When you think of 2020 fashion, you may imagine anything from pastel crop tops and cardigans to bright neon athletic wear, or maybe even the emo-adjacent aesthetics of the famed E-girls of TikTok. But what if I were to tell you that these trends are nothing new—that in fact, they were staples of early 2000s fashion just two decades ago? The start of the 2020s has brought with it a resurgence of Y2K fashion.
“Y2K” is an abbreviation of “year 2000” and was originally coined in the late 90s to refer to the turn of the century. The phrase is famous for the Y2K scare—or the fear that all computers would stop working when their clocks would not be able to transition into the 21st century. Today, Y2K is commonly used to refer to late 90s and early 2000s aesthetics and styles.
But why the revival of trends that were deemed out-of-style in the not-so-distant past? Look no further than the “20-year rule,” a popular idea in the fashion world that says current trends are influenced by those from 20 years before. The theory goes that as fads decline in popularity, people look back to old styles they see as nostalgic and incorporate them into their wardrobes, making them trendy once more. In general, 20 years in between trends has been a sweet spot between a fashion trend being considered vintage but not too outdated. A prime example of this that Marian girls may remember is the popularity of 90s grunge and skater-inspired fashion in the 2010s.
Y2K fashion has recently found popularity on social media during the COVID-19 outbreak. Y2K has caught on at Marian, with girls across all four years hopping on the trend. Senior Iris Cunningham said, “I get most of my fashion inspiration off of Pinterest. I keep lots of Pinterest boards with different aesthetics.”
Freshman Schuyler Achola said, “I first found this style through TikTok and just sort of went deeper with it from there. I often use Pinterest to find ideas for outfits.” Quarantine has caused a surge in online shopping, making more unique styles readily available. With the extra time and reasons to shop online, many young people have been experimenting with styles considered tacky or over-the-top. The Y2K trend is unique in the fact that it encompasses many different styles—wherever you are on the goth-prep-jock-nerd spectrum you can find a subgenre of Y2K that fits your style.
Over the past few months, I have become a bit obsessed with Y2K fashion, though I couldn’t tell you if it was because of carefully cultivated aesthetic boards or the fact that I haven’t been able to really go out shopping for six months during quarantine. Either way, my closet was chock full of Marian t-shirts and in desperate need of a revival. In the past, I haven’t had the most pronounced style, so Y2K presented me with an opportunity to experiment with my wardrobe. Though my bank account surely could not handle it, I wanted to explore the different facets of Y2K fashion.
I began to turn to Pinterest for this task, where Y2K aesthetic boards have been thriving. I got an idea of the general trends of Y2K, with crop tops, smaller tank tops, oversized cardigans and jackets, high waisted bottoms and chunky shoes being some staples. In my extensive research, I focused on three main styles: goth, sporty, and preppy.
I have never been into goth fashion, but I can respect the aesthetic. I found the usual black outfits with fishnets, chains and boots while searching goth Y2K fashion: all things I definitely do not have the confidence to pull off. One aspect of Y2K goth fashion I can appreciate, however, is the use of more bright colors than I expected.
Cunningham said, “I’d like to say that I dress in between goth and girly, and my favorite trends are the mini skirts, low rise jeans, and over accessorizing.”
Sporty Y2K fashion was the style I was most confident I would like. Name-brand athletic wear has been popular for a long time in the form of streetwear. Though I love bright colors and how eye-catching they can be, the price tags on many sports brands hold me back.
Preppy Y2K fashion is probably what you first envision when someone mentions 2000s clothes, encompassing pastel crop tops and miniskirts, cardigans, mini purses, and generally just a lot of pinks, feathers, and faux-furs. I fell down a bit of a rabbit hole with this style, enamored with the mix of feminine style and clothes considered campy and overboard. Soon my Pinterest feed was full of cropped cardigans, hot pink skirt sets, chunky silver jewelry, and even jelly heels; I had found my niche in the Y2K trend.
Achola identifies with this style and said, “I love the accessories that are included in this style such as the purses, necklaces, and sunglasses that add a lot of style to any outfit. I also enjoy the oversized look in many outfits and the layering incorporated.”
Sophomore Lily Guinan also enjoys this style, and said, “I would say I have a girly style. Some trends I especially like are front tie tops, long-sleeve or short-sleeve shirts with a small tank top underneath, or just any type of layering. Also, mini skirts with different patterns or prints.”
The revival of Y2K fashion offers a unique opportunity for people today. Social media gives people a chance to share their own style, and a large theme of Y2K has been mixing old styles with new technology. Today’s technology makes creating and sharing your own unique fashion sense more accessible and affordable to all kinds of people.