Fashion is cyclical. Looks that defined a certain time period inevitably resurface later, an encore meant to be both reverent and indicative of reinvention.
Flared jeans, à la the seventies, came back in the nineties. Flapper dresses of the thirties were reimagined as drop-waist frocks in the sixties. Everything comes back. Yes, even stirrup pants.
But I have always prayed that one period in particular would simply disappear from fashion history: the 2000s. Specifically, the years I hoped never to see again were 2000 to 2005. I thought the world had mutually agreed that these years were a mistake. But no good deed goes unpunished, and my time championing elegant, classic, and feminine fashion as the style editor at Verily has not saved me from a full-blown fashion nightmare: The 2000s, 2.0.
I started getting scared when I noticed brightly colored fuzzy jackets on the streets of New York. You know, like the fuzzy pink jacket Elle Woods wears while tanning (?!) in Legally Blonde. Then it got worse. The “it” girls (Kendall, Bella, Gigi) who drive street trends started donning pink- and orange-lensed sunglasses. There has also been the slow return of crop tops, chokers, embellished denim, and lace-up everything. But none of these can even come close to the most obvious manifestation of this second coming of the new millennium. Of course, I’m talking about the epidemic that is Adidas Superstar sneakers.
Industry analyst Matt Powell recently released a ranking of the past year’s bestselling sneakers. For the first time in more than a decade, he said, Nike was not at the top. Adidas was.
Before we continue any further, let’s get the communal “Nooooooo” over with.
So how did we get here (again)? You might blame it on the recent Paris Hilton resurgence (she is, after all, the official queen of the early 2000s), but I am more inclined to give credit to the slippery slope of ironic fashion and normcore styles we’ve been sliding down for some time now.
Last week, Highsnobiety released a surprising story about this ubiquitous sartorial movement characterized by washed-out mom jeans, label-less and oversize tees, and a general disregard for tailoring of any sort. Apparently normcore was not the product of fashion’s elite setting the trends (you know, like the typical top-down trickle depicted in the infamous cerulean blue scene in The Devil Wears Prada). Our rush toward ironic blasé style was more or less a parody stunt by art-collective-turned-“trend forecasters” K-Hole, who seemingly wanted to prove that fashion wasn’t as smart as it thought it was. I guess the joke’s on us.
Normcore became mainstream around 2013 after K-Hole introduced the term, and it was quickly adopted as the uniform for women (and men) who wanted to prove that they could be attractive and cool despite wearing ugly clothes. The entire fashion industry adopted it as its own and mass-produced billions of dollars worth of clothes that could have easily been mistaken for the costume wardrobe of Dawson's Creek—which coincidentally had its peak season in 2001, according to ad revenue for The WB.
While Y2K fashion may produce one big cringe, we have to admit it was unique. At no other time in fashion history do we see such a blending of the technological with the sartorial. Sportswear became nightwear, over-the-top embellishments collided with daywear, and messages were literally spoken through T-shirts and the rear end of sweatpants. But it was worn authentically during that time and therefore merits its place in the fashion record.
In 2017, wearing chokers, mesh crop tops, tracksuits, mini purses, and platform sandals (like these beauts) feels more like a period of unoriginality—digression, even—than it does an era of inspired fashion.
There’s nothing wrong with wistfully wishing for the days of Lip Smackers, lazy Saturdays watching Lizzie McGuire, and, most of all, when my greatest concern was what to buy at The Limited Too. I’ll wax nostalgic with the best of them (I’ve included some videos below for doing just that). Hey, I even bought a metal butterfly hair clip on eBay (unsurprisingly now available at Urban Outfitters), which sits on my desk and reminds me of my fashion roots. But that’s the thing—we’ve evolved. We’re progressing. Millennial women are experiencing the most important period of our lifetimes right now—establishing our careers, finding and building lifelong relationships, figuring out just what we’re made of. Do we really want to be dressed ironically for it?
Borrowing from the past is not a bad thing. Eighty percent of my wardrobe is from the fifties, sixties, and seventies, and I spend an inordinate amount of time scrolling through vintage shops on Etsy. I’m not even entirely opposed to colorful fuzzy boa jackets. Every time we get dressed, we have an opportunity to express the internal and dignify the external. We communicate respect for ourselves and those around us simply by how we clothe ourselves.
As the 2000s come back into fashion and collide with Millennial uncertainties, being mindful of how we’re wearing those Y2K-inspired items is more important than ever. Is what we’re wearing conveying who we are as women? Or are we just reliving our youth (read: refusing to grow up) in the name of a massive (sort of tacky) trend? Let your style be a reflection of you, not the entrance to a cool-kid club that perhaps should have shut down alongside my VCR.
This article originally appeared in Verily Magazine.