Urban-themes from the ’90s are back and not just as a nostalgic fashion statement, as trend-following pop artists like Jennifer Lopez back away from the declining returns on EDM, they’re hollering back at sounds inspired by ’90s-era rap and r&b. In Lopez’s case, earlier this year she recorded with Chris Brown and Cory Rooney, who wrote many of her earlier hits including “Ain’t It Funny” and Jenny From The Block,” and this past week she was in her old Bronx hood, recording a video (above) for the song whose title has been revealed as “Same Girl.” Which, not exactly.
The song itself as it’s only an excerpt, though the styling clearly reflects fashion’s current obsession with retro urban styling. But just like any trip down memory lane, there is selectivity with some items brought forward and honored and others left forever in the past.
As a ’90s back-to-the future item, Timberland’s “six-inch wheat” boot has been a clear winner, reflected in “Same Girl,” in which two of the backups wear Timberland boots, as does Lopez. It’s a funny sort of twist not only because Lopez is one of the few left standing today with enough relevancy to do a rewind on her own urban phase, but also because she is famous for wearing a pair of Manolo “Tims” whose design was inspired by the popularity of Timberland boots in her 2002 “Jenny From the Block” video.
As for the sneakers, the Nike wedges on one of the dancers are a clear modern day update, and the plethora of Nike in general speaks to the brand’s current day level of dominance, whereas back in the day, there were a wider variety of brands with white-themed classics including Adidas, Puma, Reebok and K-Swiss (yes, K-Swiss!) all considered legit.
After the footwear, the easy comparisons between modern day and old school become trickier. Look back at the videos from the late ’90s/early ’00s and the featured female artists reflect the era’s overall dressier attitude–especially as it applies to clubwear, often wearing heels with short-shorts, taps pants (exposed thick thighs were the thing!), skirts or dresses, cropped tops accessorized with multiple gold necklaces. For beauty, nails were long, acrylic, square tipped and either french or adorned with a single color. And weave-play was much, much scarcer.
Even for performers like Lauryn Hill, Aaliyah and Missy Elliot who often made videos wearing more casual looks, skinny denim as featured in Lopez’s latest video simply didn’t exist with catsuits and leggings the closest approximation. In general bottom silhouettes were less fitted and denim silhouettes evolved from the mid-’90s to the early ’00s from high-waisted tapered and slung low baggy to a cleaned-up boot cut (a la Lopez in “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” from 2000), the predecessor to skinny.
Fashion’s mining of the past–especially its more underexposed moments, will always continue, and so we may we see more picking and choosing of items from the ’90s. Though given women’s deep attachment to skinny jeans, it’s hard to imagine any big changes with bottom silhouettes except for rise of the waist coming up a bit. And women’s love affair with the ease of menswear seems as strong as ever so nix on the short-shorts and dresses and sky-high heels for now, too.
Though possibly we’re really looking back for more than just the fashion. Perhaps we’re taking one last longing look back at an era in which dial-up AOL instant message and email was the only social media and it wasn’t even big enough to be called that. Or maybe we just want to extend a sympathetic nod to the struggle that produced urban style and all its tough coolness. In fashion though, like J says, “Time don’t go back, it go forward” so as always the ones to really keep an eye on are the future seers, for whom a step back only reflects a desire to feel the firm footing that launches style more forward.