Smells like mass production
Avery Nowicki (She/Her) // Contributor
Sharleen Ramos // Illustrator
There is a very specific type of experience that kids who grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s understand. Whether we liked it or not, our beauty standards came from the Disney Channel and influential musicians, and the general media at the time. We played with Bratz and Barbie dolls, admiring their bright pink tops and insanely low-rise bootcut jeans, the dreadful tiny bags, big sunglasses and skinny belts.
We see this style being re-introduced through TikTok, but it lasts no more than a few weeks before being overshadowed by the next TikTok microtrend. Through this revival and recycling of old styles changing so quickly, we are seeing a past staple of this era — the mall — falling behind.
Today, if you strut your denim mini skirt and vintage Dior saddlebag through your childhood mall, you’ll notice that stores like H&M, Forever21, Claire’s, and more are struggling to keep up, resulting in some… questionable trends returning to the shelves (or websites, I should say).
Let’s talk about low-rise jeans. These were a staple not only in popular media and red carpets, but also in our schools. I remember being in elementary school, begging my mom for tiny low-rise shorts from Abercrombie & Fitch. They were EVERYTHING back then, but 90 per cent of the style itself was how skinny you push yourself to be.
Celebrities would be slammed in trashy magazines if they showed even a bit of natural stomach fat. While body positivity began to gain popularity in the 2010s, we seem to be coming right back to where we started with the 90s “heroin chic” body type. Certain body positivity influencers, however, are pushing these standards, showing that low rise can be so attractive, regardless of how well you fit into the restricting beauty standard. These should stay, but be severely altered to fit within the body positivity movement, allowing us to reclaim the style and wear it comfortably.
During this time, if you weren’t squeezing yourself into tiny jeans, you were likely doing the complete opposite and embracing the look of grunge fashion that arose from the early 90s with bands like Nirvana. While this style fell to the wayside after Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain’s death in ‘94, it remained popular with bands like Green Day and Blink-182. Regardless of your personal feelings toward these bands, it is obvious how influential they were in fashion. I often turn to movies like 2003’s Freaky Friday, where we saw peak Lindsey Lohan in low-rise again — but this time in wide cargo pants, choker necklaces, and iconic streaky hair. That entire friend group had incredible style, and we see it resurging now, rightfully so. What especially attracts me to this is the sustainability aspect. Everything they wore could be found at your local thrift shop.
This is of course a harsh difference from the Seventeen Magazine, pre-teen, jelly shoes and butterfly hair clips style that was the norm around the same time. We are seeing this reflected today, in stores like Shein, Forever21, and Claire’s, who are mass-manufacturing plastic products and flimsy clothing in attempts to keep up with the latest microtrends. While this style may be cute, its production is detrimental to our environment.
However, I blame not the consumer, but the companies themselves. This issue isn’t independent of the 2020’s — it came from this trend’s original rise long before it became nostalgia. For that reason, I struggle to hold support in it. These styles can be bought second-hand as well, since the best thing about mass-manufacturing is the heavy influx of clothing that gets flooded into clothing warehouses, and slowly trickled down into our local Value Villages. I think this style can continue, and should! It’s cute after all, but should be done in as sustainable a way as possible.
The resurgence of these trends is inevitable, and if done sustainably, I fully encourage it. That being said, I understand that sustainable and second-hand clothing may not be a viable option for everyone. The trend cycle is constantly in motion, so fully embrace the past while implementing new mindsets on body ideals and environmental consciousness whenever possible.