Y2K fashion has taken over. Gen Z is loving it (2024)

First came the supposed death of skinny jeans. Then, the resurgence of cargo pants, halter tops and baby tees.

If there’s one thing retailers can agree on, it’s that Gen Z is hot for the early 2000s fashion trends now booming in popularity.

College interns and young workers are donning wide-legged slacks at the office. The claw clip, a retro hair staple, is back; as are mesh tops, miniskirts and a host of colorful apparel that can make consumers look like they stepped out of a Disney Channel show from 2004.

Fueled by social media platforms including TikTok, the so-called Y2K trend resurfaced as consumers began attending parties and going out after pandemic lockdowns. What began with hair accessories like butterfly clips and the comeback of straight-leg jeans has expanded to all-denim garments, cargo and flare pants and everything shiny, among other looks.

Casey Lewis, a New York trend analyst, noted so many micro trends — often tagged with the suffix “core” — cranked up in the past few years that she created a newsletter about them.

Think “Barbiecore” and “mermaidcore,” which highlight the hot pink reminiscent of Mattel Inc.’s Barbie doll or sheer materials with ocean-like hues and sequins. There’s also “coastal granddaughter,” the youthful update that evolved from the “coastal grandmother” trend featuring oversized cardigans and linen sets.

“Gen Z is not even close to being done revisiting these old trends,” said Lewis, whose “After School” newsletter documents youth consumer behavior. “They are going to dig into every weird trend from way back when and bring it back.”

Retailers from high-end Nordstrom to discounters and fast fashion outlets are pushing the styles in campaigns and on shelves. And consumers seem to be eating it up.

Sales of women’s cargo pants jumped 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’re seeing success with biker jackets, denim garments and crop tops. And Chinese fast-fashion retailer Shein, which markets to young women, said its baby tee sales have tripled this year, making them by far the hottest t-shirt style of 2023.

The company also is seeing a big jump in sales of flared pants, corset tops, metallic-colored clothing and women’s track suits, which are often made from bright velour fabric reminiscent of some wardrobe choices by socialite Paris Hilton at the height of her popularity.

Style watchers classify it as part of the McBling era, which overlaps with Y2K but emphasizes flashier items personified by brands like Juicy Couture and Baby Phat, the iconic streetwear line by TV personality and designer Kimora Lee Simmons, which relaunched in 2019.

As always, trends are fueled by celebrities like model Bella Hadid, whose outfit choices are analyzed by fashion magazines and other on-lookers. Style also bubbles up directly from consumers via social media, challenging retailers accustomed to runway shows setting the tone.

“There’s not a year advanced 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 closer attention to what pops up on social sites and analyzing topics searched by users. But it can be challenging to recognize the difference between trends that just generate attention versus those shoppers will actually buy, said Jake Bjorseth, who runs trndsttrs, an agency helping companies reach young consumers.

Alison Hilzer, Walmart editorial director for fashion apparel, said she’s also seeing a lot of micro trends. Some have more longevity than others, making it challenging to figure out when to jump on them.

The discounter, which is marketing Y2K inspired cargo pants and Barbiecore, has been speeding up development to get trends to market faster, though the company declined to offer more specific details. Walmart also is following key influencers such as Alix Earle, who has collaborated with A-listers including Selena Gomez.

Despite retailers catering to young consumers, many aren’t really buying. Instead, they are wearing items from each others’ closets, helping fuel a resale market that has tripled since 2020, according to research by Boston Consulting Group and Vestiare Collective, a French luxury resale site. Affordability was the primary driver, but shoppers also bought used items to be more planet-friendly.

Yasmeen Bekhit, a 22-year-old graduate student in Manheim, Pennsylvania, said she frequents a local thrift shop almost every week and shops at resale sites like Depop, which offers Y2K-heavy options such as baguette bags and baggy jeans.

Bekhit typically gravitates toward looser, flowy pants, flare-legged jeans and tighter 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 style themselves, she said.

Popular TikTok influencer Aliyah Bah, who amassed more than 2.5 million followers showcasing her Y2K-inspired look known as “Aliyahcore,” also inspires Bekhit. The look is a bit more alternative, often featuring miniskirts or shorts matched with crop tops, fishnet stockings and furry knee-high boots.

“I really love her way of styling outfits,” Bekhit said.

But for everyday, Bekhit said she typically looks up outfit ideas on social media and puts her own twist on them.

Retro hair also is making a splash. Tahlya Loveday, a master stylist at the The Drawing Room New York Salon, said she has seen a lot more ‘90s and Y2K trends, like spiky updos and space buns, bouncy blow-dried looks and block coloring, where sections of hair are colored in contrasting colors. Gen Z clients embrace those looks more than millennials, she said.

“For Gen Z, this is all new to them,” Circana’s Classi-Zummo said. “They’re really not reliving it. So while we might see it as something that’s cyclical and coming back, they’re kind of getting it for the first time.”

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Y2K fashion has taken over. Gen Z is loving it (2024)


Y2K fashion has taken over. Gen Z is loving it? ›

First came the supposed death of skinny jeans. Then, the resurgence of cargo pants, halter tops and baby tees. If there's one thing retailers can agree on, it's that Gen Z is hot for the early 2000s fashion trends now booming in popularity.

Why are Gen Z obsessed with Y2K? ›

While millennials witnessed the advancement of technology, Gen Z grew up with a smartphone in hand, so the desire to look back to technology manifests as a search for authenticity. For Gen Z, the early 2000s marked the beginning of modern technology, a time of collective excitement for what's to come.

Why is Y2K fashion popular again? ›

Social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok have played a crucial role in popularizing the Y2K fashion trend among the younger generations. Influencers and celebrities sporting Y2K outfits, combined with the sharing of 90s and early 2000s pop culture references, have fueled this trend's popularity.

Who brought back the Y2K trend? ›

Everything Y2K (around the year 2000) is making a comeback in the world of fashion, and it's mainly thanks to TikTok.

Why is Gen Z obsessed with clothes? ›

Gen Z is a pragmatic, socially conscious, and trend-focused generation born with information at their fingertips. They like engaging with brands and prefer brands that actively share info on social media. Identity. Gen Z fashion is about creating your own style and rebelling against fashion norms.

Why is Gen Z so obsessed with aesthetic? ›

We've referenced Gen Z's reputation as digital natives, but thanks to their love affair with plastic surgery, some media outlets also refer to them as aesthetics natives. Heavily influenced by their constant screen time, Gen Z craves the same procedures as their favorite content creators.

Why does Gen Z dress like the 90s? ›

Gen-Z's obsession with the decades before digital has revitalized 90s fashion. For the nostalgia-infused, younger generation discovering the household brands of yore has the potential to revive an aging brand straight into the 21st century.

How long will Y2K trend last? ›

Y2K won't die, in my opinion. It will eventually hop off the trend cycle and likely jump back on at some point, and some people will continue to dress like so in the same way there's folks who are obsessed with dressing like they're in the '70s or '90s. It's simply become another tool in the sartorial box.

Will Y2K be popular in 2024? ›

The year 2024 has witnessed a remarkable resurgence of Y2K fashion, with a delightful incorporation of nostalgic notes from the late 90s to early 00s pop culture.

Is Y2K still trending 2024? ›

The return of Y2K fashion in 2024 shows how much the early 2000s style still influences today's fashion world. People love the mix of futuristic vibes and nostalgic elements, and it's not just a trend for the older crowd—it's catching on with the younger generation too.

What does Y2K stand for? ›

Y2K is the shorthand term for "the year 2000." Y2K was commonly used to refer to a widespread computer programming shortcut that was expected to cause extensive havoc as the year changed from 1999 to 2000.

What is 2000s fashion like in 2023? ›

Trends throughout 2023 have involved a plethora of born-again, solidified, 2000s-era staples, like ballet flats, low-rise jeans, ribbed tanks as statement pieces, unbuttoned pants, chunky belts resting on hips, and peekaboo bras.

Why hasn't fashion changed in 20 years? ›

One theory on why we haven't seen drastic shifts in fashion and cultural aesthetics is because of how little societal structures and power dynamics have changed during this time.

Why are Gen Z not wearing bras? ›

“Emotionally and psychologically, not wearing a bra can be a statement about how you want to present yourself to the world, and also how you want to cover up very normal body parts,” she said. Dober said many women feel “liberated” by not wearing a bra, which is a sign of young women wanting to reclaim their “agency.”

What do Gen Z love the most? ›

Gen Z's standout priorities for 2024 are centered around self-enrichment: things like starting new jobs, learning new skills, reading more, or finding love.

What is Gen Z wearing now? ›

Gen Z is bringing back the early 2000s style with a modern twist, and they call it Y2K. Think low-rise jeans, multiple belts, newsie hats, tie-dye tracksuits, neon prints, cargo pants, butterfly clips, and platform sneakers—all coming back from the dead.

What is Y2K Gen Z? ›

In recent years, Gen Z has set its retro-gazing sights on another era: Y2K. The Y2K aesthetic is a retro-futuristic fashion trend that emerged during the late 1990s and the early aughts (memorably called the “noughties”). It is characterized by bold colors, shiny materials, and unique textures.

Why do Gen Z like vintage? ›

Gen Z's interest in the nostalgic aesthetic may not be as surface-level as it seems. They are a generation growing up in turbulent times, where instability is rife – jumping back into the past is an easy way to circumvent the stresses and anxiety associated with living in the present.

What is the fashion sense of Gen Z? ›

Gen Z's growing awareness of environmental and ethical issues has led to a shift away from fast fashion. Instead, they are embracing slow fashion, favoring quality over quantity and investing in timeless pieces that last. This mindset aligns with their desire to reduce waste and minimize their carbon footprint.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Pres. Carey Rath

Last Updated:

Views: 6024

Rating: 4 / 5 (61 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Pres. Carey Rath

Birthday: 1997-03-06

Address: 14955 Ledner Trail, East Rodrickfort, NE 85127-8369

Phone: +18682428114917

Job: National Technology Representative

Hobby: Sand art, Drama, Web surfing, Cycling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Leather crafting, Creative writing

Introduction: My name is Pres. Carey Rath, I am a faithful, funny, vast, joyous, lively, brave, glamorous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.