If you’ve noticed a whole lot of ‘90s outfits popping up on the timeline lately, you’re not the only one. The decade is fully back, baby. Don’t believe us? Scroll through the thousands of Getty results from the era—or take a gander at any of the IG mood boards dedicating to documenting the period’s biggest fits—and then bang our line. The hallmarks of ‘90s style have once again thrashed their way to the forefront of the menswear psyche, and frankly, we kind of saw it coming.
Look closely, and the signs were there all along. Cargo pants are cool! Fanny packs are back and better than ever! Graphic tees have never been wavier! Heck, the shaggy mohair cardigan Kurt Cobain wore performing on “MTV Unplugged” almost three decades ago—a veritable ‘90s icon in its own right—sold for a whopping 300k at auction a few years ago.
Today, though, the ‘90s outfits worth emulating are the ones that don’t borrow from the period’s defining aesthetic so literally. So we distilled the core elements of the look into six key categories, none of which call for the hairstyle of an era-specific heartthrob to pull off. Mixed and matched alongside the pieces already in your closet, they represent the easiest way to ape the ‘90s look without veering into cosplay. You could say they’re…all that and a bag of chips. (But please don’t.)
Big Ol’ Baggy Jeans
Pooling, wide-leg jeans—the kind gloriously offbeat dressers like Justin Bieber and Pete Davidson swear by today—remain a calling card of Y2K-era fashion, but the cut first took off in the decade that preceded it.
Rev Run-Approved Tracksuits
‘70s-indebted tracksuits—crisp, understated, best paired with a thicket of unkempt chest hair—might be all the rage right now, but the ones we’re talking about here are cut from a different cloth entirely. Comfortable, crinkly, and usually made from a lightweight nylon blend, they hearken back to a time when hip-hop luminaries like Run-D.M.C were on the cusp of becoming the world’s biggest influencers—Adidas shell-toes, swishy pants, and all.
MTV-Ready Flannel Shirts
Flannel shirts weren’t invented in the ‘90s, but their association with the era’s grunge scene forever lends them an aura of counter-cultural cool. Layer one over a hoodie or a long-sleeve T-shirt and accent with a healthy dose of stick-it-to-the-man ‘tude.
Red Carpet-Worthy Bucket Hats
The ‘90s were a downright wild time. ‘90s fashion? Even wilder. How else to explain the mind-boggling array of bucket hats on display, perched precariously on the heads of A-listers (with very relaxed notion of conventional dress codes) step-and-repeating their way through a decade’s worth of premieres? Turns out, all those newly-heralded style icons were onto something.
This-Is-How-You-Win Leather Blazers
Leather was everywhere in the ‘90s—on vests, pants, knee-length trenches—but no supple cowhide piece looks cooler today than the leather blazer. Throw one on with a turtleneck and tinted shades to kick the sleaze factor up a notch—and imbue your ‘90s-inspired get-ups with a little stylistic verve borrowed from the decades before it.
Take it from Tommy Lee: Nothing transforms a plain Jane tank top and blue jeans into a rockstar-level look more efficiently than neckful of chunky-as-hell jewelry.
When Nirvana showed up to perform on MTV Unplugged in 1993, they probably didn’t know it would be one of their last performances with the late, great Kurt Cobain at the helm—or that his outfit would make menswear history in the process. Cobain’s shaggy cardigan became so indelibly lodged in the pop culture consciousness that it sold for over $300,000 dollars at auction just a few years ago, solidifying its status as a defining emblem of ‘90s style. Almost three decades later, the Nirvana frontman’s entire look still feels fresh—start with a punkish sweater, layer on a graphic tee, and finish with light wash jeans.
Slick Black Derbies
Sneakers became bona fide status symbols in the ‘90s—thanks, in part, to the dominance of Michael Jordan—but chunky derbies were the alternative shoe of choice for everyone from prepsters to punks. Today, the derby’s spectrum-spanning appeal hasn’t lost an ounce of its luster. (Naturally, they also tend to look killer with some ’90s-inspired jeans.) The trick is to treat them like anything but a precious grail: buy ’em in black, and don’t be afraid to beat those sturdy soles into the ground.
Classic aviators are cool and all, but the sporty wraparound frames favored by ‘90 badasses fictional (Christopher Moltisanti) and not (Dennis Rodman) speak to a time when a bright new future was on everyone’s mind. Whether you’re nostalgic for the days before Twitter or simply looking to channel one of the decade’s stylish rebels, shades like these are an easy way to switch up your entire vibe with one move.