Everything old is new again, and that includes ’90s fashion for men.
If you weren’t around then (or old enough) to revel in the gloriousness of all that oversized neon, let’s take a quick stroll through the decade.
These basics will help you find your footing in the grunge decade and make it modern for today’s looks.
Sure, flashy colors and bold prints were all the rage during this decade, and those suits were certainly hot. But even the ’90s knew there were times you needed to remain neutral.
Traditional suit colors still carried the day, especially versatile shades like grey. These colors are much easier to build an ensemble around!
The ’90s fashion was all about baggy, so loose-cut suits were everywhere. Suit jackets were long and boxy, and the pants had to be pleated.
Turtlenecks in the ’90s shed their nerdy association from the 80s and became synonymous with sophistication. Now, they were a shortcut to looking wise and serious.
Dark and think turtlenecks were all the rage for a smart-casual approach to dressing; not much has changed there! This look has remained timeless.
Turtlenecks remain popular because they’re so versatile; use them for dressing up or down, your choice.
Haven’t you always wished for pants that gave you both style and function? Cargo pants were the ’90s answer to those prayers!
These pants were super comfortable, provided plenty of storage spaces, and could be worn in most places. They checked all the boxes.
One of the reasons for their popularity was that one could make the argument that they were suitable for more dressy occasions.
They may not have been entirely appropriate for dressier settings. Still, they made a pretty good compromise for sulky teens and their frustrated parents.
Cargo pants are still around today, of course. However, they’re a far cry from the super baggy form they started as.
Ripped and Baggy Jeans
Even the jeans had to be oversized. The more fabric that pooled around your ankles, the better.
We sure swung far in the other direction a few decades later, overcorrecting with the advent of skinny jeans. Today, looser jeans are hip again, but maybe don’t go quite as far as the ’90s style in terms of fashion.
This decade embraced the disaffected youth aesthetic. (Ever wondered why Nirvana was so popular?)
Rips in your jeans showed how little you cared about “looking nice.” It was important to go out of your way to send that message.
Leather Biker Jackets
Nah, you don’t need to be in a biker gang to pull off this look! For some reason, part of the rebellion of the ’90s included looking like a biker, and it still works.
These were a perfect pairing with a pair of ripped jeans and a T-shirt. Of course, Doc Martens were the ideal way to add polish to this outfit.
And if you added a flannel shirt tied around your waist, you pulled off the fashion trifecta of the ’90s.
Biker jackets are still pretty hot today. They’re excellent for balancing out a pair of dark, slim-fit jeans.
Future generations might assume the ’90s were super stormy and windy, given that windbreakers were everywhere.
But, no, that was just how we looked sporty back then without having to actually break a sweat.
But they do have some practical use, too! Windbreakers are really effective at keeping the chill out. And since they’re so lightweight, they’re incredibly convenient to take anywhere.
90s windbreakers were often neon or other bold colors, and often they were multi-colored in large blocks of color. The brighter, the better!
You can be windbreaker chic today with a contemporary upgrade. Just go easy on the colors, and stick to a more flexible neutral shade.
Just like with biker jackets and windbreakers, everyone wore high-top sneakers, not just their target audience.
You didn’t need to know the first thing about basketball to be a fan of high-tops. Everybody went crazy for these ankle-high sneakers.
Of course, many brands and styles existed, but Air Jordans were the most popular. Sure, they looked hot, but it didn’t hurt that they carried the name of the number one sportsman of the decade.
You’ll still see plenty of high-tops around today, but they’re a little less flashy. Converse sneakers are a great brand for a contemporary (yet retro!) take on this shoe.
Sliding into these chunky and clunky boots was another way to complete the tough image that the ’90s relished.
They were severe looking, perfectly complemented the biker jacket outfit, and looked killer with your flannel.
Doc Martens were the brand to own, and honestly, have they ever gone out of style?
Today, you can still get the combat boot look without all the weight and heft of ’90s boots. Sleeker and lighter versions exist, and they look awesome with a pair of jeans and a T-shirt.
If there is only one garment that symbolizes ’90s fashion, it is definitely the flannel shirt. Whether you were into grunge, hip hop, or boy bands, you owned at least a few flannels.
These weren’t your average lumberjack flannel shirts. They were usually lightweight flannel and worn with practically every outfit.
And who says you need to actually wear the shirt? They made a great accessory just tied around your waist. Very handy for when you got cold later.
To achieve maximum coolness, they were worn oversized. Because, of course, everything was oversized back then.
The ’90s were really the introduction of graphic T-shirts. You can thank a skater for popularizing this look.
These were mostly simple, featuring the graphic over either a black or white background. Your shirt could feature anything, but it was usually a band or a popular brand.
These shirts were a way to show off your excellent taste in music or to incorporate a fashion label you might not have otherwise been able to afford.
Rap and hip hop may have gained popularity in the 80s, but they really hit their stride in the ’90s. Thanks to that, hip-hop fashion bled into the mainstream. And thus bucket hats.
These simple hats weren’t usually very bold or eye-catching. They mostly came in neutral colors, made from heavy cotton or denim.
Sometimes they had multicolored panels and perhaps a logo in the center. You weren’t paying any attention to fashion if you didn’t at least recognize a Kangol bucket hat!
Ah, the simpler days of technology! A digital watch seemed so cutting edge and progressive. Bonus points if it had a calculator!
My, how things have changed. Today a digital watch is retro-chic. These are fun to incorporate into a casual outfit for a walk down memory lane.
Save your Swatch watch, though, for another retro blast from the past.
What was a young man to do when his cargo pants pockets were already filled? Fanny pack to the rescue! Of course, neon was the way to go for this accessory.
These were totally cool until your mom also started wearing one. At least she never copied your cargo pants.
Today, fanny packs are acceptable again, though they’ve been rebranded as cross-body bags.
Instead of fastening them around your waist, sling them across your chest. Still, a convenient way to keep your hands free!
The neon nylon bags of the 90s are passe now. Instead, gravitate toward neutral colors and canvas or leather bags.
They may not be the most mature way to carry your cash and cards, but they sure are convenient. You can’t find a more lightweight or slim wallet anywhere.
And they’re waterproof, which can be very helpful if you get caught in the rain without your windbreaker!
The way to add pure style to your wallet game in the ’90s was to wear it attached to your baggy jeans on a chain. And the longer your chain was, the hipper you were.
90s Fashion Hairstyles
Some hairstyles from the ’90s are best left in the past; it’s cringy to even picture some of the bad hair from back then. However, some styles have evolved nicely and look fresh many years later.
Perhaps one that’s best forgotten is the frosted tips look. After bleaching the ends of your hair, you would then create an uber-spikey look with as much hair gel as possible.
Longer hair was stylish in the ’90s, too, and is still a good look today. Kurt Cobain really popularized the natural, shaggy cut that required little effort.
Longer hair that flowed was also a gorgeous look that was simple to maintain.
Curtain hair was a very dreamy, romantic style, too. This was slightly longer on the top and sides, with a middle part that framed your face.
Brad Pitt excelled at this style; just don’t get a matching ‘do with your girlfriend as he and Gwyneth did. (Shudder.)
Influences on 90s Men’s Fashion
Pop culture led fashion in the ’90s through music, TV, and movies.
In music, grunge and hip-hop were the leaders of the most popular styles. Musicians like Kurt Cobain and Tupac exuded cool. They may be gone, but their music persists, and their fashion examples still reverberate today.
Movie stars like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio were more than just talented, handsome faces. We looked up to them because their looks were always changing.
They often set the pace for the changing styles throughout the decade. If these guys could look good in the new styles, they were worth trying out.
David Beckham, a famous British soccer player, also significantly influenced ’90s fashion. His ability to confidently wear various garments in a flawless manner has made him a style icon over the years.
And, of course, TV was a major influence because these were the styles we saw every week in our living rooms. Shows like Beverly Hills 90201 and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air were led by a youthful cast who brought us different looks weekly.
We only needed to pay attention to them to learn how to dress in contemporary fashions.
Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.