By Coco Brown
The Nineties, as is clear, are making a huge comeback. Be it ‘grungey’ flannel shirts, retro sportswear or double denim, both on the catwalk and on the streets, familiar trends are reappearing. But who were the original ambassadors of such a confident and varied decade? Check out our top trend setters and consider why their unique styles have not only survived, but thrived.
Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain
The King and Queen of grunge, this volatile and unpolished couple were what they wore. They may not have been the most likeable pair, but it is undeniable the impact the two had on culture and style. Commonly compared to a thrift shop in itself, Cobain’s androgynous wardrobe, like Love’s, featured many ordinary items that were often disheveled and loose fitting. Grunge fashion, regarded as anti-fashion, thus became an ironic statement, hugely popularised by Love and Cobain; a look that’s character and impact rested in it’s simplicity and rejection of the nighties glamour. He wore oversized, second-hand T-shirts, printed with large graphics or slogans, often underneath a shabby, unbuttoned flannel shirt with ripped jeans. The personification of the ‘less is more’ attitude, Cobain’s iconic look was complete with a pair of battered Doc. Martens and, what the New York Times titled, ‘hair-sweat-and-guitars-look.’ Similarly, his wife’s smudged lip-stick and dark eye make-up highlighted women’s role in the rebellion against the supermodel age. Courtney Love’s style was therefore much like Cobain’s. The clunky combat boots/ripped jeans/flannel shirt trio was a powerful contrast to widely accepted image of the perfect women. Even when she sported a more ‘female’ look, in her classic slip dresses or babydoll frocks, they were either torn, stained or accessorised with chokers and large hoop earrings; an aggressive, but iconic rejection – otherwise known as Kinderwhore fashion.
Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain, New York (1992)
Liam Gallagher came onto the scene in 1994 with the introduction of Oasis, the much loved British band that saw all seven of their studio albums reach number one in the charts. Renowned for his energy and brashness, Gallagher aimed to stand out from the crowd with his varied looks, including football shirts and jeans or, most famously, roll neck jumpers and hooded parka jackets. Gallagher appealed hugely to the public as someone who valued his background and never forgot where he came from. A huge supporter of Manchester City, his love of football heavily influenced his early style and Gallagher was frequently seen wearing football shirts promoting his home town and brands such as Adidas. Aside from his typical John-Lennon-esque hair style and glasses, the parka jacket became an item widely associated with Gallagher. Stylish, but dramatic, the look largely consisted of mundane colours, occasionally with a vibrant feature item.
Liam Gallagher and his guitarist brother Noel Gallagher in Manchester City football shirts (1994)
Winona Ryder was largely an outsider. Her style set her apart from the Carrie Bradshaw wannabes and yet did not posses the same aggression adopted by the Kinderwhore chicks. To put it plainly, Ryder was cool. She had a penchant for vintage styles and her red carpet ensembles often echoed 30s and 40s styles, including flapper dresses, pashminas and little strappy bags – she even reportedly wore a $10 dress to the Oscars. However, her everyday look was laid back and tomboyish. She was commonly seen in bashed-up leather jackets, band Tees, and Levi’s jeans or head to toe in black; a gothic-chic style icon that went hand in hand with her roles in Tim Burton classics. As well as this, Ryder’s boyish pixie cuts were commonly paired with over-tailored suits and blazers that inspired the popular 90s trend. She once got beaten up at at school for such an outfit. Years later, she was stopped in a coffee shop for an autograph by a familiar face: ‘Winona, Winona, can I have your autograph?’ She turned to the girl and asked if she remembered beating a kid up in seventh grade to which the girl looked unsure and then mortified as Ryder continued: ‘That was me. Go f**k yourself.’
The proud owner of one of the most famous wardrobes in New York, Rachel Green, played by Jennifer Anniston, had a plethora of outfits and changing styles that sparked numerous trends throughout the 90’s. The spoilt rich girl turned successful business women, Rachel had it all and the whole world rejoiced when she appeared in Ross’ apartment door in her black mini skirt and boots: ‘I got off the plane.’ She was the everyday girl’s icon. Her collection of crops tops, denim and strappy tops were timeless and no one could pull off a plain white V-neck T-shirt like Jen. An ambassador of classic looks, including baggy dungarees, bandeau dresses and the short skirt/knee high sock combination, Rachel’s hair was not the only thing the public envied.
A vibrant character with a vibrant look, you would never have lost Will Smith in a crowd. Baseball caps, neon shirts and oversized sweatshirts; beaded necklaces, bold patterned trousers and polka dot shirts, Smith was the epitome of extreme 90s fashion. His collection of retro jackets, including his inside-out school blazer, were bold and full of character, while his collection of neon caps was unlike any other and he some how managed to pull them off at every angle. Matching tracksuits and colourful shell jackets complimented
the crazy dances and his brilliant sense of humour was clearly reflected in some of his more ridiculous ensembles, most memorably the tuxedo complete with air Jordans. However, Smith could also be seen in a classic hoodie and jeans, but don’t forget the cap.
From braces to crop tops to drop-crotch pants, it appears that Gwen Stefani’s fashion hits have all become massive trends. Stefani was a punk; a street style wearing skater girl. Her signature red lips and bleached hair made her a 90’s icon from the start and her fashion choices were simply proof how how deserved her reputation was. Never one for normality, if Stefani wore jeans, she wore them with fish nets and if she had her hair up she tied it in multiple buns and adorned them with small gems. However, the admirable thing about Gwen Stefani’s style is that it was ever changing and she can be considered responsible for multiple trends. She flaunted athleisure before it’s rise to popularity and led the bikini top craze, confidently pairing them up with ankle length skirts and track jackets. Her hair went from blue to purple to pink and she was never shy of an oversized feather boa.
Gwen Stefani, Melissa Auf der Maur and Courtney Love at the MTV Movie Awrds (1998)
The stereotypical 90’s American rapper is dressed in all black and weighed down with gold chains. Sean Combs, otherwise known as Puff, Puff Daddy, Diddy or King Combs, was the exception. While his collection of outfits did include the more typical ‘Straight Outta Compton’ monochrome style, he was prone to a little more colour. Some of his more prominent looks featured brightly coloured Versace shirts or bold camouflage patterns – he even sported a pale pink golf jumper. Complete with a permanently glued on pair of shades, Combs’ music videos also saw him experiment with fashion, adding shiny suits, leather football jerseys and Coogi knitted jumpers to his wardrobe alongside Biggie.
On screen, Johnny Depp transforms into eccentric characters with the familiar subtle sense of humour and naivety, combatting his tortured bad boy look beyond the cameras. His long locks, prominent cheek bones and growing collection of tattoos became iconic and were complimented by his assured sense of style. Like his famous ex-girlfriends, Winona Ryder and Kate Moss, the oversized, almost grungey style highlighted his features perfectly. During the 90’s, Depp was commonly seen in worker or leather jackets and oversized suits, frequently paired with a hat and a collection of jewellery, including rings, earrings and, always, a couple of necklaces.
Johnny Depp at the Hollywood Premiere of 'Single White Female (1992)
Grunge meets boho, Drew Barrymore was care-free and and rebellious and her clothing reflected her happy-go-lucky nature brilliantly. While she had a love of double denim, choppy hair and dark lip stick, Drew was not the classic defiant rock ‘n’ roll chic. Often covered in body glitter, wearing daisy chains and famously owning a Mickey Mouse backpack, her look was more girly and thus each outfit was hugely varied between the delicate and harsher elements. Pink eyeshadow and black lipstick; satin slip dresses with clunky black shoes; flower hair pins and bold tattoos; Drew was a girl of opposites.