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By now many of us have tried at least once to do the #waterchallenge, popping our — in my case nonexistent — booties, trying to do the Pretoria-born Bacardi dance made world-famous by SA’s current favourite niece Tyla. “Make me sweat. Make me holla. Make me lose my breath. Make me water…”

You know what I’m talking about!

Like many people out there I’ve been watching with glee as this young SA artist blazes a trail, topping charts globally with her smash hit, “Water”. But I’m also mesmerised by her style aesthetics, which harken back to the 90s. The singer has herself said she draws inspiration from R&B singers of that decade —people like the late Aaliyah — and it’s quite evident in both her music and image.

Her bra tops with mini-skirt, or sometimes oversized pants would feel right at home in a Destiny’s Child music video. It’s an aesthetic that demonstrates the currently resurgent Y2K influence on style and fashion. And it’s not just Tyla. Victoria Monet’s “On My Mama” music video is an obvious homage to the era, with nods to big tees and baggy jeans that were a fixture of black style at the turn of the century.

But beyond music, spend any amount of time on the streets, and especially at parties, in any city across the world and you’re bound to see tank tops, skin-baring sheer fabrics, slip dresses, coloured sunglasses, cycling shorts, cycling sunglasses, and more evidence of the 90s current chokehold on popular culture and its aesthetics.

Make-up trends also show an obsession with the era. Thin brows, starkly contrasted lip liner, frosty eyeshadow, brown lipstick, tightliner, lacquered lip gloss, bleached hair and brows are all in vogue.

Sure, the 90s influence on fashion is something that comes up in fashion trend cycles quite often, but unlike past example of this, we often see just a few things that are reminiscent of 90s aesthetics. Right now, however, it feels like a full-blown nostalgia-driven return to the last decade of the last millennium, and it’s very evident throughout the popular culture spectrum, from fashion to music, movies and more.

But why? Is it perhaps nostalgia? I mean, members of my generation, the millennials, are now captains of industry, we are starting families and the realities of adulthood are clashing with less-than-favourable economic times. Many of us are struggling to make ends meet, never mind the ever-slipping dream of ever owning properties in the way our parents did. It’s not unusual to hear someone downgrading their lifestyle, or even moving back home to their parent’s house due to the being “priced out of adulthood”, as one Tik-Tokker put it in a viral post about how everything has become so expensive, especially in the last two years or so.

These hardships collide with world events that make keeping up with current affairs feel like a horror show. “We used to be a country,” has become a popular line on social media as users post images from TV shows like “Generations” and others, remembering times when load-shedding wasn’t a thing, and our economy felt like it was going nowhere but up.

I was a child then, but there was something in the air in the late 90s and early 2000s that it makes perfect sense to me that those of us who are now knee-deep in adulthood perhaps feel like our childhoods were a much better time. But it’s not just our immediate lives, and the effects of our mismanaged economy that we’re dealing with.

Palestine. The Congo. Resurgent right-wing hardliner politics. It often feels like there is nowhere that isn’t a mess. Of course, when it comes to the past, as humans, we tend to remember it differently to what it was. So I’m pretty sure there were many bad things happening at the time, but for my generation, we were young, and free, how could we not yearn for what we at least remember to have been an easier time?

If we’re not having much fun in our everyday lives, we can at least have fun with what we put on our backs. So, don’t be too surprised by an intensification of this 90s influence on current style. As 2024 inches closer, be prepared to see leopard prints, full tracksuits, corset tops, meshy vibes, high-shine fabrics, bandana headbands, velvet suits, tie-dye fabrics and pleather outfits all over your feed and in the streets.

It’s been a big trend for a while, but considering what’s happening all around us, this is one trend you can expect to remain with us for quite some time.

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