The RIFT Rewind: Top Fashion Statement of 1999
18th August 2020
The RIFT Time Telescope has its lens still firmly locked on the year RIFT was born. We’ve already looked at the food we were eating, the music we were listening to and much more besides. Now, as our 21st birthday party rampages on, we thought it might be time to turn the telescope on ourselves. So, what were you wearing the year that boy bands decided that all-white stage outfits were the way to go while Keanu Reeves did gun-fu in an ankle-length PVC trenchcoat? Join us for our countdown of the top 5 fashion statements from the futuristic cutting edge of 1999.
5) All the denim!
We know, it’s practically a hate-crime these days, but in the more unenlightened era of 1999 it wasn’t uncommon for people to make the minor fashion slip of going “double denim” with a jacket and jeans combo. Given the proliferation of double-denim divas, it’s probably easiest to see the trend in terms of the slow death of grunge fashion. People were looking for baby-step ways of weaning themselves off the checked flannel and ripped-out pockets the 90s had offered them, and the sideways slide into whole-hearted denim devotion must have seemed like a fairly safe move.
4) 70s stuff
When it comes to the clothes on our backs, nothing screams “90s” more than the 70s. By 1999 the 70s revival was in full swing, with tight shirts being paired with bell-bottomed trousers and high-waist miniskirts making a comeback after 2 decades. From turtlenecks to crop tops, the 70s were back – but with an odd new twist. Among the usual big brand names and properties emblazoned on every garment (Disney went mad for clothing merch by 1999), we started seeing Union Jacks getting slapped onto shirts, hoodies and anywhere else they’d fit. Cool Britannia was the big new thing, and people weren’t afraid to fly the flag.
3) Work gear
Pulling in a very different direction, 1999 saw the rules, and waistbands, relaxing in the trouser market. With the day-glo nightmare of the early 90s already just a fading, fluorescent fever-dream, fashion took a turn for the practical with the hard-wearing, hard-hitting impact of practical gear. Jeans manufacturers saw you liked pockets, so they put pockets on your pockets with a range of cargo jeans so tough that you’re probably still wearing them. Camouflage patterns were getting applied all around, and Doc Martens were winning the footwear argument across the country – albeit in sandal form half the time.
2) Pumped-up kicks
While we’re on the subject of shoes, 1999 was a pretty big time for air-pump trainers. They were like any other kind of running shoe, but with the added inconvenience of needing to inflate them every so often. Looking back, it was a lot like driving around with a slow leak in your tyres. The idea was already over a decade old by the time 1999 rolled around, and far from the most off-the-wall idea in footwear that year (platform wedges want you to hold their beer), but they definitely deserve a mention in this rundown.
It’d be easy to lay all the blame for this on Sporty Spice but, if we’re honest, we all had our parts to play. Football shirts, baggy-fit sweatpants and even full-on tracksuits were all part of the 1999 wardrobe. It didn’t matter if you hadn’t broken a sweat in a decade, if you spent over a minute outdoors in 1999, you were probably wearing at least one item of “athletic leisurewear”.
This was actually yet another aspect of the 70s revival in some respects, and again arguably a symptom of the pendulum swinging back away from grunge fashion. At any rate, we’ll take this over all the spaghetti-strap tops and bucket hats that 1999 could throw at us. “Athleisure” was here to stay and, judging from its continued popularity today, the UK couldn’t be happier about it.
So, what were you wearing back in 1999? Were you a neo-hippy or a fashion jogger? Sound off on our Facebook page – and keep checking back to see what we turn the Time Telescope on next month as the RIFT 21st birthday party rolls on.