The folks behind a new blog called SF-Looks got in touch with me earlier this week about their new site, which is a spinoff of their previous, very successful Tumblr site, Hel-Looks. Hel-Looks was a street style blog, dormant now that the owners are in SF, that showcased Helsinki’s most interesting dressers. Now they’ve brought the concept to the Bay. My first thought was: “Will they find enough material in San Francisco?” After I checked out the new SF site, my second thought was: Why is everyone so obsessed with the ’90s? About half of the subjects cited ’90s fashion as inspiration.
I went to college in the ’90s, and, as I’ve described previously, I wore mainly Army cut offs and oversized tie-dye t-shirts. I also wore a lot of very light faded denim pants and shirts. In the early part of the decade I had very long hair and a spiral perm (Drew Barrymore in Poison Ivy comes to mind). By 1999 I cut it to shoulder-length and was ironing it as stick-straight as I possibly could. I never wore heels, though that may have been more a symptom of my age and relative tomboyish-ness than of a trend.
When I first considered the current popularity of ’90s, I was confounded. My memory the decade is a blur of faded denim and Rachel’s hair. I couldn’t think of a trend or aesthetic that marked the ’90s with an exclamation point. Compared to the ’80s? I mean, shoulder pads, neon, oversized jackets, pegged pants, hairspray gone mad, copious blue eyeshadow?
The ’90s seemed trendless. And I guess that’s the allure? Plain is the thing. It’s normcore. It’s the whole “Dress Normal” campaign, which just makes me sad.
And then I saw this photo of the Friends cast. How cute does Rachel look in her baggy jeans and crop top?
And then I remembered rompers. I had a one-piece, culotte-type floral number that got some serious rotation circa 1991. Oh and cropped tops with jeans belted up to my bellybutton. And then I remembered my Doc Martens. Oh my goodness. With those faded jeans, or the floral romper? And with crazy permed hair? It was grunge with a feminine touch. It was drinking too much beer at the Mexican restaurant where I worked, and falling for the wrong guy (so wrong). And finally dumping him. It was going to see the Rollins Band and getting a boot to the face. Listening to Mudhoney and Liz Phair. Not being able to find a job, but not really minding working as a nanny and a waitress and at the coffee shop. Slam poetry, open mikes, beatniks (the inspiration for the name of this blog!) were hip again. Not that I ever want to sit through another stand-up comedy open mike (creative writing I will still happily enjoy). Even bad memories can be fun, or at least satisfying, to reference, whether they’re fashion gaffes or ill-advised partners.
OK, ’90s, I’m glad you’re back.