Popular Things From the '90s That Wouldn't Fly Today
There are lots of reasons to be nostalgic for the '90s. Where do we even start?
From the best cartoons to seemingly odd fashion decisions that are becoming trendy again among Gen Z, what's not to like? While it's undeniable that the people who made the 1990s as memorable as they were had plenty to be proud of, certain things are better left in that decade.
You can't look us in the eye and admit that "the Macarena" was cool. Just because people still bust out those moves on the dance floor when they have no idea what they're doing doesn't mean that we shouldn't be ashamed. It's fun, sure. But it's definitely not the kind of movin' and groovin' that goes down today.
Today, we're exploring some '90s gems that aren't "diamonds in the rough" as much as they are "the rough" hiding in the crevices. Given the pics floating around of NSYNC's hairstyles and stick-thin models in bootcut jeans, these things are '90s through and through, which means they don't exactly fit into the modern climate. All this to say, here are five iconic '90s staples that would never fly today without a fight.
Frosted tips are notoriously one of the worst hair trends that have ever existed and, sadly, the beloved '90s are to blame. Not everyone was wearing this terrible trend, but some of the biggest pop sensations, including the members of NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys, rocked it with glee.
Frosted tips are popularly associated with men because of these boy bands. While it didn't always entail bleaching the ends of your hair white, there's always an obvious separation between the natural hair and the spiked blond. Asking for frosted tips like how they were worn in the '90s is a surefire way to get bullied in the salon.
Memorizing Phone Numbers
Certain things about the '90s were painful to remember. Literally. Before address books were built-in features of our pocket-sized computer phones, people either had to memorize all of their important phone numbers or carry their contact book with them everywhere. Most people today have one or two phone numbers under their belt that they'd need in a pinch, but not more than that.
Try and test yourself by taking a sheet of paper and writing down every phone number you have memorized. If it's less than five, then congratulations! You're normal. Memorizing a bunch of numbers these days is a useless skill that only hipsters and Boomers tote around like an accomplishment. Know the essentials and move on with your life. That's what smartphones are for!
If any piece of clothing from the '90s is guilty of being unflattering across the board, it's low-rise jeans. This style is so ugly that it's pretty much a crime to wear them during the reign of high-waisted everything. When fashion moguls sent these bad boys down the runway hugging the hips of supermodels, it was considered stylish. For everyone else, it was tragic.
These jeans would never fly today for many reasons, including the fact that they show way more of your hips than anyone ever wanted to see. And your stomach. And your back. You know what? It's just too much all around, and they don't even fit correctly! Every other second it's time to yank on them. No lie, the only people who enjoy this trend have 0% body fat.
Our list of '90s regrets includes much more than fashion faux-pas. We'll never forget how intrusive interview questions could get! Interviewers and paparazzi all around would get way too personal and accusatory when asking celebrities questions, but the most affected among them were women. Not only was their personal life scrutinized, but every inch of their body was expected to be perfect.
Needless to say, that would never fly today. Take a look at any of Britney Spears's interviews from the early 2000s and you'll see just how much the leftover '90s misogyny affected women throughout the future decades. On top of sexist questions attacking her clothing choices and sexuality (keep in mind she was still a teenager), journalists were relentless in blaming her for anything that went wrong in her life, including a fiery breakup with Justin Timberlake.
If sexism wasn't enough, cultural appropriation was the cherry on top of the problematic '90s pie. We're not trying to say that appropriation of minority culture has vanished since the '90s; however, it was tolerated -- and even encouraged -- to a wider extent than it would in today's "woke" culture.
And that's not a bad thing! People around the world shouldn't be able to appropriate significant aspects of minority cultures without appreciating the history behind them. Gwen Stephani and Christina Aguilera were two of the worst perpetrators on top of countless others who stole from POC to promote their music and dress up in tone-deaf costumes.
Cornrows were a pretty big deal in the '90s. The lead singer of the Counting Crows had them, Justin Timberlake had them and even Christina Aguilera had them. And then there were celebrities like the guy from Soul Asylum and also Angelina Jolie who had dreadlocks.
This blatant display of cultural appropriation might have been thought of as appreciation now, or at the very least, a unique hairstyle for light-skinned people back in the '90s, but it certainly wouldn't fly now. Ultimately, most people consider these displays of cultural appropriation to be harmful.
Using AOL in the '90s was the biggest thing. While the company had formed back in the '80s, it really didn't take off until the '90s. It was a web portal and online service provider that was really innovative at the time. The first big instant messaging system, called AIM, became popular towards the end of the '90s and remained so through the late 2000s.
Even if you didn't have AOL, which was like the equivalent of not using Google today, then you at least remember those free trial CDs they sent to your home. AOL was user-friendly, offered a ton of features and even games - but only back then. Now everyone is on to bigger and better things and if you are still using AOL, people are going to laugh.
Pushing People in Pools
Pushing people in pools was a great gag in the '90s and even earlier than that. If you were having a pool party and didn't do this, it was probably a pretty dull affair. Sure, it was dangerous and could get someone hurt potentially, but you only live once! Okay, we aren't really condoning you putting people at risk, but there's an even bigger issue now than safety.
Phones have gone up in price way too much for the pushing someone in the pool gag to be even remotely funny. Even if your phone claims to be water-resistant, nobody wants to risk getting water in their phone. These days, when I watch someone getting pushed in the pool, I think, "gawd, I hope they didn't have their cellphone on them."
Leaving Kids in the Car
Leaving your kids in the car for a minute or two might have been acceptable in the '90s. You or your parent may have gone in the store to grab some cigarettes, pay for gas or get something to drink – because, you know - it's only for a second. But this certainly would not fly now.
With numerous horror stories of children being left and forgotten about in cars until they died, you aren't going to get away with it today. Someone will literally go up to your window and break it if they see it. In California, it's actually illegal to leave a child under six years old unattended in a car. Even if it really is just for a minute – things can happen - so, don't take risks where your child is concerned.
Leaving the House Without a Cellphone
In the '90s there were payphones. If you needed to call someone when you were out, you needed to have change. And even if you didn't need to call someone, if you were a responsible person, you had change with you just in case. But once people started carrying cellphones, there was no need to go back to the payphone ways of old.
Today, going out without a cellphone can leave some people, like me, with a sharp wave of panic. If I forgot my cellphone when going out, you better believe I'm turning that car around. The world hasn't become a safer place, and emergencies can happen at any time. A cellphone is like the only security system that helps you in case of emergencies and when you need to get in touch with friends and family for whatever reason.
Letting Your Kids in the Front Seat
Letting your younger children in the front seat is just not a good idea. While it might be fun for them, again, you don't want to take risks where your child is concerned. There is a greater risk of injury in the event of an accident, and even the airbags themselves can pose a danger for children. The point being – children are meant to be put in the back seat.
It is just safer that way. There are especially important guidelines to follow if you have an infant. Babies need to be put in the back seat, on the side seats rather than the middle seat, and they should be rear-facing until they have outgrown the rear-facing seat. Be sure to follow NHTSA guidelines to ensure your child is safe because it just won't fly if you don't.
Socker Boppers exist, sure, but they aren't as popular as they were in the '90s, and the box of today still looks like it's straight out of the '90s. Socker Boppers allowed you to more safely beat up your friends for your own amusement. Basically, it was like an extra-padded way to box with your friends and was seen as relatively harmless.
Of course, things can still go wrong, because maybe your child or their friend never pulls their punches. It's not that hard to break a nose, and then, there's the matter that they deflate. As they lose air, they become considerably more dangerous until your child is facing the full strength of a fist. Plus, I mean, they are encouraging violence.
Giving Your Kids Lunchables
In the '90s, Lunchables were the coolest. It worked for parents because they had to put a box in their backpack and their kids' school lunch was ready. It worked for kids because they got bologna, cheese, crackers, and a cookie or candy – what was not to like? And then maybe you had a Caprisun to wash it all down.
The problem was that all this food was garbage. We knew it then, but we are a little more aware of the problems of processed foods and a little more health-conscious now than we were then. While you can still give your child Lunchables for school every now and then, you are going to get some dirty looks if you do it all the time. Maybe even just give them the Lunchables as a nice treat at home.
Bowl cuts are easily one of the most outdated hairstyles of the '90s. Every boy band had at least one member with a bowl cut and it made them look quite youthful, which is why they are a boy band and not a man band. So, unless you are channeling your inner '90s kid, you aren't likely to have one of these cuts now.
The bowl cut is simply out of fashion, and it's time to accept the fact that it never looked good in the first place. A bowl cut today would just signify that you were creepy and nobody wants to be creepy – except for Joe in You but even he doesn't have a bowl cut, so I rest my case.
Unironically Listening to Smash Mouth
Smash Mouth was one of the biggest bands of the '90s, or more accurately, the late '90s. Smash Mouth songs would appear on all the most popular radio stations and in several movies too. If there is one band you think about that is all '90s, then that band would have to be Smash Mouth.
Today, Smash Mouth is just a meme. Listening to Smash Mouth unironically was just a thing of the '90s, but today it's just a joke. The songs were overplayed to such an extent that we grew to despise them, or at the very least, would have grown completely apathetic to them. Laughing at the pure ridiculousness of how this untalented band became popular in the first place is all we have now.
The Rachel Haircut
We all made our mistakes in the '90s and trying to copy Rachel Greene, aka Jennifer Aniston, on Friends was certainly among them. This totally '90s hairstyle for women was just as bad as the bowl cut. It's time to face the fact that only Jennifer Aniston could pull it off. Even Courtney Cox tried and failed to make it work. Scream 3, anyone?
The Rachel haircut was fine for framing Jennifer Aniston's face at the time but even she doesn't sport the Rachel haircut now and hasn't since the '90s. So, why anyone would try to copy Jennifer Aniston who herself doesn't think the haircut is cool anymore is beyond my or anyone's understanding.
If you were a '90s kid, you certainly remember playing with or watching commercials for Polly Pocket. With every Polly Pocket set, you had like a miniature dollhouse. While it was marketed for girls, pretty sure didn't loathe playing with it when they got it in their happy meal.
Of course, there's an issue with it now though. The parts were small of course, which means what it usually means when it comes to children's toys – that they were a choking hazard. Children could and had swallowed the parts and magnets. The toys were even discontinued and relaunched later, but they aren't as popular now even though they have been modified to be less of a choking hazard.
Calling Stuff "Gay"
In the '90s, labeling things that we thought were lame as "gay" was all the rage. But "gay" was totally meant as a negative way to describe something or some situation that we didn't like. And since everybody was doing it, we didn't think too hard about how offensive it really was.
That's the problem. We didn't think. While it seemed relatively innocent at the time, it gave the word gay a negative connotation. We understand a little better how that can be offensive to gay people, particularly because so many people out there look down upon gay people. It's simply not acceptable to call things "gay" that you don't like and with good reason.
Calling Stuff "Ghetto"
Another offensive way to describe things is with the word "ghetto," yet we were certainly doing it in the '90s. Ghetto usually described something that was perceived as low-class or cheap quality. But moreover, it's a term associated with minority groups.
The ghetto is by definition "a part of a city, especially a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups." During the time of WWII, the ghettos were where Nazis isolated the Jewish people away from everyone else. So, you can see how that is offensive. Even if meant in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, calling stuff ghetto is just not going to fly anymore.
Saying "Like a Girl"
You've undoubtedly heard this at some point in your life unless you were just born yesterday. Boys would tell other boys if they couldn't throw a ball that they threw "like a girl" (or if they didn't run fast enough) that they ran "like a girl." However, women can throw balls and run, and intellectually, everyone should realize that. With that said, "like a girl" is a poor way to describe someone's skill set.
Women have enough trouble trying to get equal pay these days that they don't need phrases such as "like a girl" to make them feel or have others feel like they are inferior to men in any way. The saying "like a girl" is harmful to women and especially girls growing up. We're at a point where people are realizing that and it just doesn't fly now.
Calling things "retarded" is of course offensive to those who are developmentally delayed. But in the '90s, people just didn't care. Usually, you might use it to describe someone who you thought was or did something you perceived as "stupid," or even someone you just didn't like. It could also be used to describe a situation that was irritating.
Just as offensive as using the word "gay" as an insult, it is also offensive to call anyone or anything "retarded." Still, some people use that word, but it's something you can easily get called out on if you do. It's time to erase this word from our vocabulary, and people generally recognize that.
Pulp Fiction was a beloved movie for its time and still is by many, but it's not a movie that would fly today. The movie features casual violence against black people, and some of it is played up for laughs. There are also many instances of the N-word and all of it written by a white man.
This mere fact is enough to make many people of today cringe and generally, Quentin Tarantino is not s beloved as he was almost 20 years ago, because of his controversial films. Many are also not accepting of the casual violence and what some would describe as glorification of violence in his films. And combined with the racist and homophobic elements of Pulp fiction, it's just not a film that would fly today.
There was a time when beepers were all the rage. Manly people had them for work but they also had them for casual purposes as well. When people were using landlines and payphones, a beeper was like a text that would just tell the person they were trying to reach them.
If you got a call to your beeper number, you knew to call the provided number because it would show up on the beeper display. There is, of course, no reason to have a beeper now, because your cell phone tells you when someone called you and from what number in most cases.
CRT monitors were the monitors of the '90s, and while we didn't think much of them then, they took up a lot of space on your desk. It made it extra cluttered depending on the size of the desk. The big bulky monitors also didn't have a swivel, so you couldn't adjust their direction or anything. If you wanted your monitor at an angle, you'd have to move the whole unit.
When it comes to buying a monitor, basically the slimmer, the better. A slim monitor looks nicer and takes up less space on your desk compared to the CRT monitors. But, in the '90s, they certainly had some cool ones like the iMac G3 that really everyone wanted – but they certainly wouldn't want now.
Only '90s kids will recognize that iconic dial-up internet sound. Loading web pages back then took forever, and it took even longer just to get connected to the web in the first place. Sure, the anticipation of visiting a new web page was much more prevalent but it was also a pain in the you-know-what.
Today, it would simply not fly if you were using dial-up internet. Internet speeds today allow you to load a webpage instantly, and if they took any longer than a second to load, you'd think it was time to reset the modem. The internet has come a long way and there's no going back to the good 'ol days.
Being an Adam Sandler Fan
In the '90s, Adam Sandler had a lot of funny movies, and he was one of everyone's favorite stars on Saturday Night Live. Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and The Wedding Singer are among the most beloved of his films - and what do they all have in common? They are all from the '90s.
After the '90s, Adam Sandler's movies became progressively worse and more and more absurd, which nobody ever thought could be possible to such an extent. If you are an Adam Sandler fan today, you'd have to sneak in the theater to avoid embarrassment. Jack and Jill, Hubie Halloween, and Grown-Ups are pretty unwatchable. Sorry, not sorry.
Saying Goodbye at the Airport Gate
This was a thing you could do, but you mostly saw this on TV and in films of the '90s, where someone would say goodbye to a loved one or convince someone not to go on a flight at the airport gate. Unless you are planning on boarding the plane and have gone through all the security checkpoints, you aren't getting anywhere near that gate.
After 9/11, airport security got tighter and tighter. It's getting to the point that you aren't even going to be allowed in the airport at all if you aren't going on the plane. So, if you want to say your goodbyes to a family or friend, do it in the car. If you want to convince the person you love not to move to New York at the last minute, you better just catch them in the parking lot.
Actually Calling People on the Phone
Before text messaging, the way you talked to someone you couldn't talk to in person would be to call them on the phone. Yes -- with your voice! You'd call if you had something to say and then the other person would say something, and you'd have to carry that conversation for as long as possible until you had nothing else to say. Then and only then could you finally hang up.
The system worked, but it was perfected. With text messaging, you can just carry on a conversation throughout the day. You don't have to respond immediately to something your friend or family member texts. You can wait. These days, a voice call is just a nuisance, so you might just let it go to voice mail and text instead.
Prank calls were a fun pastime for young people back in the '90s, particularly when you had nothing to do. Sure, it was a form of harassment, but when you are a kid, harassing grownups is like a full-time job. Unfortunately, prank calls don't work anymore unless you are tech-savvy and can hide your phone number.
Thanks to caller ID on every cellphone, your prank call isn't going to be successful because the person can see exactly who is calling. While they might not report you for harassment, they aren't likely to stay on the line with you, and they can just block your number. So it would seem, prank calls are a thing of the past…unless you get a prepaid phone and use that just for prank calls – eh, but that gets expensive, and at that point, you should probably put your effort into getting a life or something.
In the '90s, people were still paying for things with checks. It is weird to imagine because now only sadistic people who like holding up lines will pay with checks, but it was pretty normal back then. You could buy Girl Scout cookies with checks, books, groceries – whatever! People just used checks and it was just a thing.
If you use checks now to pay for things, it's super-cringe. It's a burden on other customers and the cashier, and you have to worry about the person giving you a bad check. The check system is just awful and needs to stop. I mean, let's just use cards and sign receipts. Who wants to buy checkbooks anymore? Not I.