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Cyclical Fashion: What Goes Around Comes Back Around

Ugg boots, yoga pants, baby tees, trucker hats, and low-rise jeans are back in, haven’t you heard? These iconic staples of the early 2000s are making an unlikely return to today’s fashion scene, whether you like it or not, thanks to Generation Z TikTokers’ obsession with the Y2K era and celebrity style icons embracing the nostalgic trends.

And unironically, the comeback is arriving just in time to follow the “20-year rule,” otherwise known as the period of time it takes for a trend to fizzle out and be seen as tacky before becoming chic again.

The 20-year rule has held true for decades, exemplified by fashion in the 90s being heavily inspired by the trends of the 70s. As journalist Anne Donahue wrote in Fashion Magazine, “Without the seventies—without the risks, the loudness, and the willingness to show off one’s midriff, the nineties wouldn’t have rebelled against the eighties by so effectively stripping down the decade’s power suits and shoulder pads.”

But why do fashion trends fall perfectly into such a cyclical pattern? Trend forecaster and designer Geraldine Wharry attributes it to designers reflecting on their past while creating new pieces. “Fashion is about storytelling and drama and theatricality, so there’s always the element of pulling stories from the past,” she told Thread Magazine. “It’s a starting point for designers to look to past references for design inspiration. There’s something familiar and comforting about looking back.”

Y2K fashion can be seen across TikTok, the social media platform that– according to eMarketer– has a larger number of Gen Z users in the US than Instagram. Members of Gen Z consider the early 2000s as an iconic era filled with Paris Hilton, flip phones, and Juicy Couture tracksuits. It’s a time that many Gen Zers remember in rose-colored glasses– that is, if they remember it at all– as a simpler existence sans social media, the climate crisis, and a polarizing political climate. Thus, they embrace the trends from that time in an attempt to create their own little fashion utopia to distract them from the issues that plague today’s society. And, through the power of TikTok and with the help of some staple fashionable celebrities, have managed to make them cool again.

British pop star Dua Lipa, for example, is one celebrity whose style is heavily influenced by early 2000s trends. Colorful baby tees, fuzzy bucket hats, sparkly eyeshadow and butterfly clips are staples in her wardrobe, as seen on her Instagram account and her red-carpet appearances. Model Hailey Bieber, who’s widely considered a style icon to many fashion-forward young people, is constantly spotted sporting trucker hats, chunky beaded necklaces, and low-rise jeans.

“I personally never thought I’d see trends like funky hair clips and baby tees make a comeback, especially since I never really considered them that cute [before this year],” 21-year-old Julia Mervis explained. “But seeing them all over TikTok and on all these celebrities not only changed my mind but also inspired me on how to incorporate them into my own outfits.”

While the days of Christina Aguilera’s streaky black and platinum blonde hair and Lindsay Lohan partying with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears may be over, the fashion trends that existed among them are back with a vengeance. So go dig up some old bandannas and velour sweat suits and join the wave…and be sure to save your current trendy clothes for when they’re back in style in two decades.


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