WHY Y2K WON’T GO AWAY
Once in a while, humanity does something strange that makes us all consider if we are living in some sort of bizarre alternate reality. Typically this manifests in the nonsensical confusion of the ‘Mandela Effect’ where we all collectively remember something that never happened, like the Monopoly man having a monocle or Loony Toons actually being spelt ‘Loony Tunes’. However, the last year of lockdown seems to have caused an even stranger cultural shift and the resurrection of an era I thought we were all still too embarrassed about to remember. In true Schwarzenegger fashion… the 2000s are back!
In the last few months alone, the quintessential Y2K couple JLo and Ben Affleck have rekindled their romance, Space Jam is on the silver screen once again, low rise jeans are back on the runways and Travis Barker of Blink 182 has become the hottest producer of the moment! Quite frankly all that’s missing from this twisted 2000s renaissance is Paris Hilton wearing a T-shirt that says ‘Stop Being Poor’ (which later turned out to be photoshopped with the original saying ‘Stop Being Desperate’) paired with a satirically named ‘peasant skirt’. What’s next? Are we all swapping out our iPhones for the latest T Mobile Sidekick?
With so many aspects of Y2K culture resurfacing it seems as if the classic fashion truism that “Fashion moves in 20-year cycles” is just as true now as it was when Dr Martens and the grunge aesthetic of the ’90s was resurrected during the mid-2010s. However, the question still remains are these trends based on the discovery of classic quality clothing and music by new generations or is it simply just a rebranding mission by companies and labels devoid of new ideas to generate cultural currency?
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In a week where Cam’ron and Jadakiss faced off in an epic versus battle between The Lox & Dipset at Madison Square Garden, it is becoming clear that the music of the early 2000s still resonates with those that witnessed it first hand and a new generation that missed out on the pink faux-fur outfits of Killa Cam. Indeed it seems that the era that birthed the all-white wearing stool sitting boyband has continued to inspire musicians today.
Ariana Grande has been at the forefront of 2000s revival having sampled the NSYNC classic ‘It Makes Me Ill’ for the bridge of her fan favourite track ‘Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored’, bringing the boyband out of obscurity and back into the public consciousness. This track was dropped shortly after Ariana released the nostalgia-inducing music video for ‘Thank U, Next’ that parodies a plethora of early 2000s films like Legally Blonde, Mean Girls and Hairspray.
Similarly, Olivia Rodrigo received a tirade of criticism following the release of her 2021 album ‘Sour’ for repeatedly drawing directly from early 2000s records and imagery. Her smash single ‘good 4 u’ draws direct comparisons to the sweet-punk style of ‘Misery Business’ by Paramore lead singer Hayley Williams. Additionally, Rodrigo was later called out by another heroine of the 2000s, Courtney Love, after Olivia copied the prom-style imagery for Love’s album ‘Live Through This’ for her recent behind the scenes documentary poster.
However, it seems as if the ‘imitation is the highest form of flattery’ argument still holds some weight as many Gen-Z artists continue to pay homage to their naughties heroes by using their lives and creations to inspire their own work. Such fanatical love of early 2000s music has birthed an era of ‘Hyperpop’ that some fans just simply call ‘Y2K’. Artists like Slayyyter are using the heavy synths and breathy melancholic guitar licks of Avril Lavigne and Fergie to create a more modern and chaotic sound. Slayyyter’s 2021 song ‘Celebrity’ is a track from the perspective of a cocaine-driven rich heiress with bleach blonde hair and a leaked sex tape, a clear tribute to a key influence of hers, Paris Hilton. Although this is perhaps the most obvious nod to the permeation of today’s music with 2000s references and sounds, it is indicative of a wider tendency of younger artists to draw on an era of music they wish they experienced first hand.
Ok, now we can all agree that the 2000s had some good music that deserves to be revived, but the fashion?! Does nobody else remember the Ed Hardy T-shirts tucked into the oversized belt buckle that held up your bootcut jeans? Some things just belong in the past. Nonetheless, a few key industry influencers are bringing back several quintessential 2000s outfits that are adapting rather well to a contemporary lookbook.
The classic low-rise jean and crop top combo was a cornerstone of the essential Y2K wardrobe. After being brought to infamy by celebs like Adriana Lima, Jennifer Lopez, and of course the Alexander McQueen 1996 Fall collection, low-rise jeans are back in a big way this season. Its return is being spearheaded by influencers like Kendall Jenner, I AM GIA, and Bella Hadid who believe the ‘stomach flossing’ combo of a crop top and low-rise jeans is a perfect summer alternative to the traditional day dress or jean short staples.
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Some have theorised that the return of the low-rise jean is largely down to the modern fixation of up-cycling and thrift shopping as Gen-Z discover the discarded Spice Girls T’s and braided leather belts we all tossed away in embarrassment. Whilst this may be the case, we cannot ignore the impact that brands like Marc Jacobs have when they release ‘capsule collections’ such as their recent collaborations with influencer Devon Le Carlson that features all the traditional prints and cuts of 2000s fashion. Cropped hoodies, fishnet socks under heels and neo print doll T’s are all prominent components of the collection.
Similarly to the low-rise jean, elongated sunglasses are back with a vengeance. What was once an accessory reserved only for No Fear wearing Justin Timberlake impersonators at the local skatepark is now being adorned by some of the most famous rappers and most respected fashion houses in the world. Once again, its brands like Faces + Places & Balenciaga that have reimagined and elevated the elongated sunglasses from something that looked like it was bought at a petrol station to a bespoke futuristic addition to any outfit.
It’s true, there really is nothing new under the sun, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Whilst I may be the only one patiently waiting for the suits and hats era of the 1920s to come back around, it’s difficult to deny that both musically and stylistically the creatives of today have taken 2000s culture and elevated it to a new place that keeps bands like Paramore and brands like Ed Hardy relevant today… and that’s definitely a good thing. Additionally, fashion trends being dictated by Gen-Z thrift shop shoppers is a definite improvement on the fast-fashion and profit-driven industry that created a lot of these trends to begin with. So as younger generations discover, reinterpret, parody and pervert the trends and music we all endured back in the day, let’s all try not to make the same “You didn’t invent that, that was cool when I was young!” arguments our parents made back when Green Day started wearing punk rock leather jackets and spiking their hair.
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