Hey kids – the 00s weren’t what you think

Do you believe in reincarnation?

Whether or not you take a Buddhist inspired attitude to life, the evidence is irrefutable that reincarnation exists.

Well… I mean, when it comes to fashion, at least.

The twenty-teens saw a sharp rise in minimalist styling; but, increasingly, a new competitor is rearing it’s two-tone highlighted, blue-eyeshadow wearing head…

the return of 00s fashion.

Take a look at any random sample of Instagram queens and you’ll see matching tracksuit sets, rimless tinted sunglasses, crop tops, diamante everything, gold nameplate necklaces and some seriously hot-pink gear.

bella hadid 00s fashion icon
Model Bella Hadid leads the way in contemporary 00s inspired fashion

Fortunately, some of the more questionable 00s trends haven’t (yet??) made a return…

  • The over-plucked ‘sperm’ brow. While the twenty-teens will be known for the completely OTT statement brow (this really isn’t a good look), the ‘sperm’ brow (this is terrible look) is likely to stay off the table for good.
  • Bronzer… everywhere. This was never used in a Kim K way, to contour cheekbones, it was dusted over cheeks, nose, chin, forehead and body for, I’m assuming, a healthy glow? (In retrospect, it rarely had this effect). We’ve fallen too deeply in love with shimmering highlight to make this make-up faux pas again.
  • Nobody is fool enough (anymore) to use streaky, cheap fake tans and think this is a good look. They were wash off (whether or not manufacturers intended this), which made beach days and getting caught out in the rain fun (not).
  • Two-tone blonde and brown hair has yet to make an appearance – thank god. This was either in the form of chuncky highlights or literally by dividing the hair in half, top to bottom, and bleaching the top. Why???

paris hilton thats hot 00s culture.png
(I was guilty of the bronzer, of wearing bad metallic eye shadows, of circling my eyes with black liner, adding bright clips of colour to my hair, low rise jeans, flares, a grunge look, fake tans, stupid little bags and body glitter… to name a few. Hey. this was before the days of Instagram and widespread good taste, okay! I have probably burned all photographic evidence from this era)

Today, 00s fashion has been reincarnated into a milder, more stylised form. In the same way 80s hair never made it back into the mainstream, some of these wrongdoings in the name of style shall too be forgotten.

For gen-Zers, this echo of 00s culture is likely oddly comforting: this was the era of their childhood, after all. They saw 00s women through the eyes of idealised womanhood. I did the same to women in the 90s, my childhood spent watching early Buffys and Sex and the City episodes (yes, I really did watch both in my childhood), and reading my sister’s fashion magazines, wide eyed and assuming that this was what I’d grow into.

For me, the 00s were some pretty formative years of coming to grips with fashion, womanhood and romance; I turned 18 in 2009. So, I want to shed some light on 00s culture for those who were so preoccupied with dressing up their with Bratz dolls in platform shoes and pink highlights that they may have missed the other, darker, side of the picture. Yes, it was an era of endless optimism (remember, this is pre-economic crash, pre rise of the alt-right and before we were actually actively experiencing environmental doom. The future was bright – not terrifying). But, it wasn’t all rose-tinted aviators.


  1. Idealising Toxic Sexuality.

    Okay, you’ve seen How I Met Your Mother, right? And, I *know* that you’ve seen those later, post-90s episodes of Friends.

    This was a decade that forgot feminism; a decade of double standards and of objectifying women. While the 80s and 90s (and obviously, way beyond) showcased sexism, there were at least some nods to women fighting social norms of the times.

    The male heros of 00s TV would endlessly chase women. And, not just any women. Young, beautiful women (and never over 30 – some even in their late teens). Women with perfect breasts, 26 inch waists and, probably, a host of modelling head-shots behind them. These were archetypal women of the time: needy, desperate to get married/ be in a long term relationship and fiercely wanting to have children. They’re defining personality characteristics? Shopaholics.

    Every week the male leads would date a new ‘model’. The message was clear: you, as a woman, were very, very replaceable unless you were everything the object of your affections wanted you to be. (That is, beautiful, easy going, didn’t live off salad and could keep up with the guys, in a feminine way, of course, and yet somehow maintained a perfect Pilates body)

    Ted mosby is a douche
    A quick look at Ted Mosby’s (How I Met Your Mother) dating life. And he was the uncool one.

    Token sit-com character tropes of the time: Slutty, fun loving man, who just wants to sleep with as many women as possible. Woman get’s hurt? Ha ha, too bad! 

    It was less manic pixie dream girls, and more disposable sex dolls. Did you ever wonder where that attitude that every man is *owed* a beautiful woman comes from? It’s this. Unenlightened, toxic-male Hollywood producer culture.

    The women of 00s sitcoms did not enjoy the same carousel of pretty young things to play with. The objects of their desires appeared much less frequently, they were often significantly older, treated the women badly, and, more often than not, looked like your average Joe rather than an Abercrombie model.

    So, men, get as many women as you want, but be careful not to marry them, haha! Women? Be lucky that a guy finds you attractive, and know your place or he’ll probably dump you.

    So, you see the double standard?

    Peak Wenstein attitudes.

    ally mcbeal girl power
    Ally Mcbeal, first airing in 1997, opens with lawyer, Ally, suing her former employer for sexual harrassment.

    While the 90s had some serious feminist overtones in sitcoms such as Buffy and Ally McBeal, the 00s took a very, very large step back.

    Let’s keep that in the past. Toxic sexuality, goodbye.

  2. The Age of Air Brushing 

    People complain about contemporary Instagram culture. But for every IG model that you follow, r e p l a c e it with a body positivity account – and watch your life improve drastically. If you don’t like what you see on your phones and your computers – you can change that. We have greater control than ever before to tailor the images we consume.

    In the 00s? We didn’t have a whole lot of choice, save actually just switching our TVs off and picking up a book (but not a chick lit).

    I’m in endless awe of contemporary beauty culture. Today, we’re fighting for diversity. Influencers represent their own standards and their own beauty; they show us their ‘flaws’, their acne, their stomach rolls, their noses, and whatever other ‘quirks’ they have. They allow us to look in the mirror and see, with kind eyes, our own beauty and value. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Even mainstream media has picked up on our increasing appreciation for body diversity. Take a look at Netflix today, and you’ll see a range of female bodies; young, old, curvy, skinny, black, white, Asian. And yes, while we still have a very long way to go in regards to representation, comparatively, we’ve undergone a revolution to the white, toned, skinny, cis norms of the previous decade.

    This was the popular girl you went to school with.

    Beauty is increasingly accepted as subjective.

    For Gen-Zers and younger millennials who have grown up within social media culture, this might sound grating. Of course they face the pressures of social media culture and a still pervasive notion of acceptable female beauty.

    But, the 00s were the era of air brushing. Women were expected to look perfect – all the time.

    Common trope of the era: woman on a TV show waking up with full make-up on; mascara, foundations, dark eye shadow, blush and lipstick… 

    There was no-one to show you how to pose, how to contour and how to actually achieve their look and lifestyle. It was all an elusive magic trick no one really knew how to achieve.

    Watch a 90s show morph into the 00s era and you’ll see unpolished hair, low-key make-up and casual, cute fashion take a leap into the eeriely perfect. For those of us in the audience who didn’t have someone to spray on our foundation every two hours and spend three styling our hair alone, we were made to feel very, very lacking. There were no body positively social media accounts to ground us in reality. No social media icons posting pictures of their acne. Only images of oppressive, overwhelming perfection to compare our undoubtedly flawed selves to.

  3. Size Zero, Low-Carb, Low-Fat Hell. 

    Praise contemporary veganism.

    We save animals and we save the environment, all while posting mouth-watering pictures of sweet potato fries and vegan burgers and raw-vegan, salted-caramel, peanut buttery chocolate ice-cream bars that send us to new realms of heavenly, sensory bliss. Our delicious plant-based food culture is saving our bodies by preventing chronic disease and giving us mouth-gasms in the process. Vegan food is notorious for keeping us slim – but, if we carry a little extra weight from all that delicious vegan food? No big deal. So you’re a little thicc? That’s hot.

    But, this hasn’t always been the way.

    The 00s saw the rise (once again) of the most depressing, tasteless and pointless food trend as of yet (with the exception of actual water fasting): high-protein, low-carb and low-fat diets. Think cottage cheese and celery (yum), scrambled egg whites for breakfast (no bread), turkey breast lunches (no bread), baked fish and salad for dinner, half a banana with breakfast (no bread, maybe 1/3 cup of oats, though), or a protein bar that tastes like actual powder compressed into a bar form, and with ingredients consisting of more letters than the actual alphabet itself.

    diet culture vegan food
    Which would you rather snack on? (FYI the raw vegan snickers is actually good for you. But, you know. Your choice).

    So, what the hell was the point of this diet comprising of actual depression in food form?

    The achive a ‘size zero’ body.

    As a women, you were expected to make yourself so small, you didn’t even have a dress size. Really.

    Body ideals of the time: hip bones protruding from your low rise jeans, visible clavicles and rib cage on display. 

    Lindsay Loha size zero body ideals
    If you’re naturally skinny, and you have (prominent) breasts, that’s great. But skinny with boobs was THE look.

    If you didn’t want to go for this look, the acceptable alternative for Attractive Female Body was Body Building Icon. Five or six day a week workouts (waking up at 5am if you were busy) and the same grueling diet of lean protein, non-starchy vegetables and protein powders.

    There was no in between. No images of cellulite. No social media accounts saying ‘hey, you need to focus on being healthy, not punishing yourself for failing your strict standards of diet and exercise’.

Yes, there are good things about 00s culture, and bad things about contemporary culture. The 00s are still the era that brought us the girl power of Veronica Mars; it was the era of MySpace and now long-lost teenage innocence.

But, for the most part, I look upon today’s do-it-yourself culture of influencers and creators and artists as a relief, a welcome release from years of tension of regressive attitudes and unhealthy standards towards women and women’s bodies.

gen Z sonia elsie keeps it real
Gen Z artist, creator and influencer Sonia Elsie Keeps It Real

I live in continual awe of the way Gen Zers and millennials are transforming social attitudes towards women, our bodies, gender, sexuality, race, citizenship, fashion, food and – my god – literally everything important that was so often overlooked by the masses in the previous decades.

Let the 00s reincarnate, if they must, and let’s have fun with it. Let’s take the body glitter and the candy coloured glasses and metallic mini skirts with us as we protest issues that actually matter, as we demand mutual respect and validation in our relationships, and as we post pictures of our beautifully imperfect bodies for all of our followers to fall in love with.

stella rae 00s
Stella Rae, vegan social media queen rocks 00s style – and messages about consent. #enlightenedqueen

What do you think are the best and worst aspects of 00s and twenty-teen culture? Which era did you (or are you) come of age in? What aspects of 00s culture and fashion do you want to see a comeback – and which do you want to see buried?