Sophisticus

Are you stuck in the ’90s?

I was stuck in the ’90s. For at least a good 8 years after they ended.

The ’70s, ’80s and ’90s were very experimental in terms of clothing styles. The ’90s being the most so of the three with its various subcultures.

Some people bought into a trend, invested money into wearing that trend, and stayed with it until it became an embarrassment. Sometimes embarrassment never came because people can be oblivious. You may think this doesn’t apply to you. Maybe your clothes are new. Maybe you didn’t follow any trends. Doesn’t matter. If you wear clothes, you have been unknowingly affected by 1990s trends.

Sophisticus isn’t about following any trend. Instead, learn to stick to timeless classic style that can survive any decade.

By my calculations, the ’90s were at least 10 years ago. Yet its clothing trends have stuck around longer and stronger than clothes from any previous decade.

I went to high school in the ’90s with the rave kids who wore pacifiers and baggy pants. I went to high school with goths who painted their nails black to go with the black the covered themselves in head to toenail. There were other trends around me like hockey jerseys, and I think some of the girls even wore pyjamas to school. These trends, of course, never survived past the Y2K tragedy.

Yet the style that I, and so many others were wearing in the ’90s, regretfully lingers on even today. I’ll explain how this became possible along with describing ’90s clothes that oblivious people still wear, and that is still sold on the market today.

’90s Pants

When it came to casual clothes, pants were the worst culprit. A proper fitting pant should hug your hips nicely, and sometimes taper in the legs. In the ’90s urban clothing had a lot of influence on suburban teenagers. Baggy jeans that hang below the underwear came into style because impoverished inner-city black people wore donated/discarded jeans, and these jeans came from obese suburban white Americans.

Although it wouldn’t be practical for pant makers to market pants that fall down to show you undies, the oversized style persisted, and the fat man’s size remained standard for everyone.

Once this Hip-hop fashion trend was over, you’d think the baggyness would end. Nope! Because of a surge of obesity in the North American market, pants were kept baggy. Some even included "comfort" features for the heavyset person like pleats and elastic waistbands. Cargo pockets were a style often added that only ended up making pants look even baggier. Go into any Marshall’s, Ross or Sears and see how many short pants have pleats and cargo pockets, even today. These are pants that are both keeping to ’90s trends and styled for the heavy man. It makes no sense when these are sold in the thin size of 32.

Charlie Harper
Charlie Sheen plays a character that is stuck in the ’90s.

’90s shoes

Another culprit is the shoe. In the ’80s, footwear companies made their casual shoes specific for different sports (we were a sporty generation), and included a little more flair in their shoe designs. By the ’90s this very quickly this got out of hand. Choosing a shoe just for walking was a choice between tennis sneakers, cross trainers, and basketball "dunks" that looked like rockets for your feet, complete with its own power generator.

Today, people are still wearing elaborately designed athletic shoes outside of the gym. This breaks Sophisticus rule #1. Always dress for the occasion. Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love [2011] gives a few exceptions for wearing New Balance athletic shoes, but you won’t meet his criteria.

Are you Steve Jobs?

So people wear running shoes to the mall. So, what? Well, it gets worse. The companies that brought you these shoes in your bad-ass extreme skateboarding days thought it was a good idea to keep you in their pockets for when you become an adult. They wanted to sell you dress shoes too. And so it was born, the hybrid shoe. Both an ugly dress shoe and an ugly gym shoe all in one. Marketed on the idea that if you buy a real dress shoe your feet will be in pain. That your feet can withstand no less than "comfort max technology with spacewalk air soles". My cousin needed a dress shoe for work. He thought that as long as it’s black then it’s a dress shoe. A salesman was pushing him on something that looked closer to a hiking boot than anything one should wear with a suit. I didn’t let him fall for it.

Sketchers
It’s a shoe mullet.

Square-toed shoes

When it came to real dress shoes, trends were for the shoe to be shaped like a square. Literally, 90-degree angles for a piece of clothing made for your feet. Like the pilgrims wore. Today you’ll see plenty of lower-positioned business men in square-toed dress shoes. Curve-toed shoes have been around for centuries, but many shoe manufacturers jumped onto the ’90s trend of square-toed thinking it would last. You could have bought shoes made in any decade except the ’90s, and they would be wearable today.

The square-toed shoe persists today partly because it is costly to change production and partly because it supposedly flatters the obese man. It does not. It only accentuates heftiness by creating a blunt edge at the end of the body. Kenneth Cole is not only the most common square-toe shoe producer, but also produces some of the most cheaply constructed shoes. These days, square-toed and cheaply-made often go hand in hand.

’90s Suits

Now that you know to update your business shoes, you should be sure that your suit to go with it isn’t stuck in the ’90s too.

The biggest and loosest suits in history were the Zoot suits of the 1930s, popularized by African-Americans, just like baggy clothes of the ’90s. Today, Zoot suits are found only as costumes for anyone wanting to relive the Jazz age.

Second-loosest suits were from the ’90s. Some may assume this of the ’70s. Not true. Suits styles of the ’70s were often well-fitted, but just worn with exaggerated stylings such as wide lapels, big collars and bell bottoms.

The trend after the ’70s began the journey to make the man buff and muscular through the suit. To do this, people were fitted with suits to match that of a football player. Large hanging padded shoulders and extra fabric all around for the look of a big chest. The body shape was simply a box. It took a few decades to realize it, but seeing a man swimming inside of his own clothes does not make that man look buffer. It makes him look like his body is too frail to fit into his own clothes, like he is some little kid trying on his dad’s clothes.

For 20 to 30 years in the suit market there were almost no mass-marketed options in North America to buy a suit that follows Sophisticus rule #2. Wear clothes that fit and flatter the body. Just like pants today, the increasing levels of obesity are to blame for the big boxy suit. Obese men have an unflattering shape to their body, and they happen to be the target market for buying multiple suits. It’s clothes they can hide behind. The boxy shape is preferred over their natural pear shape, and manufacturers who don’t fix what ain’t broken are going to continually churn out the perferred suit for the largest suit-buying market.

Young men avoid and dread wearing suits. I would dread wearing clothes targeted for an obese old man too. By going custom made with a modern tailor, you’ll get a suit meant for the shape of your body, and it will be designed with your age and preferences in mind too. It won’t look like a costume, and you’ll make excuses to wear that suit all the time.

Smart clothing companies are aware of the circle of life, and that their aging clients will stop going to work, begin retirement, and move onto golf clothes, pyjamas, and swim trunks. Suit companies are creating specific lines for the younger and fresher crowd with a more hugging fit, and with classic rather than trendy details. Know to look for these and not a ’90s suit by mistake.

Shape is most important, but don’t forget to pay attention to detail. ’90s suits contain some unclassic detailing such as low gorges (the notch or points on the lapels fall on the mid-chest instead of being higher). Avoid extended and heightened sharp shoulder pads (shoulder pads are for women), and avoid a suit jacket that is too long, hanging well past your butt. Also avoid wide lapels in relation to the width of the suit’s body. Be sure avoid baggy sleeves that have extra room below your armpit. The most common detail of ’90s suits were 3 or more front button holes. Know that two buttons on a business suit is classic. Tuxedo jackets should have one button which are hard to find in tuxedo shops that have been renting the same jackets since the ’90s.

’90s ties

Another thing you’ll need to go with that suit is a tie. People keep ties for decades so stick with classic looks such as weaved solids, rep stripes, woven, plaid, and pin-dot. In the ’90s ties were loud and obnoxious with multicolor paisley or geometric patterns that would induce a headache of you actually tried to focus on them for more than 30-seconds.

Jerry and Elaine
Now, switch clothes.

Modern ties are appealing with the use of texture, fabric weaves, and great, but simple, colour combinations. Good modern ties show quality and don’t have to shout to overcompensate. They also come in many widths. ’90s ties were almost always wide, which always look odd on skinny people.

Be sure the width you choose is proportional to your body. A 300 lbs quarterback, whether carrying that weight mostly in fat or muscle, should wear a wide tie. If you have a medium body mass, a tie that falls between 2.75" to 3.25" looks best. The super skinny ties that are no more than 2" wide are for the super skinny people. That usually works for people still in high school or haven’t gained an ounce since then, but keep in mind these extra skinny ties are often made with a casual pattern or material that may not work with a suit.

Also, in the ’90s people didn’t remember how to tie their tie so they removed it ever so slightly off their neck to keep it knotted full-time. Are you stuck in the ‘90? It’s the future. We have the Internet now. Learn to tie a tie.

Man jewelry in the ’90s

In the ’90s people wore gold chains around their necks and wrists. In the case of Mr. T, some more that others.

If gold chains weren’t in the budget, you had a beaded necklace. Maybe a beaded bracelet. Although, I remember getting a silver bracelet as a gift, as well as an initial ring that was very popular back then.

All of this were flat out insecure indicators to show status. ’90s kids were pretentious, and the suburbanites were getting jewelry from their parents. None of this status was earned, which is why man-jewelry is repulsive to woman now. If you want to wear jewelry, you need to earn it. Get some confirmed kills in a war for your country, place in the Olympic games, or win the Super Bowl to earn your bling.

You can still wear a watch, but to earn the place on a man’s wrist it must be able to tell the time without the use of diamonds. A watch should be tasteful and its value should be tied to its quality mechanics. Not it’s bling factor.

’90s shirts

’90s shirts were dark colours and were constructed from very unshirty materials like silk or microsuede. Designed baggy, of course. T-shits and polo shirts had unusually long sleeves for what is supposed to be a short-sleeved shirt. A short sleeve is supposed to end at the mid-bicep.

’90s sweaters

Sweaters are classic and timeless, except this one invention popular in the 1990s. Performance fleece sweaters. Sweaters have always been made from cotton, wool or cashmere. These are classics and have been in style all of last century and this century. Performance fleece came around in poor taste and didn’t hold a candle to the classic materials.

Old Navy Performance Fleece commercial from 1998.

These sweaters also popularized the idea of purposeless zippers throughout the neck and pockets. Especially the “quarter-zip” neck. While sweaters have gone back to being made from natural and better-looking materials, the zippers of the ’90s often remain where buttons would be more attractive.

Mark Zuckerbeg
Probably just an intern.

A gentleman who celebrates Sophisticus will always consider the purchase of classic clothing pieces to be an investment. Fashion trends will come and go, but classic style is timeless.

Usually one shouldn’t be able to buy an up-and-down trend from a previous decade and try to pass it off as new, but the offshore mass production economy coupled with an increasing obesity problem have left some people unknowingly following 1990s fashion trends for 10 to 20 years or more, whether their clothes are old or recently purchased.

Look around next time you’re in public, and see who’s stuck in the ’90s. Also, look in the mirror and in your closet because the one stuck in the ’90s might be you.

fear face meme
I dress like shit!
Canadian music group Moxy Fruvous.