The early 1990s saw the continued relevance of numerous mid and late 1980s fashions among both sexes, especially the preppy look. However, the popularity of grunge and alternative rock music helped bring the simple, unkempt grunge look into the mainstream by 1994. In general, the 1990s saw a minimalist fashion aesthetic in fashion, contrasted to the more elaborate and flashy trends of the 1980s. Additionally, fashion trends throughout the decade recycled styles from previous decades, notably the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, a trend which would continue into the 2000s and 2010s.
Kate Moss, who often modeled for Calvin Klein, sparked controversy with he very thin, waif-like figure. Due to Kate’s extremely skinny heroin chic frame, many criticized her for allegedly promoting eating disorders in her shots. Reportedly, posters of Kate Moss were often defaced with graffiti that read “feed me”.
The early 1990s saw a continuation of 1980s fashion: women wore denim button down shirts, neon colors, oversized sweaters, T-shirts, sweatshirts, baby doll dresses, trenchcoats lined with fake fur, and black leather jackets. Matching jeans and denim jackets began to be made in darker shades rather than the bleached acid wash of the 1980s.
Around 1995/96, fashion started to take cues from the disco fashion of the mid-late 1970s. This included bell bottoms and leather (or its more ethical alternative, pleather) pants, metallic clothing, sequined dresses, and crop tops.
By the late 1990s, the most popular trainers were white or black and manufactured by Adidas, Reebok, Hitec and Nike. Shoes with built in air pumps were popular among both sexes. Leather had largely replaced canvas, and soles were made of foam rather than solid rubber.
In Europe, single-breasted three and four button suits in grey or navy blue, together with leather jackets based on the same cut as blazers, began to replace the 1980s power suits. Tweed cloth and houndstoothsportcoats went out of fashion due to their association with older men.
The dominant youth clothing fad at the beginning of the 1990s was fluorescent clothing in blue, green, orange, pink, and yellow. Hoop earrings were also a popular accessory for teenaged girls and women in the first years of the 1990s. Plaid shirts were also popular. Popular colors for girls included coral, hot pink, and turquoise. In Britain and the USA, girls wore oversized tee shirts, sweat shirts, sweaters, slouch socks worn over sweatpants or leggings, black or white lace trimmed bike shorts with babydoll dresses, belts worn with dresses, sweaters, and t-shirts, flats, Keds, Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, shortalls, flared trousers, leotards worn as tops with jeans, and athletic shorts. Boys wore soccer shorts, jean jackets, tartan shirts, tapered acid washjeans, and sweatpants. For example, in the Southern Suburbs of Chicago during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Z Cavericci pants and IOU sweatshirts were worn by members of the middle/upper-middle class.
For younger children, the mid-1990s was the Golden Age of Disney films with T-shirts and sweaters featuring characters like Simba, Mickey Mouse, Aladdin, and Winnie the Pooh. Tartan trousers, striped shirts, long sleeved polo shirts, and sweaters (often knitted by the child's grandmother) were worn by young boys in the UK. Blue denim and railroad stripe overalls were also popular for females, as seen on television and commercials throughout the decade, and for teenagers, who would leave either strap hanging loose. A common outfit for all girls, especially tweens and teens, was to wear a skirt, dress shorts, baby doll dress or short dress with black opaque tights, white slouch socks and Converse shoes.
Grunge fashion remained popular among the British skater subculture until the early 2000s as the hard-wearing, loose-fitting clothing was cheap and provided good protection. Members of the subculture were nicknamed grebos or moshers and included those who did not skate.
The late 1990s saw the rise of the British chav subculture, an offshoot of the casuals, a football fan subculture of the 1980s. Common items of clothing included tracksuits, baseball caps, gold jewellery, diamond earrings, and white Adidas trainers. Hair was heavily gelled, often bleached blonde, and either spiky or shaped into a quiff. Girls wore large hoop earrings and pulled their hair into a tight ponytail known as a croydon facelift.
Women's hair in the early 1990s continued in the big, curly style of the 1980s, albiet much more subtle. Straight hair, which became very popular in the 1990s, did not hit the mainstream until the mid 1990s, inspired by late 1960s hairstyles. The pixie cut and Rachel haircut, based on the hairstyles of Jennifer Aniston in Friends and Marlo Thomas in That Girl, were popular in America from 1995 onwards. Straight hair was also styled with a short fringe cut just above the eyebrows, known as a hime cut, and those with Afro-styled or naturally curly hair would rely on a Relaxer to keep the sleek straight hair. In the mid-1990s, this style went out of fashion until its revival in the late 2000s. Dark-haired women tended to dye their hair a lighter color with blonde highlights (popularized by Jennifer Aniston) until the late 2000s. Bangs remained popular throughout most of the decade. The Bob cut was also quite popular in the late 1990's.
Men's hair became increasingly shorter from the early 1990s onwards. In the early 1990s, curtained hair (sometimes dyed blond) and small ponytails were popular among yuppies. Side-partings were briefly popular in the mid-1990s before head-shaving had become an acceptable way of dealing with male pattern baldness. From the late 1990s onwards, spiky hair, crew cuts and variants of the quiff became popular among young professional men. Dark haired men dyed their spikes blonde or added wavy blonde streaks well into the mid-2000s.
For teenagers longer hair was popular in the early to mid-1990s, including collar-length curtained hair, shaggy surfer hair popular among some Britpop fans, and dreadlocks. This changed in the mid-1990s, when the much-ridiculed bowl cut became a fad among skaters, while hip-hop fans wore a variant of the flattop known as the Hi-top fade. In the late 1990s, hair was usually buzzed very short for an athletic look, although a few grunge fans grew their hair long in reaction to this. Headbands and scrunchies of various styles and colors were popular with girls throughout most of the 1990s, who frequently wore them with side ponytails and bangs.