In age of roller blades, floppy discs, AOL, Umbro shorts, flannel, baby doll dresses, The Gap, MTV spring break and The Real World (debut), Daria, Beevis and Butthead, Friends, Seinfeld, Pauly Shore, Alicia Silverstone, Crystal Pepsi, Surge, Doritos, and blue jean (well, everything) it was a doozy. If you didn't grow up in the nineties, like I did, then you'd look at fads and pop-culture and just be a little confused. The 90's were cool in a very dorky way. They borrowed from other decades yet made a style all its own.
Here are some pics I found that display some trends from the nineties:
The style, society, and pop-culture of the 90's:
When I think back to things that were in style then or watch movies from that time period, I just scratch my head. Really, that was cool? For women, a floral dress/blouse with bell bottom sleeves, cut off jean shorts or leggings underneath, black combat boots, and a black lace choker with a pageboy haircut and maroon lipstick. Or, for guys, a flannel tied around the waist with a 'wife beater', blue jeans torn at the knee (not bought that way), hiking boots, and shoulder length hair with the accent of one earring (left for straight, right for gay). Seriously, the styles were really retched! You could go out wearing a jean jacket, jean shirt, jean pants, and a jean scrunchy or ball cap and you'd be in vogue with the latest trends. Oh, scrunchies!! At the time, a popular hairstyle was to shave the underside of your head and leave one side long and asymmetrical (the hipsters weren't the first). In the early, 90's a lot of women still had their mall hair, intact from the end of the 80's. But it was a little bit of a gender bender era. Guys and girls swapped their looks. Beware, these looks are making a comeback! Eeek!
The gender swapping was fascinating though. Women tried on short hairstyles and men tried to grow their hair out. I remember going to the mall at the time, and looking at a couple thinking the guy was the girl and vise versa. It was an age where women were beginning to explore their feminism in a way not really sought out before. Women were not accepting staying at home as homemakers, and en masse, many more women became full-time working gals. And this was in careers like law, medicine, government, and business. The 80's saw the advent of the glass ceiling that women shattered. However, I would argue that it was not until the 90's that we really began to see career women as we see them today. Women were no longer confined to working certain kind of jobs. They could be anything. For my own mother, she went back to law school and graduated in the early 90's, a feat I am very proud of her for accomplishing. This would have been unheard of in other eras. Career women were few, and women choosing a different, more powerful career later in life was not common at all.
Political correctness was the vogue terminology. The movie, PCU is the epitome of seizing the sarcasm surrounding political correctness. Everyone wanted to be polite and honest without being racist or bigoted. Race was a major societal issue, though. What made this so were events like the race riots of the early 90's. These riots were the result of the Rodney King incident in LA, where King (a black man) was beaten by white police officers for no reason other than sheer brutality and bigotry. Then there was the trial of one, O.J. Simpson for the convicted murder of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her boyfriend, Ron Goldman. There was also the rift between the African American and Jewish communities of Crown Heights, a result of a Guyanese child being hit and killed by an elderly Jewish driver. Many young black youths were getting in touch with Afro-centrism and in exploring racial identity, many questions concerning belonging and our nation's history with slavery could no longer be ignored.
There was also an exploration of sexuality, as there was an increased awareness of HIV and AIDS. Freddie Mercury, of Queen, became one of the first victims of the virus to have a high profile status. He was public with the fact that he had HIV/AIDS and did not try to hide it. He did not hide his sexuality either. See, this was pre-Lady GaGa so many gay celebrities and who's who stayed in the closet. It was this and the onset of MTV's the Real World with individuals like Pedro Zamora, an AIDS activist who also helped to raise awareness of the disease and bring knowledge into homes nationwide while being on the third season of the show while it was filmed in San Francisco. Zamora really became the face of AIDS and brought the disease to pop-culture and media. The nature of public reaction and the climate toward AIDS vastly changed because of people like Pedro and Freddie.
AIDS was no longer mysterious and scary. People were learning the facts about HIV/AIDS and beginning to take preventative measures. Also, the gay and lesbian movement was gaining a foothold, as sexuality was more open. It was much more common to see same sex couples holding hands and showing public affection (though the LGBTQ movement still had a far way to go). The effects, however, are still being seen today. Shows like 'Ellen', 'Will & Grace', 'Friends', and even 'Roseanne' portrayed gay characters. Also the idea of being 'bisexual' was blossoming in the 90's and the idea that your girlfriend could date women while also dating you became much more novel and accepted. I even remember a movie 'Threesome' where Lara Flynn Boyle, Stephen Baldwin, and Josh Charles had a sultry, well threesome. Then, there was 'Chasing Amy', all about a lesbian, Joey Lauren Adams, who also seemed to like boys. Hey, it was the 90's!!
Along with the new found freedom of sexuality came the exploration of 'alternative' lifestyles. Such things as S&M and vegetarianism weren't viewed as being so weird anymore. Madonna came out with her 'Sex' book and went through a phase of hitchhiking naked. Dennis Rodman wore a wedding dress to promote his auto-biography; he became synonymous with 'freak' at donning green or leopard print hair and multiple piercings. He was even rumored to be having a three-way with Madonna herself. Drew Barrymore stood up on David Letterman's desk and showed her breasts. It was an age of exhibitionism and exploration. Kids were piercing their noses and their belly buttons; you didn't just pierce your ears to make a statement anymore. You had to pierce your nose and dangle a chain from your nose to your ear to even be considered in the running for 'cool'. Even guys were piercing. Tattoos were now just getting cool. So, piercing and tattoo parlors were popping up even in Midwestern towns. You could see kids with blue hair and black leather pants walking around Des Moines or Kansas City. Being punky and goth weren't just urban phenomenons.
The 90's were weird though. Arguably, weirder than the 80's. George HW Bush, then Bill Clinton were our fearless American leaders. Strange news events like the Nancy Kerrigan knee cap bashing incident of the 1994 Olympics, where former teammate and competitor, Tonya Harding was found guilt of being behind the entire incident (she wanted the gold). What also became headlines was the penis chopping incident by one Lorena Bobbitt, when she cut her husband's, John Wayne Bobbitt's penis off because of his repeated abuse. Though, she said it was when he tried to rape her which pushed her to the edge. Also included the headlines from the time was the murder of the Mendendez brothers' (named Lyle and Erik) parents. They shot them due to years of abuse, both sexual and physical, at least according to the brothers. However, because the brothers were flaunting their late parents' wealth days after their demise proved that, perhaps, they were after money. All of the above incidents, by the way, are seen in sarcastic jest in the Weird Al Yankovic video for 'Headline News' (a parody of Crash Test Dummies's song 'Mmmm'). Yes, it was a very strange time indeed.
Weird Al Yankovic- 'Headline News' (1994)
The tunes of the 90s:
However, before I leave you, I want to provide a sample mix of sounds from the times. I think the songs of the 1990's speak for themselves. Have a listen, and then maybe you'll understand what it was like growing up in the 'dazed and confused' nineties.
40) Boyz II Men- 'End of the Road' (1992)
39) Spin Doctors- 'Little Miss Can't Be Wrong' (1991)
38) Gin Blossoms- 'Hey Jealousy' (1993)
37) Arrested Development- 'Mr. Wendal' (1992)
36) Portishead- 'Sour Times' (1994)
35) Nada Surf- 'Popular' (1996)
34) Tracy Bonham- 'Mother, Mother' (1996)
33) Deadeye Dick- 'New Age Girl' (1994)
32) Snow- 'Informer' (1992)
31) Mazzy Star- 'Fade Into You' (1994)
30) Dinosaur Jr.- 'Feel the Pain' (1994)
29) Alanis Morissette- 'You Oughta Know' (1995)
28) Tag Team-'Whoomp! (There It Is)' (1993)
27) Nate Dogg and Warren G- 'Regulate' (1994)
26) Skee-Lo- 'I Wish' (1996)
25) Coolio- 'Fantastic Voyage' (1994)
24) Crash Test Dummies- 'Mmmmm' (1993)
23) Jill Sobule- 'I Kissed a Girl' (1995)
22) The Sundays- Wild Horses' (1994)
21) Hootie and the Blowfish- 'Let Her Cry' (1994)
20) Stabbing Westward- 'Shame' (1996)
19) Poe- 'Angry Johnny' (1995)
18) Veruca Salt- 'Seether' (1994)
17) Whale- 'Hobo Humpin' Slobo Babe' (1994)
16) Hum- 'Stars' (1995)
15) The Rentals- 'Friends of P' (1995)
14) Ace of Base- 'Don't Turn Around' (1994)
13) Urban Cookie Collective- 'Ive Got the Key' (1996)
12) Rozalla- 'Everybody's Free' (1992)
11) Culture Beat- 'Mr. Vain' (1993)
10) James- 'Laid' (1993)
9) Harvey Danger- 'Flagpole Sitta' (1997)
8) Lucas- 'Lucas with the Lid Off' (1994)
7) Us3- 'Flip Fantasia' (1993)
6) Milla Jovovich- 'Gentlemen Who Fell' (1994)
5) Salt n' Peppa- 'Shoop' (1993)
4) En Vogue- 'Free Your Mind' (1992)
3) UB40- 'Can't Help Falling in Love With You' (1993)
2) 4 Non-Blondes- 'What's Up' (1992)
1) Stereo Mc's- 'Connected' (1992)
Rrap-up to the 90's:
There you have it, my mix for the illustrious nineties. I know that I left off bands like Oasis, Green Day, The Offspring, No Doubt, Nirvana, Hole, Foo Fighters, Presidents of the USA, Radiohead, and Dave Matthews Band. I wanted to try and include first, variety and also more obscure songs from the era. Of course, Salt n' Peppa was not obscure, but all of the above tracks define what the nineties meant to me. I remember these songs, and a flood of memories come back as I listen to each one.
It's funny because in a conversation I was having today, I realized that I grew up listening to great music. I have always wished to live in the sixties, namely 1965-1975 so I could have been around that scene. What I never realized is that the music of the nineties was roller skating parties (East Side, West Side) and rollerblading in my driveway. The music was middle school and high school. I was coming into my own and finding out who I was as a person. This music was fantastic and, unfortunately, I was not old enough to attend concerts until the later part of the nineties. I missed out on some good shows, I'm sure. However, I still got to see many great bands and festivals (including Warp Tour and Ozzfest).
I will not soon forget the nineties and movies like 'Clueless', 'Reality Bites', 'Dazed and Confused', 'Billy Madison', 'Empire Records', 'The Craft', 'Mallrats', 'Clerks', 'Chasing Amy', or 'Dogma' (I watched a lot of Kevin Smith). Shows like 'Seinfeld', 'Friends', 'Saved by the Bell', 'Beverly Hills 90210', 'My So Called Life', 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air', 'Full House', 'Roseanne', 'Family Matters', and 'The Cosby Show' were and still are favorites; they have left lasting impressions on our pop-culture (there was even a Steve Urkel breakfast cereal). If you don't know who Steve Urkel (did I do that?) is, then look it up! The Ninja Turtles (go, ninja go) were the rage and cartoons like: Animaniacs, Tiny Toon Adventures, Tailspin, Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck and Ren & Stimpy were favorites of every kid.
I am glad I came of age in this strange time. The nineties were recovering from the eighties and were not quite as technologically advanced as today's era. Cell phones still came in large cases and were referred to as 'car phones'. My first cellular phone did not even fit into my pocket. There were no i devices (I tunes, I phones, I pads, etc). The Internet was brand new and Google, though in existence, was not the tour de force it is nowadays. Youtube, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and any app for that matter, did not exist. If you listened to music, it was on a portable CD walkman. Cassette tapes and video cassettes were still sold. I remember when DVD's came out, and I thought that they wouldn't last. Same thing with MP3's. Now, everything is digital. So, listening to the songs of the nineties take me back to a simpler time. A time when we were a little more naive but also a little more connected to each other.
Talk to the hand (cuz the face don't understand),