The Reason Behind the Resurgence Of Y2K Fashion

The early 2000s fashion is back in style now, thanks to the users of TikTok who have recently been wearing scarves as tops with boot-cut jeans. Until now, we were obsessed with the 90’s tone, inspired by grunge fashion with flannel shirts, torn clothes, and vintage clothing. This coming back of Y2K only proves the cyclical nature of trends and aesthetics.

A TikTok user donning a scarf top with low rise boot cut jeans

Although trends have proven to be cyclical, the Y2K fad that has come this time around is giving us a new, improved, almost modern feel- we only have stars like Rihanna and Bella Hadid to thank for that. The Y2K decade was marked with extreme and maximalist outfits that many found gaudy and dreaded its coming back. But these stars have offered a brilliant, new, and refreshing twist to the old ideas and wore their seemingly plain outfits with one maximalist item, for example, trucker hats! They wear their jeans riding dangerously low on their hip but thankfully without the blingy, gaudy, and oversized belts that we saw initially.

Rihanna, out in LA wearing an athleisure ensemble paired with a trucker hat

Gen Z’s favorite celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa, and even Pete Davidson are donning the supposedly hottest pieces of jewelry that have absolutely nothing to do with well-to-do storied retailers or even precious stones, for that matter. Instead, they are wearing jewelry that makes us reminiscent of a time of homemade friendship bracelets such as beaded and DIY necklaces, earrings, and the likes of such.

Justin Bieber wearing Y2K inspired beaded necklaces

However, this new trend is not welcomed with open arms by everybody. While the Gen Z era is rejoicing, what they don’t remember is how damaging it was for many women back then. The height of fat-phobia in the Y2K era was considered the worst in history, which only worsened thanks to the rise in internet usage for the first time. As they were either too young or still unborn by the time the 2000s fashion rolled out, Gen Zs have now retorted to calling it ‘nowstalgia’ to relive and experience the 2000s style. This revisit to the vintage style has given birth to an explosion in second-hand buying or thrifting and has made way for sites like Poshmark and Depop.

The Y2K fashion has the smallest, skimpiest clothing that we have seen, and the era had the youngest models who mainly were 13- 16 years old and modeled clothes that were marketed for older women. This can only be a recipe for disaster, and it paved the way to a lot of eating disorders and eventually ended up in body dysmorphia. While Gen Z grew up in a more body-positive surrounding, the millennials are worried. Understandably because that era saw a massive spike in eating disorders from 2000- 2009.

Rogue, a vintage thrift store in Manhattan’s lower east side, has credited the resurgence of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears in the mainstream media as the reason behind the come-back of this style. Paris Hilton has recently been in the spotlight about the abuse she had faced during her time at a school in Utah. On the other hand, Spears is fighting a very public battle against her father’s conservatorship. As many fans are taking a stand for them on social media, they are devouring fashion and content related to the pair.

I think that the resurgence of any fashion style can also be credited and traced back to the social and economic situation in the market then. As the world saw a raging recession in 2008, we could see the following 2010s marked by extreme maximalism. Taking an example from the past, the 1990s fashion is said to be a reaction to the luxury and the excess of the 1980s. According to Colleen Hill, the curator of Costume and Accessories at the Museum of FIT, even if one had the money back then, wearing overly fancy and showy clothing was considered disrespectful. Although the popular grunge style of the 1990s differs from the traditional definition of minimalism, it is still evident for us to see that it was a response to the abundance and opulence of the 1980s. Even the luxury of the time was sexy and provocative like we saw with the famous ‘bumster’ pants by Alexander McQueen as well as Tom Ford’s sexy and feminine minimalism. All of this added up and set the platform for the arrival of Y2K.

Our generation’s need to look back to the past for fashion inspiration has more to it than just a superficial meaning. With constant turmoil and uncertainty around us, I think that we like to find comfort in the feeling of nostalgia. It gives us a sense of familiarity as the world constantly changes around us. Due to the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we ventured towards ‘escapism’ and started looking back to the 2000s, which was a time that was ‘happy’ and ‘carefree’ for us. We also found solace in products that reminded us of such a time. So I think that a mix of this nostalgia and social media brought back the infamous Y2K style. I also believe that this recent obsession with Y2K is a matter of personal memory and nostalgia for the millennials. At the same time, Gen Z is just attracted to the aesthetic and style appeal of the era.

With the onset of the pandemic, people were left with lesser buying power and resorted to thrifting and buying second-hand clothes. Some say that this shift in the trend of consumption is another reason for the revival of Y2K, and this style started getting associated with ethical and sustainable fashion. As more and more people are beginning to buy second-hand and vintage clothing and are trying to detach themselves from the ‘trend culture,’ they are bringing back the prominent fashion pieces from that era and making them closet staples now.

I would describe the re-appearance of the modified Y2K as a very retro trend with a futuristic advantage. Due to the internet’s stronghold over our lives, I would also say Y2K is not going to die down any soon. Although it might not completely disappear, Y2K might be reformed constantly to suit the fashion needs in the following years.

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Fashion business student @ Istituto Marangoni | Milan. I write about fashion and history. Let’s chat on Instagram: @nandininachiar

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Nandini Nachiar

Nandini Nachiar

Fashion business student @ Istituto Marangoni | Milan. I write about fashion and history. Let’s chat on Instagram: @nandininachiar

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