We might party like it’s 1999, but we dress like it’s 2000– a future that Prince and The Revolution could only dream of.
Y2K fashion started to make a comeback towards late 2019, and three years into the 2020s, it is clear that it remains appealing to the masses. Ensembles consisting of mini skirts, denim-on-denim, layered tees and baby tees are in, thanks to the markets of nostalgia and TikTok.
Fashion trends tend to cycle in and out of the mainstream, especially in a digital age where our attention span barely lasts five minutes, let alone nearly four years. Yet, there is particular grandeur of early 2000s fashion which has allowed it to maintain relevance.
So what comes after Y2K? Is it here to stay?
To answer these questions, let’s consider the following…
Why Did Y2K Return?
The return of Y2K fashion can be largely attributed to the “nostalgia wave,” which has influenced the fashion and entertainment markets over the past few years. Amid recent global challenges, psychologists found that nostalgia helps mend negative attitudes and feelings, which boosts both positivity and overall resilience.
Therefore, we saw reboots of our favorite shows and movie franchises, along with a resurgence of Y2K fashion. This was largely ushered in by Generation Z, even though a large percentage of this generation weren’t alive during the period or were too young to remember it. This feeling, known as “anemoia,” often coincides with the feeling that one was born in the wrong generation.
Fashion is transcendent, and society has a tendency to romanticize the past, so it is no surprise that new generations look to past fashion archives for inspiration. But when combined with nostalgic– or anemoiaic– comfort and the convenience of mediums like TikTok, we see certain styles return in a big way.
In the case of Y2K fashion, it remains relevant– in spite of how fast most trends die out. The answer to this phenomena is not as complicated as some might think.
Why Is Y2K Still Relevant?
To answer this question, we must consider an additional question: Did Y2K fashion really die out?
Sure, velour tracksuits, scarve tops and low-rise jeans were not as prominent by the late-2000s and early 2010s. But crop tops, chunky sneakers and tinted sunglasses never went away.
Business casual button-ups atop skinny jeans had a brief moment, but people never stopped wearing graphic tees or mini skirts. And athleisure has certainly had a few faces, but it has been a staple in the wardrobes of many since at least 1979– when the term was first coined.
A number of trends have had their time in the limelight, but remnants of Y2K fashion still remained over the years because most aspects of the style have remained accessible. It might be hard to snag a pair of sneaker heels nowadays, but stores never stopped selling oversized cargo pants, for example.
When the longevity of certain aspects of Y2K fashion is coupled with the nostalgia wave and thrift culture, you have a trend that lasts.
Newstalgia: What Comes After Y2K
With Y2K fashion maintaining such a large presence in mainstream culture and fashion over the past few years, it is unlikely that the style will die out anytime soon.
“Newstalgia,” or the desire to both embrace that past and experience something new, is likely to dominate the fashion industry in the coming years. This is already happening alongside the revival of Y2K fashion. Barbiecore, which modernizes certain aspects of 80s fashion and utilizes bright shades of pink, is an example of a fashion trend that existed alongside Y2K fashion in early 2023.
Here are a few examples of other Newstalgic fashion trends that are gaining traction and are likely to have their moment in 2024:
Quiet Luxury/Old Money
Quiet luxury, or the “old money” aesthetic, refers to a style that could easily fit into the world of the HBO show Succession. It’s not too flashy, the colors aren’t too bold and the silhouettes are soft. Quiet luxury pieces are high-quality, clean and comfortable. This style does not intend to scream “wealth;” rather, it maintains an air of subtlety. Quiet luxury draws its inspiration not only from characters like the Roys, but from real-life people and socialites who have preserved large amounts of wealth across generations– hence the association with “old money.” Quiet luxury is appealing, not only for its homage to the subtleties of past wealth but for the durability of the pieces. Brands that exude quiet luxury include Cos, The Row and Bevza.
Retrofuturistic fashion has been around since the late 1960s, most prominently through the “Space-Age” aesthetic that was crafted by the late Pierre Cardin. With roots in a dystopian imagining of the future, the silhouettes of these pieces are often sleek with patent leather, vinyl and PVC as the preferred materials. Pieces are often bold and flashy with unique textures. The late and legendary Thierry Mugler is known for crafting retro-futuristic, Avant-Garde garments throughout the 80s and 90s. Retro-futuristic style serves as an ode to the young and rebellious. At its core, it is a supreme combination of past styles that look to the future. Brands that embody this style include HUBANE and Rabanne, the brand of the late Paco Rabanne.
Fast and Fringed
Fringe fashion made waves at Spring 2024 NYFW, and it is projected to maintain traction moving forward. According to Fashion Gone Rogue, fringe style consists of hanging threads, with garments largely made from leather and suede. Fringe originated in 3000 B.C. Mesopotamia (now Iraq), and years later, the style was adapted by Indigenous Americans as both a practical and decorative adornment. Fringe remained popular in the 1920s, and by the 70s, it became a staple part of “hippie fashion.” Now, in 2023, fringe can be seen on Western-inspired outfits, or as part of one’s Bohemian-inspired look. Brands that sell fringe pieces include Fringe + Co and Ralph Lauren.
Fashion is a force that constantly pulls from the past to inform the present and shape the future. As we hold space for the revival of Y2K fashion, we look forward to what the future has to offer.