Bruno Mars and Cardi B have changed the game with their In Living Color tribute video for the “Finesse” remix. Yes, I’m gonna be that bold and write such a claim, solely on the fact that the video made it concrete that ’90s fashion is here to stay. ’90s fashion has been havinng a resurgence for a couple of years now, and between 2017 and 2018, late ’80s and early ’90s fashion have become an even stronger “cool kid” calling card, especially since brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Nauticaa are making tons of money with their vintage or vintage-leaning lines, like Tommy Jeans, Fila Heritage, and Reebok Classic and Nautica’s Lil Yachty collection, which brings back themes of ’90s Nautica. It’s either highly ironic or highly masterful that Bruno’s 24K Magic plays right into this trend.
So how can you get the look? Well, one way is to scour your local thrift stores and/or garages. Another way is to get ’90s-esque fashion from affordable (or at least “reasonable”) stores like Forever 21, Zara, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, etc. However, if you’re looking to go completely authentic while buying brand new clothes (and you have some expendable dollars to spend), here are some clothing choices from choice brands that were huge in the ’90s, but now use their ’90s cred to make boutique items.
One of the breakout fashion stars of the “Finesse” music video is Cardi B’s multicolored bomber jacket. It’s hard to tell if it’s actually vintage or if it’s of today, but regardless, it brings back tons of ’90s memories.
One of the ’90s brands that was big on multicolored jackets was Cross Colours. Believe it or not, Cross Colours is still in existence, making awesome jackets and shirts. Take for instance this colorblocked hooded jacket.
This jacket immediately takes you back to the early ’90s, which was not only big on bright colors, but also Afrocentrism. It’s more evident in some of Cross Colours’ other jackets, but this one also carries the same themes of Afrocentrism, with the emphasis on red, black, and green, the colors of the Pan-African flag.
Throughout the ’90s, particularly the mid-’90s, stripes were big. Striped hoodies in particular seemed really big. I couldn’t tell you why stripes were so popular, but they were; perhaps it’s because it seemed more modern than the deconstructivist/’80s art deco patterns that were slowly fading out. Stripes are a lot more streamlined than the busier patterns of earlier years, and maybe that hint of futurism poked at the burgeoning world of the internet. I don’t know, but it’s a theory.
In any case, the quintessential striped hoodie is showcased in rare form on Bruno as he exudes swagger and, yes, finesse, as the leader of this music video.
I feel like I’m a bit too young to remember Karl Kani as a name brand–the self-proclaimed “Originator of Urban Fashion” was established in 1989, one year after I was born–but that name was huge in the ’90s nonetheless, and judging by what the brand currently has for sale, it would seem that one of their specialties was the striped hoodie.
This hoodie, the Marcy Ave. Rugby Hoodie, has all of the things you want in a striped hoodie. It’s got bright colors, tons of interest, and it’s got short sleeves, perfect for that layered look Bruno is rocking in the above screenshot.
I wish hats could come back in style. One of the things I miss from the ’90s is the plethora of hats people wore on a semi-daily basis. The most popular proponent of ’90s hats was the titular character of Blossom, but hats were everywhere and on everyone, even on puppets–remember Jody from The Puzzle Place? She was a huge hat person. (The prime combo in the ’90s was the sun hat-flowery vest-long skirt combo. So much fabric, but it looked so cool.)
Between bucket hats, sun hats, baseball caps and all other manner of hats, there’s no way you can really go wrong when compiling a ’90s wardrobe. For this post, however, we’re focusing on the multicolored baseball cap, as shown on one of these dancers below.
Karl Kani comes correct again with their multicolored baseball cap, aptly called the “’90s Hat.”
This hat is pretty self-explanatory. It’s multicolored, it’s bright, it’s bold, and it screams ’90s. What more can you ask for?
The next component of quintessential ’90s fashion is mom jeans. I don’t know if they were called “mom jeans” back in the day–I just remember them as “jeans.” These jeans were not just popular with moms–they were popular for all women, even young teens. Just take a look at the fashion on the covers of The Babysitters Club books. They’re all wearing mom jeans.
Nowadays, mom jeans are coming back with a vengeance. Check out the stylish mom jeans on this dancer below.
Luckily for us, Jordache, the preeminent fashion jean brand, is still making mom jeans along with their more modern cuts.
The “Cheryl” High Waisted Mom Skinny Jeans are part of Jordache’s vintage line, and these pants give you everything you were asking for in a classic mom jean. It’s stone washed with a tapered leg, it’s got the classic high waist, and it looks like it’s just on this side of “cute.” It seems like the best mom jeans are just on the border between “cute and fashionable” and “horribly ill-fitting.” Just my opinion, anyways.
The last element of ’90s fashion I’m discussing in this post are the puffy sneakers. For some reason, sneakers are the mos vivid memories I have of ’90s fashion outside of all the Disney stuff I loved as a kid and the fashion tragedies I was subjected to (to this day, I hate stirrup pants). Perhaps it was because I was so connected to Michael Jordan’s career, like so many kids my age were, but I distinctly recall when the Air Jordans came out and the subsequent hype surrounding those shoes. Preceding that was the hype surrounding the Reebok Pump shoes. To this day, I still want both a pair of Air Jordans and Reebok Pumps. I still could get both, but I don’t feel like shelling out the money for it.
In any case, puffy, chunky sneakers were all the rage back in the day. Case in point–Bruno and his crew’s sneakers.
There are many routes you can go with ’90s sneakers–you can go to Nike, Fila, Reebok, and several other brands to get that right ’90s look. I chose to go with Reebok, since Reeboks had been my sneaker of choice in childhood (or, rather, my parents’ sneaker of choice for me.)
The Men’s Classics EX-O-FIT Clean Hi S and the Women’s Classics Freestyle Hi has that ’90s look down. To me, these sneakers are unisex, since a foot’s a foot. Also, Reebok tends to give the men’s sneakers more of a classic ’90s look, whereas the women’s side focuses more on fashion colors (too much more, I think). But regardless of which way you go, Reebok knows that its audience loves the early ’90s silhouette that made the brand famous, and it keeps that silhouette going, even in some of their more modern shoes.
After you get your ’90s wardrobe down, all you got to do is get some gold doorknockers or a chunky gold necklace, and you’ll be dripping in finesse, too.
If there’s one good thing that might come out of 2017 is that this just might be the best year for pop culture ever, particularly music. That is, if Bruno Mars and Donald Glover’s latest offerings are anything to predict by.
First, let’s talk about Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic. The album is short, but it’s jam-packed with late ’80s and early ’90s production value. One of my favorites is “Calling All My Lovelies,” which sounds one part ridiculous ’80s funky slow-jam and one part ridiculous skewering of the sensitive male ego. (Mars’ character’s dismay at once again being on the receiving end of Halle Berry’s voicemail is hilarious.)
The other fave, “Finesse,” is pure ’90s New Jack Swing. I’d been wishing songs could go back to this sound for years, and someone finally did it! Thank goodness it was Mars, who has shown a deft understanding what made party jams of the recent past so cool.
Rolling Stone Magazine called 24K Magic “a lush Nineties throwback,” with Christopher R. Weingarten writing:
“Mars wanted Magic to recreate the nostalgic wonder of the school dances he attended in he Ninetines–and his croweded productions, infectious attitude and soaring voice go well beyond ‘tribute’ into the realm of ‘IMAX reboot.'”
Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, is now taking listeners on a ride through the ’70s with his first offerings from his latest album, Awaken, My Love!, available Dec. 2. “Me and Your Mama” is great if you’re looking for some blaxploitation-esque funk, but “Redbone” really gets to the Bootsy Collins feel that I grew up listening to, thanks to my dad.
Glover also referenced memories of his childhood when talking about his new album to XXL Magazine:
“I remember listening to songs my dad would play–albums by the Isleys or Funkadelic–and not understanding the feeling I was feeling. I remember hearing a Funkadelic scream and being like, ‘Wow, that’s sexual and it’s scary.’ Not having a name for that, though; just having a feeling. That’s what made it great.”
Even Glover’s cover art evokes the same scariness and enigmatic mystery that surrounds the best of Funkadelic and Bootsy Collins’ cover art. Even though you’re repelled by the cover of Awaken, My Love!, you still want to know what’s inside the album. You want to know what has made this woman poke her head above the muck to grace us with her eerie smile.
(There’s also a reaffirming, apologetic blackness to the cover art as well, but you didn’t come here for an art treatise.)
To me, it makes sense that music would start harking back to another time and place, simply because music, as an escape, can take us back to times of our youth. With everything ranging from politics to the very state of the earth up in the air, it makes sense that millennials and Gen Xers want to go back to a time when everything seemed more stable and, frankly, a lot more fun. Right now, we all need an escape, and Mars and Glover are giving us the escape we need.
Now, if only Kid Sister would come out with another retro-’80s album, if Sharaya J would actually release her full-length album (WHEN WILL IT GET MADE?!), and if Monica, Missy Elliot, Remy Ma, and Lil Kim come out with stuff that evokes the ’90s and early ’00s, then we could really kick off 2017 on the musical good foot. For now, though, I’ll just keep Mars and Glover on and endless loop.
Who do you hope comes out of the woodwork and gives us the album we need to get through 2017? How are you liking Mars and Glover’s retro sounds? Give your opinions in the comments section below!