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How 90s Cinema Paved The Way For Tropes in Contemporary Fashion

Ryan Gattaora dives into the 90s films that have shaped how we dress and shop today, wondering why they impacted us so profoundly…

To say and believe that trends, styles and developments in fashion (or anything for that matter) are as organic and spontaneous as your friend telling you to ditch work and have a weekend away is foolish. Ideas and creations are always inspired and molded by a concept that you or someone has seen before - whether it’s a film, book, song or painting that’s passed through your retinas and absorbed by your mushy playdough-like brain. Nothing is anything but old ideas copied and pasted, the same ideas masked in a veil of fashionable deception. This is not necessarily a bad thing - Apple does it continuously and we still flock like gulls on a beach for the next iPhone. It’s the same for fashion, which is currently being inspired by the 90s. Specifically, 90s cinema.

I can’t even fathom articulating how the 90s paved the way for contemporary fashion and its tropes without mentioning the 90s classic Clueless. Released on 20th October 1995, Clueless portrays the trials and tribulations of the adolescence of privileged kids living in Beverly Hills. The film really gained popularity as time went on, growing a fan base of niche fashion heads. Alicia Silverstone’s Cher Horowitz became a symbol for Y2K fashion. Her outfits consist of patterns, co-ords, statement pieces and smart casual looks: looks that are all in our shops today, whether it’s Zara, Misguided, Pretty Little Thing. or Asos. The looks from this film are constantly recycled, even by high end fashion brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci.

Furthermore, we have The Matrix. The film revolutionized cinema as well as the fashion industry. Several companies have been inspired by the films. For example, Jaded London did a range of Matrix inspired fits which encapsulated the classic shapes and silhouettes from the film and mixed them with modern tropes. Yohji Yamaoto also took a fresh stab at The Matrix aesthetic and delivered a contemporary take, blending Japanese culture and dress wear with the 90s Matrix visuals. Balenciaga crafted a gorgeous Matrix inspired campaign for Summer 2019 which portrayed a narrative as well as pulling at our hearts with its nostalgic look, made by using vintage camcorders, amplifying the already 90s feel. Furthermore, the brand looked back at their Matrix inspired roots and produced a collection for Spring 2022 which cemented the fact that the all-black look is the most dependable, sophisticated and classic outfit choice of all time. Making it as reliable as a tin of Heinz baked beans in the back of your cupboard on a hungover morning. Being worn by the likes of Kanye West and Bella Hadid, all black has never felt more prevalent.

Another 90s cinematic masterpiece that has dug its fictitious claws into the flesh of the public and won’t let go is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Fuelled by youth and poor decisions, and starring Johnny Depp, this movie propelled itself into the childish minds of edgy, indie teens. Bucket hats, Hawaiian shirts, cargo trousers, and wanting to live dangerously: a look you and I have both seen in the peak of British Summer festivals. Side bag slung across your chest like you’re a gunslinger in the Wild West. This isn’t helped by the fact that the classic movie Fight Club was released in the same decade, making every sane male envious of Brad Pitt's outfits and, most importantly, glasses. 90s glasses have never been more prevalent than they are right now. Fear and Loathing, Fight Club, Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting all contain a pair of handsome Gucci, YSL, or Chanel glasses, making anyone with a sense of fashion jealous, and rightly so.

The 90s brought many looks and outfits to the metaphorical table of fashion, but I believe it also did something perhaps more important. It started a movement - a movement that courses through our veins and pumps around our body like richly oxygenated blood. Vintage. Buy vintage, resale, up-cycle, hand me downs… These are ideas and concepts that would never have been in our minds if you and I didn’t want to look like our favorite actors and actresses from our favorite 90s movies. For example, if the likes of Leonardo Dicaprio, Drew Barrymore and Winona Ryder didn’t wear Levi 501’s, I don’t know if I’d have a saved search on eBay, pinging my phone every time a pair is listed in my size. It’s cool to wear vintage, it’s cool to root and dig through the piles of trash at your local charity shop to find that diamond in the rough. Fast fashion is slowly and surely becoming an afterthought, meaning people want to search and find more ethical and niche ways to buy clothing. This is mainly due to the influence these 90s movies and personas have on us. Streaming services such as Netflix are doing God’s workby continuously allowing people to watch films like Dazed and Confused, Boyz in Da Hood and The Big Labowski.

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