Last Updated on December 18, 2020
The 90s were a magical time, and if you’ve been keeping up, you know I love 90s fashion and know a thing or two about what’s up. So, today I thought we’d chat a bit about the brands that were ALL THAT 20 years ago.
Who was cool? Who was kinda sh*t? Are any of them still in fashion, or maybe they’ve circled all the way to being cool again.
I’ll go through a few 90s brands and let you know the lowdown on all of them – what they were all about, what they were known for, and whether they’re still hot, or, not so much.
What it’s known for: shoes
Your dad’s fave shoes are back in style, and they’ve come back with a vengeance. In keeping with the ugly shoe trend, it was only a matter of time until Birks were gonna come back. Love them or hate them, they were big back in the 90s and they’re really in fashion again.
Look, let’s not beat around the bush, here – they’re ugly af. But they are also obscenely comfortable, and people seem to wear them with pretty much anything. You don’t have to go all 90s normcore with white socks, if you don’t want to. I’m not, but I can respect a comfortable shoe, because my feet and knees have given up in my old age.
#2 Juicy Couture
What it’s known for: tracksuits
Is there anything in the world that is more 90s than Juicy Couture velour tracksuits? It’s the most Regina George’s Mom thing ever – the pink tracksuit that’s too tight, but looks sooo plushy and comfy. Is it tacky? Of course it is, it’s a pair of pants that says JUICY on your butt. It was tacky in the 90s and it’s even tackier now.
But there’s such a sense of nostalgia about them that you can’t really blame their resurgence. Be honest for a second, here – haven’t you missed them, even a little bit? Truthfully, I’ve never worn them, but seeing others wearing them is always a ranging good time. Especially if they’re paired with Uggs. I think the Juicy stuff can stay.
Verdict: Undecided, TBH
What it’s known for: clothes
GAP was THE place to get your clothes back then, especially as a kid or teen. They had everything, and it wasn’t uber pricy, so filthy commoners like you and me stood a chance in hell of being sorta well-dressed and cool.
Sure, it wasn’t the most “out there” brand in terms of styles, but that meant that you could get away with wearing their stuff in a lot of different contexts or for several years. Changing your clothes with the latest fashion tide gets exhausting, man.
Unfortunately, GAP gets a bit of a reputation for being boring, so it looks like it won’t join us in 2019 as one of those brands that cycled right back to being cool again. Sorry, GAP – it’s not you, it’s me.
What it’s known for: shoes, sportswear
If you’ve been reading our website for a while, you know that I am no sportswear expert. I don’t really know what everything is, or why, but I do know fashion, and Reebok was the absolute fashionable brand back in the day, up there with Kappa, Adidas, FUBU, and a few others. We’ll get to some of those, too, be patient.
I can’t deny Rebook’s resurgence. People have gone back to wearing their shoes and even tracksuits and stuff. The Hadid sisters and the Jenner sisters are big reps for the sports brands, so if you’re ever wondering which ones are “cool” again, just take a look at what they’re wearing and try not to weep at how much better they look than all of us ever will.
What it’s known for: being better than you
You’ve surely heard of Fiorucci, and if you can’t quite place the name, I’ll give you a hint: it’s the one with the cherubs. It’s cute, certainly, and it’s another Italian brand – the 90s were ALL about that Italian fashion – but it’s very far from what Versace is and was.
Fiorucci feels way “younger”, more hip, and more playful. Cute sundresses, adorable prints, and youthful styles characterized Fiorucci, so they’re deffo geared towards teens and sh*t. You can actually find them on ASOS now, I believe, so that tells you all you need to know in terms of target audience, price point, and overall style.
That also tells us something else – Fiorucci is cool again, and people are fighting over getting their hands on a piece or two. If you get lucky, you may even score some vintage finds on Poshmark, Depop, or eBay.
#6 Tommy Hilfiger
What it’s known for: clothes
Tommy Hilfiger was where it was AT for supermodels of all varieties. The white, red, and blue fashions of Tommy Hilfiger dressed many a supermodel back in the 90s, and a lot more cheap, supermodel-wannabes like me and you.
They’re enjoying a resurgence right now – both supermodels and Tommy Hilfiger – so if you want to break out the expensive turtleneck sweater you’ve been keeping in the back of the closet for 20 years, this is the time to do it.
If the color-block sweaters are too much for you, my boy Tommy also makes some cute shoes, especially wedge sandals. They’ve got a very nautical, I’m-too-rich-for-this aesthetic, and that seems to be something people are all about these days.
What it’s known for: jeans
If you didn’t have Diesel jeans back then, you were a loser. It’s not me saying that, it’s everyone who’s ever bullied me, because let’s face it – I couldn’t freaking afford Diesel jeans. Hell, I can’t even afford them now.
The brand’s always been synonymous with the ~cool~ kids, so not just anyone wore them. I’m sure you at least remember the ads for Diesel, they were peak aspirational back then.
You can update the look nowadays with a jeans jacket or maybe a skirt, because yes, ladies and gentlemen, jean skirts are back to being fashionable. I was surprised, too.
What it’s known for: aspirational tackiness
Versace’s always been…extra. I mean, they’re Italian, what did you expect? They love the golden bling, too much tanning, and more is always more. Their gold, over-the-top, baroque and verging on tacky designs were peak fashion in the 90s, but then they slowed their roll when minimalism, neutrals, and normcore came in. BORING!
Now, they are mercifully back and the cool girls are wearing Versace again, right alongside their tacky Gucci logos and everything. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that it’s such a freaking LOOK, so I’m kinda glad it’s back, tbh. Keeps things interesting in the midst of all the beige linen sacks.
What it’s known for: bags
Were you even a human person in the 90s if you didn’t have a Coach bag? Okay, so maybe they were never the uber luxurious designer bags some of us coveted, but they were a very good “entry-level fancy bag” resource. Everyone who was anyone had a Coach bag, even if they had to beg, borrow, or steal it.
Otherwise, you were relegated to carrying the dreaded no-name bag to school, or even worse, an actual backpack. Nowadays, Coach bags are more of a TKMaxx thing, so not that elite, but they’ve been gaining popularity again, as Millennials have been searching for “affordable” luxury, because we’re all freaking broke. Not cute.
What it’s known for: cool clothes for teens
We all loved Delia’s when we were in middle school, don’t lie to me. You could get all the best fashions and be the coolest girl in school. Or so we thought. Now that we look back at it, it may not have been the height of elegance, but the short, tight mini dresses, the platform sneakers, and the chockers sure seemed like they would last forever.
And they have, in a way. Sure, Delia’s went away for a while, there, but it’s back with a vengeance. Now, whether we’ll be going back or not is to be seen. They say that if you wore it the first time round, you’re too old to wear it again. I just wish no one would ever wear fannypacks (bumbags?) again, but that may be too much to ask.
What it’s known for: extreme flair jeans
Who doesn’t remember the JNCO jeans? They were INSANE. And impractical. And ridiculous. And the coolest ever, TBH. Do you remember how cool you felt in your absurdly wide leg jeans? Cause I sort of do, and while the pictures make me full body cringe now, I’ll always remember that feeling.
Of course, pulling them off as an adult may be a tad more difficult. I can’t imagine going into the office wearing those would impress many HR departments, but there’s always the club, right? I don’t know if any of you guys will go for buying these again, but I probably won’t. Although I do have some very similar culottes…
What it’s known for: sportswear
Man, the 90s sure loved a lot of freaking sportswear. Champion was deffo one of those ~cool~ ones that were like, aggressively branded. You know those sweatshirts that had the name of the brand written in huge bold letters? Champion was like that. And why wouldn’t it be? It was cool and expensive, and people who wore it wanted you to know that they were cool and expensive. Makes sense, right? Is it still around? There are rumblings, but I’m not entirely convinced it can go back to its former glory.
The way you’d style these would be with your poshest pair of blue jeans and your whitest trainers. Probably with straight, blonde hair, too. If you didn’t have it, you bleached the sh*t out of it. Brown hair was unacceptable, unless you were like, unbelievably gorgeous.
What it’s known for: urban styles
FUBU was the ultimate brand for rappers and rapper wannabes alike. If you can dig up any photos from that era, you’ll find LL Cool J sporting that stuff, and probably everyone else, too. Founded by Daymond John (middle name Garfield LMAO), he really hit the jackpot there in terms of having the right idea, at the right time, and putting it in practice.
Rappers were all the rage in that era, and this company made the transition from the iconic “street” clothes they wore to fashion. You know, it’s like on Project Runway or whatever: street clothes, but make it fashion!
Anyway, anyone who was anyone was wearing this stuff, including us and our peers, although I’m pretty sure what I wore were bootlegs. Soz!
Nowadays, that cool factor just doesn’t translate anymore, and as fashion involved and street style has become its own beast, FUBU just isn’t making enough of a splash to be noticeable.
#14 Calvin Klein
What it’s known for: super hot supermodels
For a while there, Calvin Klein was only around because it was making underwear, but before that, look out – CK was a household name and they made everything, from underwear to jeans, and it was all way too cool for us, mortals.
Calvin Klein was the brand supermodels wore and repped even in their downtime – you know, the whole model-off-duty thing – so it’s no wonder it enjoyed monstrous popularity. And why wouldn’t it? Their designs were simple, flattering, and they looked great on hot people. Just what every fashion brand is trying to be, right?
What it’s known for: sportswear, mainly shoes
Some would argue that Nike never really went anywhere, so it’s not like they’re some long forgotten 90s brand. They were, however, at the height of their popularity back then (mostly because of the athletic trend that was everywhere), and while they’ve been around since then, it’s only recently that they came back hard into the mainstream.
The thing with Nike is that it’s such a household brand, that it’s always going to be around, you’ll always know it’s good quality, and their designs are kind of classic, so you can’t look “SOOO 90s” if you wear your Nikes. That tick will forever be iconic, so they can pry our Nikes from our cold, dead hands.
#16 Baby Phat
What it’s known for: tacky…everything
You know when you look at something and just instantly KNOW that it belongs in the 90s? And should stay there? Preferably forever? That’s Baby Phat. Baby Phat is an off-shoot of Phat Farm, Russel Simmons’ fashion brand. It addressed women and it was fronted by Russel’s better (and much more attractive) half, Kimora Lee Simmons.
Baby Phat had a moment, there, but aside from that truly horrendous name, it also was sooo 90s and tacky, that it didn’t really survive the change of tide the way other brands did. And thank god for that. May it rest in peace.
#17 Doc Marten
What it’s known for: boots
If you were a grunge kid in the 90s, you’re surely familiar with Docs. They were the ONLY boots made for stomping, if you were with the goth kids. Or if you wanted to be with them.
It was a street cred thing. People also SWEAR they eventually become comfortable, but I have yet to see it and remain skeptical. The vast amounts of brand new Docs abandoned in charity shops because the owner couldn’t break them in without massive amounts of pain paint a vicious, unflattering picture.
But even considering all that, they will still forever be the coolest, baddest missy of the shoe world, and they come in soooo many different styles and colors that it’s impossible to not find a pair you like.
Look, I ain’t saying these are the ONLY 90s brands or all of them or anything like that. These are just some of the most well-known, the most iconic, and at times, the most ridiculous.
Some of these have lasted over the years (Nike, anyone?), some of them are enjoying a resurgence (like Versace), and some of them have fallen off the wagon, never to be seen again (Ooops, Baby Phat).
Good riddance, tbh. Was that too bitchy? That was too bitchy. Pray that Kimora Lee Simmons doesn’t come after me or like, slaps me with a cease and desist or something.