There’s no easy answer for what’s fueling our growing fetishization of the ’90s, but it’s a trend that’s both very real and not at all unique to those who actually lived through it. As it turns out, you didn’t have to be alive or even fully sentient at the time to long for a return to those pre-9/11 halcyon days of Clintonian economic surplus.
Sure, there were plenty of events during those years that we’d rather not celebrate, but thankfully we get to cherry-pick the parts we want to idealize. It’s significantly more comforting to romanticize things like music, fashion, and sports — the holy triumvirate of ’90s cultural touchstones.
To be certain, there was a lot to like in those days. It was the golden age of hip-hop, the clothes were garish, the hairstyles were teased, Michael Jordan and the Bulls ruled the NBA and the sports world in general, and the sudden convergence of those previously disparate universes became the cultural equivalent of a neutron star.
Rappers watched sports and wore athletic apparel. The MTV generation consumed massive doses of MTV and wanted to dress like their favorite rappers. Brands like Nike, adidas, Reebok, Champion, and Russell began to find enormous commercial success, and somehow, from the bottom of the fray, a relatively lesser-known sports apparel company rose to prominence.
Almost out of nowhere, Run DMC, 2 Live Crew, Public Enemy, and just about every other rap group at the time was suddenly sporting the now-iconic Starter jackets on their album covers and in their videos, and soon the Starter jacket was a must-have clothing item for every tween, teen and young adult across America.