MEN’S 90S FASHION TRENDS
Nearing the turn of the millennium, the cultural zeitgeist was focused on innovation and space-age futurism. At Helmut Lang and Prada, Astro-wear was the focus. Autumn Winter 1998 saw Lang release his iconic Astro collection, with Prada following suit for Autumn Winter 1999. All white or all Silver technical parkas and moto jackets with juxtaposing animal fur trim are classic 90s.
The 90s grunge look was a fashion trend birthed in part from the rising popularity of second-hand shopping. The grunge look incorporated postmodern bricolage ideas, reviving subcultural looks from the 70s and 80s.
The drive for authenticity became a trend in the 90s. The brand Diesel is a case study in their manufactured authenticity through the creation of faux 'wear and tear'.
Rave Culture boomed in the 90s, and as such so did Rave fashion. Moschino, Burberry and Maharishi would be worn with Adidas, Fila’s tennis trainers, and Clarks Wallabees; a display of conspicuous consumption within the subculture.
CELEBRITIES IN THE 90S: MENSWEAR ICONS
Tupac Shakur/ 2Pac
Harlem-born Tupac Shakur was a giant during the early 90s, his legacy has extended far beyond his untimely death in 1996. A rapper, performer and actor, his on and off-screen style has inspired generations. The 1992 crime drama: Juice, and 1993 Romance: Poetic Justice, in which he co-starred alongside Janet Jackson, brought Tupac’s relaxed yet refined hip-hop style to the silver screen. Denim and the 90s are inextricably linked, so it’s no surprise that Tupac wore a cream Canadian tuxedo designed by Costa Rican fashion designer Karl Kani to the premier of Poetic Justice. The Rapper was known to wear Carhartt, Dickies and Versace.
U2’s Bono was the first man to grace the cover of British Vogue, and he did so clad in Joe Casely-Hayford leather. The designer's speciality lay in shirting and men’s tailoring, offering men refined and innovative clothing through his lens.
Need I say more.
MEN'S 90S TROUSERS
Wide-legged, bootcut and flared trousers made a comeback in the 90s, with designers and consumers looking to the flamboyance of the 70s as a reference point.
Cargo pants were a 90s menswear staple, and Hardy Blechman’s Maharishi, founded in 1994, brought them to London. If we were to pick one item as an emblem for the brand, it would be their Snopant combat trousers, characterised by a wide silhouette, utilitarian design and eastern-inspired embroidery, and were beloved by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston during their relationship in the late 90s and early 2000s. Prada, Helmut Lang, Maison Margiela and a host of other high fashion brands also released cargo pants in the 90s.
MEN’S 90S JEANS
The 90s would see the rising trend of baggy jeans. Calvin Klein is a prime example, with their 1992 offering modelled by Mark ‘Marky Mark’ Wahlberg in his memorable Kate Moss shoot, and his package-grabbing runway debut.
Helmut Lang’s painter jeans were a 90s fashion classic, first shown in his Spring Summer 1998 menswear collection. A classic cut five-pocket denim jean, it took inspiration from the rigid Levis 501xx. The jeans were famously worn by Alexander McQueen in 1999.
Printed and extravagantly embroidered denim became a popular alternative to 80s minimalist later in the decade. Jean Paul Gaultiers AW 1997 “Fight Racism” Red Denim, Walter Van Birendoncks 1999 Graffiti Denim Jeans and Moschinos offerings are classic examples. Helmut Lang and Undercover’s more restrained prisoner print denim Jeans too.
MEN'S 90S JACKETS
1993 saw cult brand Bape burst onto the scene. Bomber jackets were a staple carried over into the decade from the 80s, and Bape’s reversible Souveneer jacket is a classic example. Comedic legend turned style god Robin Williams was a regular customer of Nigo’s Bape brand.
Leather Jackets from Gucci and Versace cloaked the back of 90s icon David Beckham, whose life outside of football was that of a megastar and fashion influencer. Worn oversized, Beckams Gucci leather jackets, pictured in 1997, were from Tom Ford’s time at the house.
Helmut Lang’s Astro jackets of Autumn Winter 1998 and beyond are 90s icons in themselves. A black Astro Parka was sported by Oasis’s Liam Gallagher in his Songbirds music video. The Musician’s jacket collection is enviable, with a taste for Stone Island pieces which he and brother Noel were often photographed in during the 90s.
With the debut of Ralph Lauren’s ‘Polo Sport’ line in 1992 came a demand for casual sporting jackets. In 1996 musician Nas was pictured in an oversized Polo Sport yachting windbreaker with a T-shirt and wide-brimmed sun hat to match.
MEN'S 90S SUITS
The Suit and T-shirt combination was a 90s classic. Sported by the NBA’s Shaquille O’Neal, and Goldie in his role as Bullion in the 1999 James Bond film ‘The World Is Not Enough’. In 1999 Boyzone were pictured on stage at Pavarotti’s concert in Moderna, Italy, dressing down white suits with black crew neck t-shirts.
The ‘Split Suit’ is a term referring to the trend of pairing a suit upper or lower with garments less formal. The pairing of blazers with contrasting trousers was nothing new, but incorporating jeans and more casual sports jackets was.
Whilst the majority of men's suiting retained a relaxed and boxy cut, Tom Ford at Gucci, Hedi Slimane at Yves Saint Laurent and Raf Simons at his namesake presented a progressive pencil-thin aesthetic for menswear towards the end of the decade which would set the stage for the ultra-slim 2000s look. Slimane and Simons looked to subcultures of the 60s and 70s for reference, injecting the cool of punk and rock into formalwear.
MEN’S 90S SHOES AND BOOTS
Sneakers–or trainers depending on which side of the Atlantic you reside–were huge for menswear in the 90s, more so than in the previous decade. From Nike: The Air Max 90, 95, 97 and 98 are classics, as well as the air jordan 5’s. Though not released in the 90s, Air Max 1’s were hugely popular, a favourite of Giorgio Armani. British producer and DJ Goldie was pictured in a pair of Dennis Rodman Nike Air Ndestrukt trainers in 1997. Nike ACG also became increasingly popular in the casual fashion space.
It would be remiss to breeze past Prada’s Americas Cup trainers, released in 1999. The simple white or black colour ways with red detailing epitomise 90s minimalism with the brand's futurist aesthetic. The silhouette is still incredibly popular now, with Prada releasing last year a new set of colourways for the Americas Cup sneaker, though the original will always be the best in our opinion.
MEN’S 90S FASHION ACCESSORIES
The single hoop earring was a popular accessory amongst 90s ‘metrosexuals’; men who might have been considered effeminate in decades past, due to their adoption of grooming and beautification techniques, and attention to style.
MEN’S 90S HAIRSTYLES
Musicians Ice-T and Michael Bolton, and footballers David Beckham, Ronaldinho, and Roberto Baggio all sported variations of the ponytail during the 90s, a revival we haven’t seen return to today's fashion.
Generally longer and grungier hairstyles like that of Kurt Kobain were popular. Bricolage and Pastiche were prominent in the 90s however, so the hairstyles on offer for men were as eclectic and extensive as they are now. Highlighting one's hair was popular among long-hair wearers.
Boxy flat high-top fades were adopted in the early 90s from the pencil-thing movement of the 80s. Will Smith’s Fresh Prince hairstyle is a prime example. This began to fall out of fashion, however, and a lower hairstyle became more popular, with razor-cut details, braiding and cornrows.
The goatee saw a revival, with Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt and David Bowie setting trends. Bowie’s goatee was particularly Beatnik during this period.
MEN'S 90S RAVE CULTURE
The 90s saw the development of rave culture. Indoor raves featuring Drum and Base, Jungle, and Hardcore amongst other electronic music genres lured swathes of young brits to warehouses and fields across the country. Baggy utilitarian clothing was the uniform, with Bucket Hats and Sailors hats the headwear of choice.
90S FILMS THAT INSPIRED MEN’S FASHION
Fight Club 1999
David Fincher’s 1999 psychological drama Fight Club saw Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden character bring 70s influences back to fashion. His Oxblood leather jacket is a personal favourite, as well as the character’s legendary Oliver’s Peoples 532 sunglasses.
Pulp Fiction 1994
Tarrantino’s Pulp Fiction is iconic, need I say more? The cool black suits of Jules and Vincent, and Marcellus Wallace’s beautiful Jean Paul Gaultier 56-0173 shades are just a few examples of Pulp Fiction's impressive style.
The Matrix 1999
Sarah Gilligan writes that the Wachowski sisters’ Matrix universe presents a “self-consciously stylish, cool masculinity to the spectator” in her article ‘Becoming Neo’. Characters in the matrix are the “suited, leather-clad, or trench-coated hero”, the same of which can be said for our 90s celebrities.
RESOURCES FOR REFERENCING 90S MENSWEAR
For those seeking additional information on 90s menswear, there are several resources available. These sources provide in-depth knowledge, insights, and detailed references for 90s Fashion.
1. TRUSS's App is a database that contains thousands of historic 90s menswear items, all identified by their year of release. This is a great place to find 90s menswear references for dress or design. It is even possible to purchase 90s menswear through the app.
2. Vogue has documented fashion's countless runway shows over the years and the 90s is when a keen focus was put on the documentation of these shows., photography can be found although menswear rarely hit the runway in these days. Firstview, also provide similar references.
3. Films. A simple resource, but any film set in the 90s have large departments who ensure that styles adhered to the time. Start with the ones mentioned above.
By utilising these resources, you can deepen your knowledge of 90s fashion for men.