The resurgence of Y2K fashion in 2022


Getty Images/Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho VIA Getty Images //USED WITH PERMISSION

This outfit is featured in the model Blumarine’s Spring 2022 collection, which includes Mariah Carey’s Y2K butterfly top. The designer, Nicola Brogano, seeks inspiration from Y2K icons like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears

Low rise jeans, metallic colors, platform boots and funky jewelry. These early 2000s trends that were considered gaudy only a few years back have returned in full swing, embraced by Gen-Z. Many trends take several decades to resurface, but the iconic Year 2000 (Y2K) style has re-popularized in only 20 years.

“It was a major concept that was very different from other fashion trends like the [one’s of the] ’90s, ’80s and ’70s,” Israel Garcia (10) said. “Very metallic, very futuristic. It’s the 2000s; of course, we’re gonna have to celebrate. We’re going into a new millennium.”

Y2K fashion is usually characterized by its wild and bold feel. As the new decade is plagued by a global pandemic, many people are craving a simpler time similar to the early 2000s. As a result, Y2K fashion has seen an explosive rise once again.

“[Y2K style is inspired by] mostly nostalgia, even though it is going back into a time with a futuristic sense to it,” Alice Yuan (12) said. “We were all hit by the nostalgia of that period as we entered a new decade.”

Some staples that have returned include wide-leg jeans, crop tops, yoga pants, printed fabrics, the color bubble-gum pink and layered jewelry.  While style is subjective, people following the trend of layering and mixing different materials have faced criticism. 

“Sometimes people go overboard with the mixing of materials, and it’s just too much,” Riley Reeves (10) said. “For me, if I wore something like that, it would be like a sensory issue. When people put furs, fishnets, denims and cotton all together, it’s too much for me.”

Quarantine entailed endless months of boredom to most, and it did what long periods of isolation generally do — provide time for introspection accompanied by an identity crisis. Being alone and free of judgment from society gives people a chance to explore styles and fashions to find what really fits them as individuals. 

“I definitely feel like when people are socially isolated, they aren’t really worried about other people’s opinions,” Yuan said. “Definitely for me, I was able to explore my style more because I didn’t fear the judgment of peers.” 

In a digital generation, teenagers are programmed to consume the media they encounter. 

During the past year, classic 2000s movies like “Mean Girls” (2004), “Jennifer’s Body” (2009) and The Twilight Saga began trending on social media platforms, connecting to the resurgence of Y2K fashion. 

“Ever since quarantine, [teens] didn’t have anything better to do, so we went on a binge of watching a bunch of 2000s TV shows and movies,” Garcia said. “A lot of Hollywood styles had a lot of Y2K fashion. So we saw this and thought, ‘Huh. Let’s bring this back.’”

Although it has become widely popular, some people prefer to stay away from the boldness of Y2K fashion. While many respect the fashion style, they aren’t impressed by the trend’s return in the 2020s. 

“Personally, in the 2020s, I feel like it’s kind of a joke,” Yuan said. “People buy shirts from the kids’ section and sell it on Depop with the tag ‘Y2K.’ I really like the actual style itself though; it’s futuristic.”

It is interesting to note how trends cycle back, particularly in this decade. The ‘90s style came back first, and in a chronological sequence, Y2K came back after that. 

“The ‘90s were crazy: there were a bunch of colors everywhere. Y2K fashion was more like ‘Ok, let me tone it down a little bit, but I’m still gonna be a baddie,’” Garcia said. 

On a scale from job interview to a Friday night party, Y2K would be ranked right next to dancing on the table. The era was marked by the male gaze, causing fashion to be highly sexualized. Back in the early 2000s, the fashion and beauty standard created an unhealthy and often hostile environment for many teens and young girls.

“There were a lot of problems then; it was the era of the really thin, tall white girl, and it was extremely inaccessible to most people,” Olivia La Roche, founder of vintage boutique O. La Roche, said. “It was the height of anorexia, the spray tan, the bleached hair, the blue contacts. The confluence of tech, media editing, the paparazzi and the type of celebrities — it was probably the cruelest era for women and young women who were at their most vulnerable moment.”

A prominent difference between then and now is the political atmosphere surrounding fashion. With feminist movements like #MeToo and women speaking out about the sexualization they face, elements of Y2K fashion come with a degree of reclamation and a sense of owning your sexuality. 

In the 2020s, style is nonconforming; there is emphasis on expressing yourself. The students of a high school from the previous generations would easily all be dressed in a very similar manner, but as society continuously breaks conformist ideals, there is more variety in the outfits we see day to day. 

“Quarantine helped us go back into fashion trends and try new things out,” Garcia said. “Like experiencing and trying out different styles and picking and choosing the elements you like to wear makes everyone’s style so unique.”