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#TBT: 11 Brands that Defined the ’90s

Ah, the ’90s. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a world of chunky clogs and aggressively skimpy crop tops. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and check out the 11 best brands that came out of the decade we were born in.

1. Limited Too

Bedazzled pants. Animal print. Children’s clothing that cost approximately 400 times more than it should have. Naturally, everyone wanted a piece of the Limited lifestyle. The reason you no longer see that beloved storefront sign around any more? The brand has since changed its name to “Tween Brands, Inc.”

2. Roxy


Surfer girls (and surfer girl wannabes) everywhere got a store to call their own when Roxy opened its doors in 1990. The brand popularized the image of an athletic beach girl who spent her time riding the waves instead of lying in the sand tanning. Roxy is still going strong today, and even sponsors a host of surfers, skiers and snowboarders.

3. The Gap


We’re going to give you a moment to recover from laughing at what is perhaps the best television ad ever made. Better? Good. We may not think of Gap as a major name in fashion today, but in the 1990s, it assumed an upscale image and gained a substantial following. Gap’s minimalism made it the ultimate place to find those items of clothing that fondly came to be labeled as “basics.” In the 2000s, the Gap brand suffered a bit of an identity crisis, and it hasn’t quite been the same since. Despite closing a large chunk of its US stores, Gap has recently had a surge in popularity abroad, and profits are up.

4. Delia’s

Delia’s catalogs are the stuff of legends. Tweens everywhere eagerly awaited the arrival of the latest pseudo-magazine in their mailbox, and went crazy circling every pair of wide-leg camo pants and floral printed spaghetti strap top they could find. When the company declared bankruptcy late last year, ’90s girls everywhere went into mourning.

5. Mudd

Were you looking for a pair of wide-leg jeans that were bedazzled, laced up, or both? Did you want them at a low, low price? Mudd was your answer. Just look at those plastic shoes and tell us there isn’t a part of you that wishes you could wear those out on Friday night.

6. Diesel


Diesel took an aggressive, in-your-face approach to the high end market, making parents recoil while their children flocked to buy jeans priced in the triple digits.

7. Tommy Hilfiger

In the ’90s, everyone from presidents to pop stars were rocking Tommy, and sagging jeans everywhere displayed that iconic logo on the underwear underneath.

8. Baby Phat

Launched in 1993, Baby Phat sought to bring women into the Phat brand, and was a major hit. Finally, women everywhere had access to the cropped gold jackets and snakeskin-patterned halter tops they had so desperately craved. Baby Phat’s popularity continued to grow into the 2000s, but we’re thankful to say we haven’t seen the signature cat logo around campus lately…

9. Skechers

It may surprise you, but the Skechers of the 1990s was a fashion hit. Especially appealing to the grunge aesthetic, rocking Skechers was what all the ’90s cool kids did.

10. Merry-Go-Round

Merry-Go-Round took its name seriously. Its strategy focused on pouncing on new trends, profiting from their popularity, and then moving on to the next big thing. By the mid-’90s, however, Merry-Go-Round was forced to admit that even it couldn’t keep up, and the beloved mall brand was no more.

11. Candie’s

First of all: WHY? We don’t care what decade you’re from—the toilet is not the place to look to for fashion inspiration. But we digress. Candie’s was (and still is) a brand dedicated to the bubblegum bad girl that first became popular in the 1960s by selling go-go boots at an alarming rate. In the ’90s, some of its print ads were deemed so inappropriate that multiple magazines refused to include them in their publications. As per usual, the moves that upset adults just made young people that much more interested.

 

Whether you love ’90s fashion or hate it, you have to have a special place in your heart for the era that shaped the fashion landscape of your childhood. This exploration has got us wondering: What will collegiettes in 20 years think about our clothing choices now?

Zoë Randolph

UC Berkeley '15

Since graduating, Zoë's served as a content marketer for non-profits and tech startups. She worked remotely and traveled the world full-time with her fiancé before becoming a freelance writer and settling (at least for now) in Montréal, Quebec. She likes reading good books, learning new things, and watching Real Housewives argue on TV. You can keep up with her writing over at zoerandolph.com.
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