Back to the Future: How ‘90s Culture is Making a Comeback

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The waves of retro nostalgia appear to be coming in equal intervals. The practice has shown that there is an insulation period that lasts between 25 and 30 years before the era long-gone makes a comeback, and the craze appears to last as long as the decade in question itself. In the late 2000s, the music of the 80s slowly began to creep back into our culture. In the mid-2010s, everything was retro-wave as synth-pop, neon-glazed aesthetics and fashion inspired by new-romantics philosophy reigned supreme. However, as we are approaching the tail-end of the 2010s, the decade that follows the vibrant 80s seems to be pouring in from all sides – as we travel back to the future, here’s how the 90s culture made a comeback.

The revival trends

The 80s trend wave was announced with obscure synth-pop hits on college parties in the late 2000s. The beginning of 90s culture comeback is taking a completely different route – it can be gleaned through the revivals. The new seasons of shows like the X-Files, Roseanne, Will and Grace as well as Twin Peaks shows a renewed interest in the video-tape decade. This is also reflected in the gaming community as the remake of blockbuster hits such as Final Fantasy VII, the first Resident Evil and its sequel make their way into the spotlight.

It’s in the tapes

We tend to romanticize the decades past, but there is something truly special about the technological tactility of the 80s and the 90s. The “tape” phenomenon of the 90s – or to be more specific, the way this technology manifested during this exact decade – is seeing a comeback big-time. The immensely popular Netflix show 13 Reasons Why capitalizes on this by using audio cassette tapes as literal plot devices. The latest sequel of the popular Resident Evil video game franchise puts video tapes for camcorder devices and VCRs front and center in the first hour of gameplay. As it has already been mentioned, there is a factor of “tactility,” the way this technology clicks and snaps into place, that appears to be extremely enticing for the 90s enthusiasts.

The clothes and props

The comeback of clothing and props from the 90s are a bit more discreet, simply because what was introduced during that period, surprisingly, became a consistent part of culture throughout the following decades. Polaroids are as popular now as they were in the mid-2000s and high-waisted jeans remained a sensible fashion choice. The sturdy cool cruiser skateboards are just as integral to the skating culture as they were when it boomed in the early 90s. The only thing that appears to have fallen out of vogue and which has an opportunity make a proper comeback is the grunge look – messy hair, no makeup, lanky sweaters, torn jeans and crumpled converse sneakers.

The fashion sense

While we are on the topic of clothes, we should probably address fashion matters of the 90s in further detail. The grunge phenomenon, when it comes to clothing was the product of its time – specifically harsh economic conditions. The United States was going through the recession and the minimalist, torn-down appearance of “homeless” eleganza turned into a mixture of necessity and statement: the kids were fully aware of what the new times bring and they embrace it as the antidote to the 80s excess. The style exploded from its focal point in the mid-east US and spread throughout the world like wildfire.

The remnants of this can be felt to this very day and it is reflected through various pieces of clothing that are having a serious comeback: over the knee socks, chokers, light sleeveless shirts, baggy sweaters, torn waisted jeans, sandshoes and sneakers. Add to this a dash of dark berry lipstick, bun & braid haircuts and a pair of Dr. Martens and you are ready to enter the next decade primed and ready for the 90s culture shock.

Goth culture

Of course, the 90s were nothing if not dark. Bands like Tool and Marilyn Manson were an aggressive outlet for disenfranchised youth, and they expressed it through clothing as well as their taste in music – the aforementioned chokers were all the rage, nu-goth platforms, black lipstick, eye-shadow and nail polish paired pale complexion. It seems very opportune that Tool is about to release their new album after almost eight years of silence. This goes without even mentioning the fact that Marilyn Manson never ceased to produce and reinvent himself, which also adds to the argument that the 90s decade essentially never ended.

Still, there is hardly a better proof of the “Return of the 90s Living Dead” than the resurfacing of Wicca phenomenon. The college campuses of the United States and Canada are turning into a breeding ground for Wicca practices and teachings, which reflects the almost identical proliferation of magic-laden craze from the mid-90s.

This is us

Finally, out of all the reasons we are looking at the mere beginnings of the 90s culture comeback, the fact that the young adults of today were the children during this era is probably the best one. 80s retro culture wave was weird in that sense because it managed to captivate both the generations that lived during that time as well as the “kids” that were barely in the plans for the foreseeable future of their parents. We shall see if the 90s phenomenon is as interesting and “contagious” enough to create an excess of interest in kids that were born in 2000s. There is something about all those video tales, Furbys, neo-pets, and the first generations of consoles that makes this era so captivating.

As we enter adulthood, we tend to romanticize the decades past. The greater the temporal distance, the more idealized the era tends to get. This is a normal process as humans have a tendency to remember the best times as long as something deeply traumatic did not happen. It appears the time has come for 90s to become the “it” decade – which means we will see a lot of page haircuts, spiky hairdos, lanky sweaters and moody pop-rock music and pulse-pounding boy-band disco beats.


Olivia is psychologist and entrepreneur from Brisbane. Mother of two beautiful children and proud owner of two silly boxer dogs. She is passionate writer, a traveler and conscious consumer, seeking healthy and sustainable products to incorporate into the lives of her family. Her motto is “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

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