Fight to the Decades: Are We Experiencing an ’80s or ’90s Comeback?


The ’80s are back in fashion, the Times declared last week. Waaaait a sec, we thought the ‘90s were back! How else is the preponderance of plaid we’ve seen lately to be explained? We’ve debunked the Style section before, so let’s take a look at the evidence after the jump. It’s an ’80s vs. ’90s showdown, y’all.

Exhibit 1: Aerobics

Verdict: The ’80s get credit for this one, though just to play devil’s advocate, we don’t think anyone actually wears aerobics gear un-ironically these days. It’s hard to do anything un-ironically anymore.

Exhibit 2: Babydoll dresses

Verdict: This is a ’90s trend all the way. Winona rocked them in Reality Bites, and judging by the frequency we see them on girls-about-downtown, we think that pretty soon they’re going to be ubiquitous once more.

Exhibit 3: High tops

Verdict: These ’80s sneakers definitely win the prize for “trend we thought would never come back and then totally did.”

Exhibit 4: Plaid and flannel

Verdict: ’90s, no contest! Jordan Catalano didn’t invent plaid or anything, but it’s fair to say he brought it to its pinnacle.

Exhibit 5: Scrunchies

Verdict: Actually, this is a hard one. Scrunchies were popular during both decades (but never among New Yorkers, we swear…), so neither one can exactly lay claim. Tie.

Exhibit 6: Ray Bans

Verdict: Wayfarers glasses, worn most memorably by Tom Cruise in 1983’s Risky Business and which we had previously not seen since a DJ handed us a knockoff pair at a late-90s bat mitzvah, came back in full force this year.

Exhibit 7: Vests

Verdict: The vest, that most pointless piece of apparel, is a product of the ’90s. Not to be confused with its late ’90s performance fleece incarnation (the “tech vest”), the early ’90s vest was a critical component of the “funky” look. Whenever possible, it was paired with one of those Blossom-style hats with a big flower.

And now for the final verdict… it’s a tie! Apparently both the ’80s and the ’90s are simultaneously back. Or, perhaps a period encompassing both is back, i.e. if the last ’80s revival was centered around 1985 or so, so this one could be all about 1988-1992? Either way, we definitely think the ’90s element of this current trend skews towards the early and maaaybe mid ’90s. We haven’t experienced a full-on ’90s comeback yet, but goodness knows it’s coming, and god, what will that look like?