The acid-washed denim jeans and big hair fad of the late 1980s had ended, and it was time for the low-rise jeans, baggy pants, and bowl cuts of the 90s to take over. The 1990s were a time for grunge fashion, crop tops, and platform shoes unlike any other. Trends went in all directions, but it always came back to the latest artistic and media influence that inspired all the latest fashion.
To give you a deeper look into the changes in the fashion world that took place, in this article, we’re going to delve into everything you need to know about the fashion of the 1990s. From its history to its styles and its most famous icons, let’s dive in and get started with a complete guide to the 90s for both men and women.
History of 90’s Fashion
To start, the 90s, much like the 80s, were a decade marked a distinct era in fashion that was heavily influenced by the styles of popular bands, such as No Doubt, Nirvana, and Destiny’s Child. From the fashion trends of ripped jeans and fishnets to the bold blue makeup and thick eyeliner, music was a ruling element to all trends of the 90s and was considered to be incredibly diverse. The most significant changes in the fashion of the decade was undoubtedly from the rise of grunge and pop culture as mainstream fashion. This included everything from oversized flannels to combat boots from Kurt Cobain to crop tops, and platform shoes, thanks to Britney Spears.
Music aside, the 90s was also a time in which movies and television shows took off, including iconic shows, such as Friends, Boy Meets World, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. With so much media being presented to the youth, the 90s made fashion more accessible to all ages and inspired a generation with many contradictory looks, new and old. This also brought actors and Hollywood stars more forefront into the homes of millions, making it easier than ever to mimic their styles and appearances.
Overall, when you sum it all up, the 90s was overall a very experimental, fun, and loose period of fashion, where casualness and comfort took its spot at the lead of fashion of the decade. This brought to us an eclectic mix of trends new and old that were so impactful that they would continue to inspire fashion-lovers even today.
90s Fashion Icons
Now that we’ve gone over some of the history of the 90s fashion let’s talk about some of the major icons of the decade. Here’s a brief list of some of the top fashion icons of the 90s for both men and women.
Female fashion icons
1. Britney Spears
Starting off, it wouldn’t be the 90s without Britney Spears leading the iconic pop fashion of the decade. Britney was the iconic crop top’s biggest supporter throughout the 90s and couldn’t be caught in photos without exposing her midriff. Some other major iconic pieces of Britney’s outfit throughout the 90s included low-rise jeans, platform heels, hats, and all things pop culture.
2. Jennifer Aniston
The next icon was undoubtedly Jennifer Aniston. With her choppy and natural haircut as Rachel Green in Friends, Jennifer had a clean, sophisticated, and charming style that many quickly came to love. Her quirky and stylish appearance on Friends became an instant classic, and today, she still continues to inspire adults and youth effortlessly with her charming feminine style.
3. Winona Ryder
The next fashion icon of the 90s was Winona Ryder. Known today for her role in Stranger Things, Winona Ryder was one of the most successful and active actresses in Hollywood during the 1990s. Her style consisted of everything from leather jackets to designer gowns and made her a true inspiration for young women. Not to mention, her relationship with Johnny Depp throughout the early ’90s no doubt put her in the spotlight, making Winona an icon in more ways than one.
4. Gwen Stefani
And lastly, the 90s were also when Gwen Stefani made her way into the spotlight, where she still reigns today. In the 90s, she was well ahead of the trends of her time, fronting her style in her band No Doubt, bringing forth a unique style of vibrant hairstyles, crop tops, belted chains, and boyfriend-fit jeans. Gwen was undoubtedly an icon, and her style and youthful glow is bound to live on for many decades to come.
Male fashion icons
1. Brad Pitt
For male icons, the first male fashion icon of the 90s, without a doubt, was Brad Pitt. As one of the most popular actors of the decade, Pitt influenced generations of youths with his casual, laidback, bad boy appearance that was truly to die for. He wore everything from cargo pants to oversized blazers and was definitely one the most influential men in fashion of the time.
2. Kurt Cobain
Next, as the frontman of the rock band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain inspired youth with his unique, edgy, grunge style that rejected the norms of society. This aligned with his angst-filled music that spoke to the next generation on a new level and made Cobain a truly iconic symbol in more ways than one.
3. Will Smith
Next, first coming into the public eye in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Will Smith was an icon he set foot in Hollywood. His style throughout the 90s truly summed up the fashion trends of the decade; from his iconic overalls to his flat-top hairdo, Smith continues to be a fashion icon even to this day and is bound to remain that way for many decades to come.
4. Leonardo Dicaprio
And finally, as one of the biggest heartthrobs of the decade, Leonardo Dicaprio inspired men and women alike with his unique style. From his curtain hairdo to his cord kecks and leather jackets, there’s a reason Dicaprio is still so famous today, and without a doubt, his time in Hollywood throughout the 90s surely set the tone for that.
Popular Styles for Women of the 1990s
Now, when it came to the popular styles of the decade for women, the 90s were very diverse. However, there are a few key styles for the decade that were more popular than others. Here’s a quick guide to them.
The first popular trend of the 90s amongst women was crop tops. Popularized by many women in Hollywood, including Live Tyler, Madonna, and Britney Spears, crop tops were one of the most common trends that all women were wearing. Typically worn with low-rise pants, these midriff-baring tops came in a variety of styles, including the short sleeve, a cropped halter, and cami.
Next, another popular trend in the 90s amongst men and women was the rise of grunge fashion. Often referred to as the 90s anti-fashion, grunge fashion was inspired by icons of the time such as Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani, and Kim Gordon and consisted of a more attitude-filled, edgy look. Outfits for this style often included flannel shirts, distressed jeans, mini slip dresses, fishnets, and leather or platform boots. For women, accessories were big in grunge fashion and often consisted of choker necklaces and studs.
For men, on the other hand, nothing sums up the 90s grunge look like plaid flannel shirts. Rockers like Kurt Cobain were some of the biggest icons for this look and inspired men with flannel, combat boots, ripped jeans, leather jackets, and graphic tees.
The next trend of the 90s for women was overalls. While overalls had already long taken their place in fashion decades prior, the ’90s made them a must-have casual fashion trend for young adults. Whether long or short, denim overalls were one of the most popular outfits to put together and were loved by many celebrities, including Jennifer Aniston in Friends as well as Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. This style could also be worn done up with both straps, or if you wanted to be a little rebellious, you would leave one strap down and pair it with a fitted white tee underneath.
Next, when it came to the casual wear of the decade for women, the trends were incredibly diverse. From grunge fashion to denim on denim, women could be found sporting a variety of different clothes when they’d go out. However, a few of the most common outfits you would typically see women wear included spaghetti strap tops, crop tops, flannels, midi skirts, and baby tees.
For bottoms, flared jeans from the 70s were still quite common before skinny jeans became the last craze in the early 2000s. Other trends for casual wear included high-rise jeans, denim jeans, and capris.
Next, when it came to working fashion, the “power dressing” trend for women of the 80s did carry over into the 1990s, keeping pantsuits as one of the most common pieces of work fashion for women. However, casual workwear was also becoming more and more popular amongst men and women, which meant there weren’t as strict of rules on what you could and could not wear at work. Therefore, work fashion was uniquely dependent upon the job you worked.
Next, in the ’90s, just like our modern world, there was a variety of shoes a woman would wear for different occasions. From work to home, shoes were vastly unique, and all served different purposes. Here is our list of some of the most common shoes you would find women wearing in the 1990s.
1. Platform Sandals
The first shoe trend that was popular in the 90s that everyone remembers was the platform sandal. This shoe can best be described as an elevated sandal that would sit at 1-4 inches high off the ground. While platform shoes had already been a popular fashion item for decades, the platform sandal was different and helped to bring the shoes of the time to the next level.
These shoes would be considered silly in this day and age, but they were once a huge statement for women of the time and could be worn in the form of sandals, sneakers, boots, and more.
2. Square-toe Shoes
Next, another popular shoe of the 90s was the squared-toe shoe. Just as their name suggests, these were shoes that featured a square shape at the toe with a sleek and straight shape over the rest of the shoe. These shoes were popular amongst young women and youth and came in a variety of styles, including sandals, shoes, and heels.
3. Heeled Mary-Janes
And finally, thanks to the girls in Clueless, the heeled Mary-Janes became another popular shoe of the 90s. Commonly paired with knee-high socks and mini skirts, these round-toed shoes featured blocky heels, straps along the ankles, and a shiny finish. They were overall the perfect way to keep that youthful fire alive while transitioning into a more mature adulthood.
You can also read more about women’s shoes of the 90s over on vintagedancer.com.
When it came to the jewelry trends of the 90s, the styles were incredibly diverse. The 90s were a time of so many different fashion influences, from grunge to boho, and that was easily reflected in their jewelry. Grunge took over the first part of the decade, but the 90s ended with a more glamorous jewelry look that was more bold and expressive. A few examples of common jewelry trends of the 90s were:
- Hoop earrings
- Leather cuffs
- Chandelier earrings
- Cocktail rings
And more. Of course, every style was different and was uniquely based on the individual, making jewelry trends truly endless when it came to the 90s.
Next, when it came to the makeup trends, the 90s were a time of reinstallation of bold, beautiful, and new. The 90s kissed the bare minimum looks of previous decades goodbye and welcomed in a new palette full of colors and bold new looks. With that said, some of the makeup trends of the decade that you would most commonly see include:
- Frosted blue eyeshadow
- Glitter eyeshadow and lipstick in bright neon colors
- Burgundy and brown lipstick
- Heavy grunge eyeliner
And more. Above all else, the makeup of the 90s, just like the 80s, was highly expressive, so you can bet no matter what type of makeup was used, the colors were heavy and bold, which paved the way for many fashion trends of today.
When it came to the most popular hairstyles of the 90s, women’s styles were focused around being cute and playful. A perfect example of this was one of the most popular ‘90s hairstyles by Jennifer Aniston, known as “The Rachel,” which features the actress’s natural and flowy haircut on the TV show Friends. But aside from Jennifer Aniston’s cut, other styles also reigned through the 90s, including the choppy pixie cut with minimal bangs, a bob with baby bangs, messy buns, sleek straight hair with a middle part, half-up half-down, and pigtails. Many of these hairstyles were also accessorized with scrunchies, butterfly clips, and colorful barrettes for an added texture.
Popular Styles for Men of the 1990s
Next, when it came to the men’s trends of the 90s, biker jackets made of leather were one of the most popular edgy style pieces of the decade. Often worn as an anti-fashion statement or in grunge fashion, many men wore these jackets and would pair them with a white t-shirt, denim, or graphic tees.
Next, it wouldn’t be the 90s if we didn’t mention the baggy jeans fad of the decade. The simple rule of the 90s when it came to jeans was; the baggier, the better. These supersized pants were a must-have for men of the decade, including those in hip-hop or casual fashion. To complete the look, these wide-jean pants would traditionally be worn low on the hips with a chained Velcro wallet hanging off of it. By the middle of the decade, baggy jeans became easily associated with subcultures such as the punks, skaters, punks, and rappers.
Next, another staple piece of the 90s was windbreakers. Windbreakers were lightweight jackets that were commonly paired with denim for a casual look. These jackets were worn in bold color combinations, typically including orange, teal, purple, green, and red, and were common amongst men and young adults alike.
Oversized Flannel Shirts
Next, another popular trend of the 90s for men was oversized flannel shirts, especially for the grunge-loving community, such as Kurt Cobain-aspiring. These colorful flannels could either be tied around the waist or paired with a graphic T-shirt and ripped jeans for a “too cool to care” appearance and were one of the most common casual pieces you would commonly see men sporting.
Next, when it came to the casual wear of the decade, men of the 90s would commonly wear oversized flannels, leather jackets, plain white shirts, striped shirts, and graphic tees. These were also commonly paired with snapbacks and bucket hats, which were also on-trend throughout the decade. For bottoms, most young men favored denim pants, loose jeans, ripped jeans, and shorts in the warmer months.
Next, as we mentioned in the women’s work fashion section, the 90s were a time of casual workwear amongst men and women. Therefore, there weren’t as strict of rules on what you had to wear in the workplace, which meant a lot of men would wear khaki pants, button-down shirts, and sensible shoes, such as loafers.
For the men’s 1990s shoe fashion, men had an array of shoes they would wear for different occasions, just as women did. However, in terms of the most common shoes, these were what you were most likely to see a man sporting:
1. Combat Boots
The first most common shoes of the 90s amongst men were combat boots. This typically consisted of shoes that were heavy-duty, lace-up combat boots, such as the iconic Doc Martens designs. While Doc Martens had hit the trends back in the 80s, they continued to remain in fashion all throughout the 90s, especially amongst subcultures. This look was commonly paired with ripped jeans and a flannel shirt to complete the grunge look.
2. Converse All-Stars and One-Stars
Next, another common shoe of the decade was converse. This style can be described as black shoes with white soles and laces, and of course, the iconic star logo on the side. While this style is a popular style of today, in the 90s, this was most popular amongst the younger generation, such as skaters and grunge bands.
You can read more about common shoes men would wear for different occasions in the 90s here on thetrendspotter.net.
For accessories, men in the 80s wore a variety of things. This commonly included:
1. Snapback caps
The first common accessory amongst men throughout the 90s was snapback caps. Snapback hats can best be described as flat-brimmed caps with logos that were commonly worn by rappers. This trend was thanks to the hip-hop subculture majorly entering mainstream fashion in the 90s, paving the way for a trend for many decades to come.
2. Bucket hats
The other most popular trend of the 90s was bucket hats. This hat got its name for its unique shape that resembled a bucket on your head and came in a variety of colors and designs. Like snapback caps, the trend of bucket hats began with rappers, but by the end of the decade, every teenager had one in his wardrobe.
For men’s hairstyles, there were a few common hairstyles that were on-trend all throughout the 90s. This typically included:
1. Bowl cuts
The first most notorious haircut of the 90s was the bowl cut. Bowl cuts got their name because they look like someone placed a bowl on their head and cut around it to create it’s infamous look with short sides and a messy top. Despite their strange appearance in today’s modern world, bowl cuts were one of the most popular hairstyles of the ’90s and were also considered to be one of the hottest.
2. Middle Part
Next, another popular hairstyle of the 90s was the middle part. Often referred to as the curtain, this hairstyle can best be described as hair neatly parted in the middle with loose hair strands left to flops around to cover the face. This was typically done with medium and long hair lengths and can be seen in many favorite actors of the time, including Brad Pitt and Leonardo Dicaprio.
3. Spiky Bleached Tips
And finally, it wouldn’t be the 90s if we didn’t mention hair with bleached tips. Spiky hair was the true hair of the’90s and was most commonly topped off with a little frost on the tips. This look was best achieved with darker hair slightly grown out topped off with yellow tips on the ends of your hair. You can give thanks to many of the stars of the time, including Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake, and other members of Nsync, who made this an iconic look of the decade.
Overall, the 90s were a memorable decade with the rise of grunge fashion, platform shoes galore, and frosted tips in your hair. With some influences of the past as well as new trends of the future, the 90s were truly a paving point in fashion history for comfortable fashion that still continues to influence many trends of today and is bound to do so for many decades to come.