Style watchers classify it as part of the McBling era, which overlaps with Y2K but emphasizes flashier items epitomized by brands.
First came the supposed death of skinny jeans. Then the resurgence of cargo pants, tank tops, and baby T-shirts.
If there’s one thing retailers can agree on, it’s that Generation Z is hot for the fashion trends of the early 2000s that are now booming in popularity.
College interns and young workers don baggy pants to the office. A retro hair staple, the claw clip is back; as well as mesh tops, miniskirts and a variety of colorful garments that can make consumers look like they stepped straight out of a 2004 Disney Channel show.
Fueled by social media platforms like TikTok, the so-called Y2K trend has resurfaced as consumers began attending parties and going out after pandemic lockdowns. What started with hair accessories like butterfly barrettes and the return of straight-leg jeans has expanded to all-denim, cargo and flare pants and all things sparkly, among other looks.
Casey Lewis, a trend analyst in New York, noticed so many micro-trends, often tagged with the “core” suffix, emerging in recent years that she created a newsletter about them.
Think “Barbiecore” and “mermaidcore,” which highlight hot pink reminiscent of Mattel Inc. Barbie doll or sheer materials with ocean-like hues and sequins. There’s also the “coastal granddaughter,” the youthful update that evolved from the “coastal grandma” trend featuring oversized cardigans and linen ensembles.
“Gen Z is not even close to being done revisiting these old trends,” said Lewis, whose “After School” newsletter documents the behavior of young consumers. “They’re going to dig into all the weird, long-standing trends and bring them back.”
Retailers from high-end Nordstrom to discount stores and fast-fashion outlets are pushing the styles into campaigns and on shelves. And consumers seem to be eating it up.
Sales of women’s cargo pants rose 81% from January to May, the latest month of available data, according to Circana, which tracks retail purchases. Low-cost fashion chains H&M and Zara say they are having success with biker jackets, denim and crop tops. And Chinese fast-fashion retailer Shein, which markets to young women, said its sales of baby T-shirts have tripled this year, making them by far the most popular T-shirt style of 2023.
The company is also seeing a big jump in sales of flared pants, corsets, metallic-colored clothing and tracksuits for women, which are often made from shimmering velor fabric reminiscent of some wardrobe choices by socialite Paris Hilton in the heyday. of his popularity.
Style watchers classify it as part of the McBling era, which overlaps with Y2K but emphasizes flashier items epitomized by brands like Juicy Couture and Baby Phat, the iconic streetwear line from TV personality and designer Kimora Lee Simmons. , which was relaunched in 2019.
As always, the trends are driven by celebrities like model Bella Hadid, whose outfit choices are scrutinized by fashion magazines and other viewers. Style also comes directly from consumers via social media, challenging retailers accustomed to shows setting the tone.
“There’s not a year’s notice that these trends are going to trickle down,” said Kristen Classi-Zummo, an analyst who covers fashion apparel for Circana.
Retailers, including Macy’s and Walmart, said they are paying more attention to what appears on social sites and analyzing the topics searched by users. But it can be challenging to tell the difference between trends that just generate attention and those that shoppers will actually buy, said Jake Bjorseth, who runs trndsttrs, an agency that helps companies reach young consumers.
Alison Hilzer, Walmart’s editorial director of fashion apparel, said she’s also seeing a lot of microtrends. Some have more longevity than others, making it hard to know when to jump on them.
The discount store, which markets Y2K and Barbiecore-inspired cargo pants, has been ramping up development to bring trends to market faster, though the company declined to offer more specific details. Walmart is also following key influencers like Alix Earle, who has collaborated with celebrities like Selena Gomez.
Even though retailers cater to young consumers, many aren’t actually shopping. Instead, they wear items from each other’s closets, helping fuel a resale market that has tripled since 2020, according to research by the Boston Consulting Group and Vestiare Collective, a French luxury resale site. Affordability was the main factor, but shoppers also bought used items to be more planet-friendly.
Yasmeen Bekhit, a 22-year-old graduate student from Manheim, Pennsylvania, said she frequents a local thrift store almost every week and shops at resale sites like Depop, which offers heavy 2000s options like baguettes and jeans. baggy
Bekhit typically gravitates towards baggy, flowy pants, flared-leg jeans, and form-fitting shirts like mesh tops, which help her stay cooler in the summer while wearing a hijab. She’s inspired by the way former Disney Channel stars like Gomez and Hilary Duff used to rock, she said.
Popular TikTok influencer Aliyah Bah, who amassed more than 2.5 million followers showcasing her 2000s-inspired look known as “Aliyahcore,” also inspires Bekhit. The look is a bit more alternative, often with miniskirts or shorts paired with crop tops, fishnet stockings, and furry knee-high boots.
“I really love his way of designing outfits,” Bekhit said.
But for everyday, Bekhit said she usually looks up outfit ideas on social media and puts her own spin on them.
Retro hair is also making a splash. Tahlya Loveday, a master stylist at The Drawing Room New York Salon, said she’s seen a lot more ’90s and Y2K trends, like spiky up-dos and space buns, blow-dry styles and block coloring, where sections of hair are dyed. hair. in contrasting colors. Gen Z customers embrace that look more than millennials, she said.
“For Generation Z, this is all new to them,” said Circana’s Classi-Zummo. “They’re not really reliving it. So while we can see it as cyclical and coming back, they’re getting it for the first time.”