The Y2K aesthetic is back to shock us (again)
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Today we are witnessing the official return of the Y2K aesthetic, stripped - perhaps - of that sense of bewilderment mixed with novelty, hope for the future mixed with fear for new technologies that characterized it at its birth.

2000s fad is back with all its authentic disobedience.

Y2K is the abbreviated notation for “Why to Key”: the computer problem that involved some operating systems-at the turn of 1999 and 2000-also known as the Millennium Bug.

The fashion associated with the Why To Key period has been making its official comeback for some time now, mainly due to the nostalgia effect rediscovered by Gen Z.

For the uninitiated, this fashion refers to the style easily recognizable for its retro aesthetic, with hints of an imagined future and a bold and sexy appeal tending toward the naked look.

The remake-some twenty years later-of Y2K, it has been sublimated by influencers, super-models, and singers such as Bella Hadid, Kali Uchis Jorja Smith, and Dua Lipa until it hit the runways of various Fashion Weeks.

Fashion Maison such as Miu Miu proposed ultra-low-waisted skirts, mico-tops and oversized sleeves covering the hands for Fall-Winter 2022; Blumarine reinterpreted it with oversized satin cargo pants in neon colors; Fendi replicated the legendary cut-out slip dress.

The reach of the phenomenon is currently on a very large scale: the #Y2K hastag currently has over 2.2 billion views on TikTok, you can find Y2K make-up and hairstyle tutorials, look inspirations and whatnot. Again, fashion looks to the past to find a new lifa vital.

But beyond a mere aping of what has been worn before, one must ask:

“Where did Y2K fashion come from?”

The Millennium Bug, or 2000s, style is often identified as a great mix-and-match of various previous fashions.

For example, there is a very strong influence of 1960s/70s Vintage and the emergence of the “second hand” market, which was born during this period; but also of a certain globtrotter and ethnic style due to the slow but steady expansion of low-cost travel.

In the late 1990s, Ryanair provided the opportunity for cheaper and freer travel, making it possible to visit distant and exotic countries that were previously inaccessible. As a result, people were able to tap into once-unknown styles and fibers and learn natural, eco-centered processing techniques; just think of tie-dye fabrics and tribal prints.

On the other hand, we have a very strong reference to the rave scene and the fledgling German and Japanese techno music scene, with cropped t-shirts printed with post-atomic graphics, large logos, minimal brassieres with animalier patterns, synthetic furs in neon colors, massive platform-soled amphibians, very low-waisted pants from which lingerie can be glimpsed, and mesh jerseys and dresses that leave no room for imagination.

To understand the most authentic expression of Y2K fashion, one only has to look at the participants of the LoveParade: the largest Techno music festival born in Berlin in 1989 and held until 2010.

The other fundamental source of inspiration, were the many subcultures of Tokyo neighborhoods in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These colorfully and irreverently dressed boys were collected in one of the most interesting Streetstyle reports of the pre-digitalized era, “Kokeshi Dolls” with photos by Oliviero Toscani and text by Banana Yoshimoto.

 

Today we are witnessing the official return of the Y2K aesthetic, stripped – perhaps – of that sense of bewilderment mixed with novelty, hope for the future mixed with fear for new technologies that characterized it at its birth.

We had survived Y2K, the programming bug that threatened to throw the world into chaos, the Internet was booming but had not yet exploded. The future looked promising. Impossible to repeat.

 

WORDS: Manuela Palma

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