‘As If!’ NAHS Teachers Explain Why the ’90s Was All That and a Bag of Chips


Martyshova Maria via Creative Commons

Today’s Gen Z is heavily influenced by the 1990s, the decade most of their parents and teachers grew up in.

Stephanie A. Torres, Staff Reporter

In recent years, we’ve all seen how popular different decades have been. For example, in the early 2010s, we were all about bringing back ‘90s grunge, especially with the whole Tumblr girl epidemic. Then, by the late 2010s, we traveled to the ‘80s thanks to the hit Netflix show “Stranger Things.’’ At this time, we also started bringing back the early 2000s,  as fashion like juice contour tracksuits made a comeback.  

But one decade that always seems to make a comeback with our generation is the ‘90s.   In fashion,  teen girls started taking inspiration from  Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.   Other people brought back bucket hats,  which were famously worn by rapper LL Cool J.  If you go to stores like Forever 21, you will probably see scrunchies, butterfly clips, and clothes that look like something Fran Fine from “The Nanny’’ would wear. 

So, Gen X, whether you like it or not, Gen Z has already been taking over your culture!

But does Gen Z really know much about ‘90s fashion and pop culture as they claim to?    Well, I’ve decided to find that out by interviewing teachers of NAHS who lived through the decade themselves.  I  asked them about music, tv & movies, fashion, celebrities, and why they think we romanticize the ‘90s 30 years later. 


How old were you in the ’90s?

English teachers Maria Loebig-Haberle and Jill Myers remember the early and mid-90s. Meanwhile, Natasha Bovenkerk, Stephanie Neilson, and Jemma Malkasian. remember the mid- and late-90s.  Lastly, John  Cumberland, the youngest teacher I interviewed, only remembers the late ’90s.  


Who were the fashion icons? 

Gen Z has the Tv show “Euphoria’’ to look at when it comes to fashion. We are inspired by not only the characters Rue and Maddy, but also by their real-life actresses, Alexia Demi and Zendaya, who are both looked up to as fashion icons. The same thing was true for characters and their actors the ‘90s. Two of the biggest tv shows that had influenced fashion are “Beverly Hills 90201” and  “Friends.”  For example,  Jennifer Aniston was also looked up to as a fashion icon in both magazines and “Friends” through her character, Rachel.  

Another Tv show or movie that was iconic to 90s fashion is “Empire Records,” according to several teachers.  “The movie ‘Empire Records’ is  a good movie to watch if you want to get an inside of what ‘90s fashion was all about,” said  Malkasian. 

Bovenkerk pointed out that “every girl wanted to dress like Alica Silverstone’s character in ‘Clueless,” which showed off high fashion and name brands like Dolce & Gabbana. 

Supermodels in the ‘90s were also major fashion icons, namely Cindy Crawford, Noami Campbell, Kate Moss,  Linda Evangelist,  Christy Turlington, and Tyra Banks. Thanks to them, brands like Versace were very popular during this era.  In the late ‘90s, teachers cited the “princess of pop,” Britney Spears, as a fashion icon.  


Did you copy them? If so how? 

Most of the women who remember the late ‘90s did say they copied Britney Spears and Jennifer Aniston, but Ms. Malkasian mimicked the looks of Gwen Stefani from No Doubt and grunge rock groups like Garbage and Hole. However, Mr.  Cumberland wanted to be like The Backstreet Boys.  

What Ms. Loebig told me about her style in the 90s got me thinking about how fashion norms have changed. “I was more of a grunge person,” said Loebig. “So that was more against the mainstream. We didn’t want to be like celebrities. We were more trying to be like Rage Against the Machine. Like flannels, dark eyeliner, and doc martin boots.’’  

Ms. Myers also said something interesting. She talked about how her style in the ‘90s was more influenced by the 1960s and said how a lot of teens of that era wanted to fit more with ‘60s and ‘70s fashion.   ¨I remember in the 90s we had a lot of 60s and 70s inspiration in terms of pop culture,¨ Myers said. It seems that every 20 to 30 years, a new decade seems to make a comeback.   


Who were the most famous people of the 90s?

From teens idols to the big screen to the music scene, everyone in the ‘90s seemed to have a big impact.  Let’s start with teen idols!  All the teachers talked about Leonardo Dicaprio and his movie “Titanic” (1997)  Another connection with “Titanic” is the actress who played Leonardo Dicaprio’s love interest,  Kate Winston.  And here comes yet another Leonardo connection but his movie “Romeo and Juliet” (1996)  was a big hit for teens, especially since the actress Clarie Danes was in it.  For the older generation of the 90s, Clarie Danes seemed to be name-dropped a lot thanks to her Tv show “My So-Called Life.”  Other people who became teen idols thanks to their success on a tv show or movie are Jonathon  Taylor Thomas (“Home Improvement”), the cast of “Beverly Hills 90201,” and even pop artists like Britney Spears, NSYNC, and The Backstreet Boys were all teen idols.   

One of the biggest bands to come out of the ‘90s, one all the teachers mentioned a lot has to be Nirvana.  It seems that no matter how old you were in the ‘90s you knew who Nirvana was. Another reason the teachers talked about Kurt Cobain was because of his relationship with Hole’s lead singer, Courtney Love. The same thing goes for Winona Ryder and Johnny Depp,  who were also both name-dropped a lot thanks to their 1990 movie “Edward Scissorhands.”   Other famous movie stars are  Will Smith (“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”),  and of course, the cast of  “Friends.”

Just like nowadays wherever a celebrity has a big conversation, they become ten times famous.    ¨O.J Simpson was very popular but not for a very good reason,¨  Mr.  Cumberland said.  

Ms. Bovenkerk said,  ¨In the early ‘90s, Michael Jackson was popular, but unfortunately as time went by, he became more famous due to his skin.¨ 


Who were the most popular artists/bands? 

At first, It was the success of grunge music with bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. However, then we see alternative music/ rock, Hip pop, R&b, and then Pop music become successful.  

With alternative rock, our NAHS teachers got to see Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers live. Female artists were also big in the alternative and rock scene, with hit songwriters such as Fiona Apple and Alanis Morisette. A lot of bands from this genre were using a lot of female lead singers with male musicians making up the rest of the group. For example, Gwen Stefani was the lead singer of her band No Doubt and Shirley Manson was the lead singer of Garbage.   

In the   Hip – pop scene, the older teachers mentioned Tupac and Biggie, but the younger teachers went on to say Will Smith. Mary J. Blige was the biggest R&B artist mentioned.  


What were the most popular tv shows/movies of that time? 

Previously mentioned tv shows/movies like ¨Ḿy So-Called Life,¨ “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,¨  ¨Titanic,”  “Beverly  Hills 90210,”  and “Friends”  were the most popular. 

An interesting one was ‘’Daria’’, an animated MTV tv show about teen life.  “‘Daria’ was the first show to show what teenagers really went through. [Daria] was also the first character to show off what people were really thinking about,” said Ms. Loebig. “She hated the government, she hated everything. And that’s kind of what people were back then.  Moody.’’ 


Lastly, as someone who lived through the ‘90s, why do you think people, both from younger and older generations, are so infatuated with the ‘90s? 

Ms. Loebig: ¨Sure it was fun to be a part of the ‘90s. Being a part of seeing websites being created. Everyone, including myself, was very excited to be a part of the Chat rooms. I got to make friends with people from other countries, but I think I prefer nowadays when technology is better and things like mental health are taken more seriously, it’s just Nostalgia¨

Ms. Myers: ¨The ‘90s were great!! But I do think that people may be too fed up with nostalgia, at least people of my generation. The ‘90s weren’t all too innocent; its just that we didn’t record ourselves doing things. Maybe lack of technology is also one reason people my age miss the ‘90s. That is however understandable. Technology did kind of ruin the fun.   And for the younger generation, I think it’s because of how much their parents are filled up with nostalgia. They hear their parents talking about it and think that since their parents had so much in the ‘90s, then they probably will. Kind of what happened to us ‘90s kids with our parents obsessing over the ‘60s and ‘70s.¨

Mr. Cumberland:¨I was a child of the ‘90s, but it was fun. It’s so weird to see how nowadays, everyone’s on their phones. When I  was growing up, everyone talked to each other. It was weird seeing how technology changed. I went from having VSH tape-record to just clicking a button on my tv remote. I miss when life was like that. It felt cool to say that you watched something live.¨

Ms. Malkasian:¨It was the art that come out. I was so lucky to be a part of a decade that had good music and movies. I think that is also a reason why kids now in days like the ’90s better than today. Because they can still relate to the art that came out. Music was very much in the 90s all about telling the truth. I also sometimes like to think of the lack of technology as the way kids and people my age want to go back to the ‘90s.¨

Ms. Neilson:  ¨I think it was fun. the ‘90s was fun. That era was full of excitement because you didn’t know what was gonna happen next.¨

 Ms.  Bovenerk: ¨From what I remember the 90s was, well the 90s was during the time of having computers and having all these technologies come out, but because it was so new and at the time hard to use, not much technology was used until later on. So because of not much technology being used, I think that is why people remember it as a much simpler time. And because of lack of technology, you kind of appreciated stuff more. Or at least I did because everything wasn’t just there for you to watch whenever you wanted to. You couldn’t just get music wherever you wanted to. It was special getting an album before it sold out. So for me,  I feel like people were more excited about things. I think we all lived in excitement.¨


In conclusion . . .

Maybe Ms. Loebig- Harable and Ms. Myers are right: the reason why the ‘90s keeps making a comeback is because of the number of times we’re told by our parents that it was fun and that our parents are just filled up with nostalgia. Or maybe the other teachers are right: it is because of the lack of technology

Regardless of what is right or wrong, I think we can all agree on something. In terms of fashion and pop culture, it must have been fun to experience the ‘90s. 

If it wasn’t for pop culture or fashion in the ’90s, we probably wouldn’t have diversity in fashion (Noami Campbell and Tyra Banks). We wouldn’t be able to express ourselves through our clothes (Kurt Cobain and the grudge fashion). Women wouldn’t have the confidence to challenge themself in a male-dominated industry (Mary J. Blige).   Even celebrities who are famous in the 21st century have been impacted by these celebrities. Most rappers cite Biggie and Tupac as major inspirations.  Women from different music genres always credit Fiona Apple for their inspiration.  I think that’s what’s so special about the ‘90s: the decade has impacted how society and I think, and that’s why it’s so iconic.