Somewhere, on the night of Kendall Jenner’s 21st birthday, Paris Hilton laughed. Not because she was denied access to a club — although her track record is not clean of such incidents. No, that brisk November evening, Hilton laughed for all that she once loved.
The outfit Jenner donned for her special day was a direct reference to everything the fashion world has worked to forget: the first ten years of the 21st century. She found a photo of Hilton in a racy crystal slip, and redid it in the form of a nine thousand dollar imitation.
2006 was back, if only for a night.
This is not me urging you resurrect your shutter shades and Livestrong wristbands. Please do not. Rather, I’m here to address what most industry experts have long since stuffed in a junk drawer alongside their Neopets. No, not their Hannah Montana Fan Club memorabilia (which I definitely do not have). I’m talking about early 2000s fashion in the United States of America.
The fashion of this first decade was, above all, fun. Color coordination was a must. If you didn’t have pink clip-in hair extensions, you could probably say goodbye to your Pictochat group. Using a scarf as a belt? Congratulations on your street cred. Not even the popularity of TV programs like “The Fashion Police” (may Queen Rivers rest in peace) could stop Ashley Tisdale from wearing a pleated skirt over her gauchos. I can’t really pretend to know what sparked this ten-year wave of rampant eccentricism, but I sure am glad I was here to see it wash over an entire country.
Though some of the most poignant examples of this movement involve women’s fashion, men, too, made their fair share of bold clothing choices. Baggy jeans for the hip-hop set, fedoras for the scholarly types. Before he became the poster child of the modern-day streetwear movement, Kanye West was a 2000s fashion icon, advocating for neon sweaters and unnecessary scarves simply by wearing them in public.
Perhaps such quirkiness was merely an outgrowth of the slightly-more-punk yet slightly-less-everything-else fashion of the nineties. It’s probable. But perhaps it stood for something more, a form of release for a nation in grieving. The early aughts of America were the perfect breeding ground for a strange form of nuanced sadness, one that still perpetrates our lives today. It cannot be a coincidence that some of the most iconic movies, books and clothing trends American popular culture has ever set forth came to light in a time of tragedy. I’m not saying that nationalism was on the forefront of every woman’s mind when she put on a tie-dye poncho, but there may have been something subconscious involved, a desire bubbling beneath that crocheted surface.
As is historically the case, this Western-derived movement rippled across the world in no time. In 2002, Versace debuted a couture collection full of gem-covered gowns in hues of lime green, hot pink and, on several occasions, rainbow. At the same time, commonplace stores like Target boasted brightly patterned dresses that were supposed to be worn over leggings. By 2005, nearly everyone in the clothing industry had both feet in the fun-loving bandwagon, from high-end designers to bargain brands. Even Abercrombie, the most subdued (and overpriced) of every mall’s mega-retailers, offered up their fair share of bubble skirts and lace-trimmed camis (both of which were, indeed, overpriced).
We can’t talk 2000s-era fashion without making mention of celebrity clothing lines. Jay Z and Damon Dash’s Rocawear, Avril Lavigne’s Abbey Dawn, Miley Cyrus’s collaboration with Max Azria for Walmart. For many of the decade’s rich and famous, the notion of creating a personal brand appeared to mean more than the clothes themselves. In other words, we may never have seen Miley wearing the cheetah print pants from her own collection, but it didn’t matter. The charm brought about by a big name, coupled with an adherence to the style of the decade, was enough to make celebrity-curated clothes a “thing” for a brief moment in time.
But why should we care about any of this in 2016? We have iPhones and a celebrity as our president-elect. Why does it matter what we were doing ten years ago?
It’s common knowledge that the trends of the past shape what we wear in the present, so it only makes sense that elements of ’00s fashion have made a resurgence. I was going to say that they “have come back to haunt us,” but I am wearing a tattoo choker as I write this, so I’m not one to talk. All kidding aside, look around. Tracksuits are back for both men and women. “Bellybutton shirts” have been reincarnated in the modern crop top. Rapper Tyler, The Creator is at the helm of a successful, color-happy clothing label, Golf Wang. I don’t speak French, but I can confidently say that 2016 has given me a sense of fashion déjà vu that I have yet to experience at any other time.
I hope Paris Hilton is still laughing. Her Cavalli-meets-Juicy Couture sense of style once meant the world to an entire industry. Who knows? Perhaps this form of fashion will come back in full force, hair crimped, denim miniskirt riding up just a bit too high.
Thank you, 2006. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of you.