It was acceptable in the 90s?

Are you ready to party like it’s 1999? Or 1995 for that matter?  How about 1992? Any will do, as it seems that that the nineties are the decade da jour, if that’s not too much of an anachronism.  Of course plundering the archives of the past for inspiration is hardly a novel idea but does the fact that a the vast majority of those partaking in the trend remember the decade that makes the nineties revival seem significant, or is it just another spell of looking back to ‘ye olden dayes’?

Whilst I hate to use the recession as an excuse for everything, and would rather not be accused of lazy thinking, it is well acknowledged by scientists to social commentators alike that we lean towards familiarity in times of discomfort. Change makes people uneasy and comfort is found in easy ways. You’re as likely to find bangers’n’mash or Spotted Dick on the menu of a fancy restaurant as you are on the tea tray of any Yorkshire family. People complain about the over reliance on technology and the intangible nature of much of our pastimes, such as listening to mp3s rather than a physical release, or spending hours on facebook rather than down the pub. The craze for mix-tapes or album clubs is then something that allows people to react against something, make a stand, but  in a way that is easy and does not require too much of an adjustment of their ways of life. Of course this too is nothing new – the irony of the fact that in 1977 the Sex Pistols topped the music charts with ‘God Save The Queen’ and the book and merchandise charts were whipped by the revival of Edith Holden’s ‘The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.’

Rather than the nineties coming back, it seems that people are going back to the nineties. Think about it, it is not people who have never known the nineties suddenly looking for inspiration from the decade and taking their own millennium twist on it ( although my thirteen year old sister’s friend has been posting Supergrass lyrics as her Facebook status. Like. ) The guys at the gigs are paunchy balding men taking Born Slippy’s ‘lager lager lager’ refrain verbatim. The front rows of Take That’s concerts are predominantly middle aged women who now feel that it’s not verging on the cradle snatching to fancy Mark Owen. In the music, the memories, the history books, it is clear that the nineties were meant to be some kind of zeitgeist that changed Britain for ever. With a Tory government, a rise in VAT and spikes in the unemployment rate eerily reminiscent of late 80s and early 90s Britain, is it any wonder that those who have the feeling that it all went a bit Pete Tong are seeking solace in the easier days, when all they had to be was mad for it and the rest fell into place.

If today’s twenty somethings are facing a futile search for employment, the practical impossibility of ever owning their own house, and mounting student debts, it is perhaps understandable that they seek solace in the easier times of their youth. Unable to do any of the standard things that mark the threshold of having made it to adulthood, there is almost no choice but to remain in the teenage years – the 1990 years.

Nickelodeon are bringing back the teen shows that made them famous, like Clarissa, Kenan & Kel and Sister Sister, but if the teens and tweens of 2011 don’t end up drooling over orange soda, it won’t be a failure. As Nickelodeon acknowledge, it is not today’s children that they are targeting. Keith Dawkins, senior VP and general manager of TeenNick, speaking to Entertainment Weekly said that “At the time, we were completely devoted to that audience ages 9, 10, and 11. It was ground-breaking and for the young viewers, a powerful and pivotal time in their lives. Those kids who are now 22, 23 and 24 want to bring that back.” 

A look through the listings may lead you to believe that you have opened Time Out and slipped into the past. Pulp, Blur, and Suede have all reformed, and are taking to some big stages. What does it say about current music when Pulp and Blur are the preferred headliners of Isle of Wight and Glastonbury. It’s not even that bands are recording new material – Suede have remastered and reissued all five albums, and will be playing the entirety of 1993’s Suede, 1994’s Dog Man Star and 1996’s Coming Up this May at Brixton Academy, and if reports are to be believed Primal Scream’s Screamadelica gigs in which they played the seminal 1991 album out were a rather raucous affair. Take That’s 25 date Progress Tour was the biggest in UK history. Blue, Spice Girls and  all have singles out, and even Let Loose are back this year along with audience that they were never a boy band… Much of the hype surrounding new bands seems to suggest that the 1990s were some kind of musical utopia to which we must lean again. Brother are the ‘new Oasis’ we are told. Why do we need a replica? Reading, a festival patronised by 16 year olds enjoying post exam and no parents freedom was last year headlined by Blink 182 and Guns’n’Roses, neither being hip young things.

Fashion has had plenty of nineties moments, with velvet, lace et all being donned on the catwalk and in our high street shops. Neon is the new black according to some commentators, and festival chic everywhere owes more than a passing nod to grunge, floral dresses and boots adorning female punters. There are also horrifying rumours that the bum bag is to replace the Alexa as the new ‘It’ accessory on every fashionista’s arm. Or bum.

Turning towards a time that a lot of people can remember is also more wallet friendly in a lot of ways. To be bang on trend you don’t need to pay over the odds for vintage wear from a hipper than thou boutique, but rummage in the back of your wardrobe for the greying bodysuit, fraying jeans, or adidas jacket, and hey presto, bang on trend. Either this, or the fact that entertainers are running out of ideas may help to explain our media channels. The BBC has been slammed for their schedules featuring, in 2009 screening a record level, equivalent to 530 full days of repeats and shows that we thought had disappeared seem to be being resurrected – Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, broadcast over the Easter weekend of 2009. More than one in five of films made in Hollywood this year will be sequels of 90s box office big sellers, and I have already seen posters and trailers for Titanic: Two The Surface and Scream 4. With smaller wallets, either in reality or made to believe so by the recession craze, companies are unwilling to take a punt and invest in new formulas that may not be successful and pull in the pounds. Although it seemed to be a social movement, a sort of uprising in the world of confectionary, Cadbury’s also must have realised that surely it was a better monetary bet to bring back the Wispa, harnessing the viral and social media as support.

The gap between the past and present is also being squeezed. It is now possible to study 1990s as a period of history, to do cultural studies of Cool Britannia. 2004 saw the first ‘I love the 90s’ television reminisce and Absolute Radio earlier this year launched Absolute Noughties – over for 3 months and yet we are still calling back for its familiarity. This may be because technology has enhanced the speed at which developments can be made, and indeed, some aspects of life in the final decade of the twentieth century do seem to be archaic – you just try explaining to a ten year old kid with an iPhone the sheer wonderment and allure of Snake on a Nokia phone. Rather than it being that we are looking back too soon, the pace of change has been such that this is viable.

Of course, as with any nostalgic look back, the view is somewhat hazy and the glasses smeared with the fingerprints of selective editing. 1997 may have been a buoyant year of optimism, the rising wave of Cool Britannia seeing the labour landslide election victory, Oasis made history in 1996 playing to 250,000 people at Knebworth, and British music once again flew its flag on both sides of the Atlantic. But what about the Rwandan mass slaughters that shocked the world, the pound’s economic decline, as it dropped out of the ERM for the second time in 1993, and the largest ever IRA bomb to hit the British mainland exploding in Manchester injuring at least 200 people in 1996…not to mention that, football did not come home.

But, why not focus on the good? Taking George Santayana’s famous quote for our own ends, we know that the value of history and knowing what has happened in the past is to ensure that we learn and do not make similar errors. So, perhaps this is exactly what the 1990s revival is – people taking what they loved, what made them happy, and sprinkling a little of this nineties magic into 2011.

See the original at the wonderful Who’s Jack 

Published by Francesca Baker

Passionate about music, the world, exploring, literature and smiling. Writing, marketing and events for all my favourite things.

2 thoughts on “It was acceptable in the 90s?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: