How to be nostalgic for the 90s

Twice a year, I reenact a ritual from my childhood wherein I go to a mall, try on a bunch of clothes that I can’t afford at a mid-scale retailer and then purchase knockoffs of said items from a less reputable store. Which is how I found myself at Forever 21 yesterday.

The evil geniuses at F21 have figured out a few things:

  • I will buy one $5.00 tank top. However, at $4.80, I will buy three.
  • Preteen girls want to look like extras in a 2 Live Crew video.
  • Kids today are bi-curious about the 90s.

Well, girls, I can’t help you look like a streetwalker in Southeast Asia, but I can tell you a true story (true stor-ay!) about what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real.

First of all:

  • We had Lady Gaga in the 90s; she was called Madonna.
  • We had Starbucks; it was called McDonalds.
  • We had Justin Bieber; he was called Justin Timberlake.
  • We had 90210; it was called 90210.

Modern historians make it sound as if we were all living in dank basement apartments, working in coffee shops, strung out on heroin, moshing at underground rock clubs, and wearing thrift-store clothes to show our utter disdain for the multinational corporate dictatorship that had us all enslaved by capitalism. But, unless you were a member of Sleater Kinney or in a band with Dave Grohl, chances are that this was not the case.

For example, we like to remember guys in the 90s looking like this:

But they really looked like this:

So, here are some tips to re-create that authentic 90s experience.

Get really, really depressed.

The 90s were like one long “special episode” where we all got super uptight about respecting each other’s ethnicity, gender-association, able-bodied-ness, and the environment and shit. All good concepts, in theory, but imagine a world where you are constantly on edge trying not to offend anyone, where if you accidentally throw away a can rather than recycling it, you feel like you are to blame for the destruction of the entire planet, and you’re pretty sure you have AIDS.

You’re going to need more socks.

For one thing, you simply cannot wear Doc Martens or clunky lumberjack-looking work boots without socks. But even in your platform Mary Janes, you should probably wear at least two pairs of stockings, preferably bright colors; the top pair being either fishnet or adorned with handmade cut-outs. For a preppy look, try wearing several pairs of socks at a time, color-coordinated with your t-shirt (which is either way too big or way too small—nothing was supposed to fit correctly in the 90s).

At least 2 scrunchies must be worn at all times.

A “scrunchy” is a rubber band wrapped in a piece of cloth. It is used to pull your heavily crimped, permed, gelled, moussed, shellacked hair into a ponytail (or half-ponytail, side-ponytail or French braid). Another one goes around your wrist. That is the minimum requirement, but don’t be afraid to express yourself. Wear another scrunchy on the other wrist. Try one around your ankle. Experiment. Get wild. You may mix it up by throwing in a bandana somewhere – Do-rag? Sure. Tie one around your thigh like a hillbilly stripper on her wedding night? Why not?

Get a Rachel.

You will need to do some research on this one. Find a salon in a strip mall where most of the stylists are at least 45 years old. It will probably be called something like “Trimz” or “Stylez.” Tell them you want a “Rachel.” This is a hairstyle based on a character from that show that your mom watches in reruns on TBS. The character was played by that lady with the nice boobs whose dad also turned out to be the father of Bo Brady.

You will know they did it correctly if you come out with anchorwoman helmet-hair that looks like a big mushroom on your neck. Complement your new look with heavy white face powder and dark brown lipstick. In case you worry that you now look like a zombie middle-aged soccer mom, don’t worry. That will be balanced-out by the fact that you are wearing oversized Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls with one strap unhooked, and a baby tee that would fit a four-year-old.

Then, take some Ecstasy, slap on some glowsticks, and listen to this on repeat for the next eight or nine hours. Enjoy!


  • How to be nostalgic for the 90s—goth version (you will need to buy some clove cigarettes)
  • How to be nostalgic for the 90s—Puff Daddy remix (the same post, but with Sly & the Family Stone playing in the background)

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