10 Cultural Touchstones of the ’90s That Should Never Come Back


[Editor’s note: While your editors take the day off, Flavorwire will be counting down some of our most popular features of 2011 so far. This post originally ran on January 25th. Enjoy your Memorial Day!] In the past few years, ’90s nostalgia has been through the roof: Doc Martens and flannel are back in style, we’ve been re-watching movies like Reality Bites and Empire Records, and we’re getting kind of addicted to Tumblrs like this one. Although we tend to see the decade through rose-colored glasses (perhaps it helps that we were kids then), we need to remember that it wasn’t all Nirvana and pro-choice activism. After the jump, we enumerate ten cultural touchstones of the ’90s that we never want to see again. Add your picks in the comments.


After the so-called “alternative” music of the first half of the ’90s loosened its hold on modern-rock radio, a tidal wave of new — or should we say nü — metal bands flooded in to replace them. These were guys like Limp Bizkit and Korn. They wore oversize baseball shirts and cargo shorts and sometimes even cornrows, bellowed about “nookie,” mewled over their troubled childhoods, and helped make Woodstock ’99 the ridiculously violent rape-fest that it was. Unfortunately, Korn are still releasing music (their latest album came out last summer), and in the past few years, Limp Bizkit have reunited. That said, the full-length they were supposed to put out a year ago still doesn’t have a release date, so here’s hoping they’ll break up again before we have to hear it.

Fanny packs

A great, hands-free options for paranoid tourists around the world? Sure. Unfortunately, fanny packs are also just about the least attractive accessory of all time. American Apparel may have tried to reclaim them by fastening their updated versions around the waists of their skinny, short-shorts-wearing models, but if there’s anything the ’90s should have taught us, it’s this: putting something bulky around your middle is always going to look exactly as bad as you’d expect.


Stupid Joey. Flighty Phoebe. Obsessive-compulsive Monica. Sarcastic Chandler. Ross and Rachel. The Rachel. “I’ll Be There For You.” Have you broken out in hives yet? For a while, this show about six 20- and 30-something friends seeking their fortunes in New York seemed so right. We’re not sure exactly when everything went wrong, the characters started to feel stale and stereotypical, and the story line circled back onto itself ad nauseam, but it might have been around the 89th time we were forced to hear “Smelly Cat.”


When these silly, Japanese toys did work, they annoyed us by beeping and crying and basically driving us nuts every moment of the day (and night!). When they didn’t work — which was often — they were simply clunky key chains for kids too young to need key chains. Please remind us why they ever got popular in the first place.

Dial-up internet

You might say, “Forget it. Now that we have broadband, dial-up internet will never come back.” Who would want to relive those horrible years when it took five minutes to connect to the internet and almost as long to load a simple website? But isn’t that what people were saying about cassette tapes — another obviously inferior format — when CDs came out? And don’t we still see mixtape nostalgia everywhere? Technological advancement works in mysterious ways. If the hipsters of 2015 start reclaiming modems and dial-up connections, we’re just going to give up.


True confession: back in the mid-’90s, we actually spent an entire weekend at some girl’s house trying to learn how to make scrunchies. That is how much we loved them. And yet, is there any way to wear one of these things without looking like you just woke up and didn’t even have time to run a comb through your hair? No, there is not.


If you were a high-school girl in 1997, Titanic was your life. It was more important than at least half of your classes, and that was because it contained three essential elements: Leonardo DiCaprio, true love, and a song by Celine Dion that could make you cry if you thought hard enough about the prior two items. Also, for some reason, the entire adult world reinforced your desire for this to be a great film. Remember how it won the freaking Academy Award for Best Picture? Watch the movie again and you’ll realize that America’s love for Titanic was nothing more than a brief, terrifying moment of collective insanity.


It’s not like we didn’t have video games by the time Pogs got popular, in the mid-’90s. But for a while, instead of playing games that were actually games, we all spent our recesses using metal circles to knock over cardboard circles, in hopes of acquiring more cardboard circles. Even for ten-year-olds, this is pretty weak. And do you remember how it frustrated and confounded our parents?

Boy bands

With the reunions of New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, and, most recently, O-Town, as well as the emergence of Justin Bieber, this may be a lost cause. But do we really need yet another generation of guys in their late teens and early 20s who secretly debauch themselves like crazy while musically romancing all the underage girls in the world? And have you ever known a single boy band that didn’t have at least one super-creepy member?

Beanie Babies

We can write off Pogs and Tamagotchis as youthful indiscretions. But Beanie Babies? Those weren’t just for kids. In fact, these collectible, bean-stuffed animals were far more popular with our friends’ parents than with the elementary school set. Throughout the ’90s, crazy people paid exorbitant sums of money for rare Beanie Babies, which frankly makes the folks who spend thousands of dollars on obscure Star Trek memorabilia look sane and mature by comparison. Frighteningly, Ty tried to bring back the craze in 2008, but by mid-2009 the Beanie Babies 2.0 line was discontinued.