Picture this, your pocket buzzes, you whip out a bedazzled flip phone to answer a call. It’s Britney Spears, and she wants her style back.
During the noughties, metallic materials, velour tracksuits, butterfly clips, cargo pants, and, yes, double denim were all the rage. All of which are back on the scene, and we are obsessed (most of us).
You probably have heard of the Y2K trend, or at least will have seen an influx of people appearing to have teleported from a music video circa 2000. Dubbed “techno-utopianism“, Y2K fashion was built on the hype surrounding the new millennium.
Nostalgia for the late 90s and early-to-mid 2000s has grown steadily in the last few years, and now people are recreating its looks. So, if you want to get accustomed to this resurgent trend or are ready to reminisce about your tween years, you’re in the right place.
FYI, the Y2K aesthetic boomed because of the Internet
With the new millennium came a wave of tech advancements, including the rise of the Internet. People worldwide were now surfing the web, wide-eyed and naive to the social evolution unfolding at their fingertips.
The infinite possibilities the Internet presented were both dazzling and frightening. It encouraged people to accumulate material goods for a sense of security while the world was changing around them. Hence why designer brands played a crucial role in shaping the Y2K aesthetic, but more of that later.
A new wave of fashion surfaced from the digital age. Don’t believe me? You just have to take a look at the mirrored cover of Vogue’s millennium issue to get a sense of the zeitgeist. The year 2000 was the watershed between the old and the new, a time of reflection and experimentation.
Global fashion icons quickly hopped on the emerging trend. We saw superstars like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Destiny Child’s era Beyoncé modelling low-rise bell-bottom jeans and tiny crop tops. And with WiFi rapidly filtering into people’s homes from 1997, the spotlight on celebrities and what they were wearing grew exponentially.
A landmark of the Y2K trend was the birth of Juicy Couture in 2001. At a time when designer-wear was growing in popularity, people saw velour tracksuits with rhinestone logos as a luxury must-have at $155. Although the laid-back look was not exactly high fashion, the tracksuits were glamorised by celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, who donned a pink two-piece in a music video for her song, I’m Real.
You might be scratching your head thinking, what happened to men’s fashion? Well, cue Justin Timberlake’s shell necklaces and bleach blonde hair gelled within an inch of its life. Oh, and who remembers JT’s and Britney’s Candian tuxedo moment at the 2001 American Music Awards? Iconic.
But before major celebs made it cool, many millennials were inspired by shows like Lizzy Mcguire and tween magazines like Shout!, which introduced them to trendsetters that knew a thing or two about silver eyeshadow. Perhaps that’s why the aesthetic doesn’t scream sophistication; it speaks to youthful optimism.
Of course, the trend goes beyond fashion and makeup. It was a pillar of millennium pop culture. In Britney Spears‘ Toxic music video, the pop singer rocks various futuristic getups. One minute she’s a sexy cabin stewardess on a sci-fi–esque aeroplane, and the next, she’s in a leather catsuit, somersaulting off a motorbike à la Lara Croft. The different modes of transport resonate with the rapidly changing times.
In movies, the aesthetic was ultra-feminine. Regina George in Mean Girls (2004) rocked mini-skirts and graphic tees, and her mum wore that tracksuit, while Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (2001) wore tinted sunglasses and a patent leather two-piece—both characters made a statement in pink.
The Y2K aesthetic is brighter and bolder than before
Fashion designers typically take inspiration from past decades, and almost 20 years on, the Y2K aesthetic really said, Oops!…I Did It Again. It’s back in all its shimmering glory, but this time with a more feminine, utopian twist.
If you aren’t a fan of minimalism, you’ll be happy to know that adaptations of Y2K fashion are lining the catwalks again. Dolce and Gabanna’s Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection is reminiscent of the styles we saw in the late nineties and early 2000s. Holographic puffer jackets and iridescent snow boots (also called ‘moon boots’) stole the show.
The rejuvenated Y2K trend amplifies the futuristic qualities of early 2000s glamour. Expect to see a lot of abstract print, lace camis, rhinestone detailing, silver and holographic colours, mesh-material dresses and bodysuits, and low-rise everything.
Thinking about it, the return of Y2K fashion could be due to the extensive screen time most of us have racked up since the start of the pandemic. The Internet led us through an uncertain time and we looked to famous figures to inspire us with fresh ideas. Sound familiar? With ample time to ruminate, it’s easy to see why people are reimagining the days when a scratched CD was our biggest worry.
Fashion gurus have taken to social media to flaunt their new wears, encouraging others to do the same. While on the music front, TikTok unlocked throwback songs from our memory thanks to that pesky algorithm. Pair a hot outfit with a bop, and you have much of what Y2K was all about.
Just like the uptake in velour tracksuits in the early 2000s, last year, we turned to luxe loungewear to quench our thirst for glamour while stuck inside. Now that we’re allowed out again, people are having fun expressing themselves in a vibrant fashion.
In a homage to all things Y2K, Saweetie and Paris Hilton teamed up for a photoshoot around Beverley Hills for Saweetie’s new single, Best Friend. In the TikTok, Paris wears bejewelled shades, and both don classic Juicy Couture tracksuits in millennial pink and millennium pink (see the TikTok below for reference).
The best thing about fashion trend adaptations is that you can mix and match styles from the past with more current threads to suit your tastes. Geared with more knowledge about the Y2K trend and its origin, this is a stellar opportunity to get to the charity shops or even an older relative’s wardrobe (if they’ll let you) in search of vintage 2000s garms.
If you are stuck for inspiration, here are some Y2K fashion staples you might like to add to your wardrobe:
ASOS is here for us with these gorgeous green-tinted sunnies for £14.
Cropped ‘baby’ tees
For vintage cropped tees, eBay or Depop are your best bets.
These brown leather-look, wide-leg trousers are on ASOS for less than £20.
Other Y2K pieces to obsess over: low-rise denim, ruffled mini-skirts, cargo pants, beaded necklaces, and butterfly clips.
Words by Ellen Murphy
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