Written by: Chloe (22-I6), Eris (22-I6)
Designed by: Bernita Rayen (23-I1)
The 1990s was a decade of cultural revolution and experimentation, from music to fashion and beyond. Today, many of the trends that emerged in the ’90s are making a comeback, with modern twists and updates that reflect the times we live in.
To start off, in the ‘90s, the world saw the rise of alternative music. ‘Alternative’ was used to describe artists on independent labels who were considered to be unfitting for mainstream genres. It swept the world with its raw, edgy sound and counterculture vibe in the early ‘90s, and gained traction from then. The introduction of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was the catalyst for the rise of alternative music then. Following their success, other alternative bands such as Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers also exploded in the music scene. While we did see a slowdown in the alternative music scene in the last two decades, we see a resurgence of alternative music today, especially after Steve Lacy’s superhit “Bad Habit”. Artists like Billie Eilish, Glass Animals and Paramore have drawn inspiration from the grunge and punk movements of the ‘90s, infusing their music with a rebellious spirit that resonates with young people today.
In addition to music, the 20th century saw a rise in technology that transformed how we live. Retro gadgets such as Polaroid cameras, film cameras, cassette tapes and vinyl records have been making a comeback. Originally made and produced in the 20th century, the vintage look and feel of what these gadgets develop provide us with a sense of nostalgia and simplicity, especially in an increasingly complex world. This sense of nostalgia that we get from these vintage gems s provides us with comfort and security and perhaps is the reason for its re-emergence today.
While vinyl records saw a decline in popularity in the late ‘80s to ‘90s, they eventually made their comeback from the late 2010s onwards. This decline was due to the introduction of cassette tapes and CDs, which were more portable, allowing users to listen to music on the go. In 2022, vinyl record sales amounted to $1.2 billion while CDs only amounted to $483 million. That was the first time in 30 years that vinyl record sales exceeded that of CDs, and was the 16th consecutive year of the growth of vinyl record sales, proving its resurgence in popularity. The comeback of vinyl records has also been noticed in Singapore, with an increasing number of vinyl record stores in Kampung Glam, The Adelphi, as well as Peninsula Plaza.
The rise in popularity of vinyl records can also be attributed to artists putting out special reissues and exclusive discs, encouraging fans and collectors to purchase them. For example, when Taylor Swift announced her newest album, “Midnights”, she released them in 4 colours, and they can be put together to make a clock, spurring fans to collect all 4 colours. This kickstarted the vinyl record collections of many, culminating in today’s popularity of vinyl records.
Taylor Swift’s “Midnights” Vinyl Colours
Another major trend of the ’90s was fashion, which saw a mix of streetwear, high fashion, and sportswear. Today, we see a resurgence of such particular fashion, with everything from baggy jeans and oversized sweatshirts to crop tops and platform shoes making a comeback. This trend is particularly popular among young people, who are drawn to the casual, comfortable style of ’90s fashion. More commonly known as ‘Y2K’ fashion, the re-emergence of this style could also be credited to increasing individualism of younger generations nowadays, who seek to find a note of comfort or relaxation in a world that seems to be moving too quickly. Furthermore, the colourful and unique style of 90s fashion allows for a gateway to free expression and presentation of self, hence proving itself popular amongst individuals who wish to turn away from any mundanity or rigidity of life.
As seen from the above examples, there are many aspects of the world that seem to be cyclical in nature – from music to technology to fashion, it seems almost inevitable that trends that were introduced, then forgotten about, will eventually be brought back into society with full force. This thus results in the surfacing of familiar faces of things once buried in the past and, in the process, once again reminds us that, even if we move forward relentlessly, there will always be things that connect us to the past and bring forth a much-needed and welcomed sense of relief and comfort.