees and spiked colored hair. Ah, to be a African-American goth in the late ’90s.

I didn’t fit in anywhere. If only I knew that there was a whole other tribe of Black goths listening to “Cult of Personality” by Living Color, me and my Nirvana-loving sister would have had more company.

I was a cross between romantic and business goth, who listened to Depeche Mode, The Smiths and The Cure, which is not too different from the musical tastes of current goths actually. I mean come on, we all watched “Charmed,” “Buffy” and “The Craft” like normal Wiccans, didn’t we?

The fact that the new era of goths is still carrying the torch gives me hope. Someone is representing the total rebellion of an era that celebrated James Dean and Jimmy Hendrix as heroes.

I was further heartened when I stepped into the huge Forever 21 off Market Street and saw a collection of ripped denim shorts, crop tops and plaid miniskirts that would have made Kelly Bundy proud.

Yet, I sometimes wonder if my frustrations stem from how the inherent political statements created by these fashions seem lost to their current wearers.

Do younger goths know that in the ’90s, the chains and hooks they wear were a statement of the sexual underground and a symbol of BDSM acceptance long before “Fifty Shades of Gray” went viral?

Sporting a baggy men’s jacket with a mini skirt and Doc Martens was more than just a fad. It was the equivalent of throwing down a social gauntlet—a statement that women could also embrace their masculinity and express gender neutrality.

When CK One by Calvin Klein debuted in 1994, the fragrance represented a unisex view of culture that poured over to LGBT rights issues. The commercials for CK One shocked conservatives with their bold assertions of gender equality.

FUBU was a brand throughout the ’90s that was seen on hip-hop royalty. Most notably, LL Cool J who endorsed the brand.

FUBU meant “For us, by us.” Through its very existence, it made a case for developing a stronger economic status within the African-American community—a subject that is still a major issue today.

FUBU was worn by anyone in the hip-hop way of life who was on the cutting edge of fashion.

And fashion definitely influences.

The deeper message of the clothing of the ’90s was to embrace your individuality, to think outside the box and follow your own path. It was reflected in the entire fabric of the decade.

That is what made it so unique. It was a response to things that young people felt needed to change.

Maybe that’s why its presence still reverberates. It has an effervescence and freedom of thought that is irreverent and irresponsible but also deeply profound.

To quote Kurt Cobain, it “smells like teen spirit.”

The Guardsman