40 Elements Of 1990s Life That Are Simply Unacceptable Today

Growing up in the 1990s was fun. Many of its fashions, movies, bands, and technologies tend to be looked back upon now with irony, but at the time everything seemed so vital and cutting edge. Naturally, though, a huge amount of ‘90s life just simply wouldn’t fly today in 2020, no matter how rose-tinted our spectacles are. Here are 40 of the most cringeworthy elements of the ‘90s.

40. Long hair with a central parting

In the ‘90s, the center-parting was a super popular hair trend for women. Scraped apart in the middle, it would often be accessorized with two loose strands that were allowed to hang down the front to frame the face. These days the style is only used if someone wants a throwback look, however. Oh, and as for the male equivalent? It was called “curtains.” But, even before the ‘90s ended, it was curtains for that floppy style.

39. The “Rachel” cut

Few hairstyles are as synonymous with the ‘90s as “The Rachel.” Worn by Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green in the decade-conquering sitcom Friends, the highlighted, layered, and bouncy shoulder-length style was imitated by women all over the world. It’s probably best left as an artifact of the ‘90s, however, as even Aniston has admitted she struggled to recreate the salon-quality style when left to her own devices.

38. Brown lipstick

If you fancied yourself an anti-authority, rebellious cool girl in the ‘90s, chances are you rocked brown lipstick. A shade of reddish-brown, ideally, because that looked kind of gothic and grungy. All the edgy starlets were wearing it, from Drew Barrymore to Gwen Stefani and Winona Ryder. Nowadays this trend is only resurrected occasionally by semi-ironic fans of retro ‘90s chic, but it never seems to stick.

37. Bleached hair

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Let’s be honest: most men — now of a certain age — experimented with bleaching their hair back in the ‘90s. They saw how cool Joshua Jackson looked in Cruel Intentions and Urban Legend. They wondered if they could recreate Justin Timberlake’s curly frosted tips. To be perfectly honest, this is one trend we have a lot of fondness for. It looked simultaneously awful and awesome at the same time!

36. Recording songs off the radio

The youth of today has immediate access to pretty much every song ever created on Spotify, or iTunes, or YouTube. They will never know the simple pleasure of listening to the Top 40 countdown on the radio, waiting for your favorite song to come on. As soon as those first notes hit, you would hit record on your blank cassette tape and capture that bad boy forever. Well, “forever” meaning “until you taped over the song with something else.”

35. Making a Napster mix CD

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At the very end of the ‘90s, with computer technology advancing hugely, it suddenly became possible to (illegally) download millions of songs from the controversial file-sharing platform Napster. Young people all over the world went download crazy and then burnt their mixes onto blank CDs to listen to with their friends. A homemade mix CD might get you laughed out of a party these days, though.

34. Watching the commercials

The notion of actually watching a television show at a specific time seems quaint in 2020. We curate our own experience nowadays, thank you very much. Fittingly, this has meant watching commercials is now pretty much a thing of the past. We just fast forward through them. But in the ‘90s we couldn’t do that. We had to sit there and watch them until our show came back on. Why else do you think the Budweiser frogs became so popular?

33. Floppy disks

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Nothing ages worse than technology. Often, what seems like cutting edge tech can become hideously out-of-date within a few years. In the ‘90s, if you wanted to save your schoolwork or transfer data and software, you used a floppy disk. But, as home computer technology advanced and more storage space became available, these disks died out. In fact, by 2006 the floppy disk drive became a rarity in a new computers.

32. Blowing into your video game cartridge

If you owned a classic NES or Mega Drive, you invariably spent many an hour blowing into a faulty video game cartridge. To get rid of the dust, you understand. Obviously, as games are mostly disc or download-based these days, this situation would never arise in 2020. But, in 2018 The Verge broke a generation’s hearts by revealing the blowing never helped at all. It was actually the repeated reinserting of the cartridge that got the game going again.

31. The weekend trip to Blockbuster Video

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In the ‘90s, Blockbuster Video was a magical place filled to the brim with hundreds of VHS movie options. Many of us went there every weekend. Yes, you had to pay a fines if you returned the tapes late, but that was a small price to pay to watch Titanic for the 17th time. Devastatingly, thanks to the growth of streaming and downloads, there is only one Blockbuster left in the world. Bend, Oregon, we salute you!

30. Rewinding your VHS tapes to watch them again

The ‘90s was a great time because, on top of being able to rent VHS tapes at Blockbuster, we could also nag our parents into buying us ones to watch at home. Many a ‘90s kid built up a sweet collection to impress their friends with. We even rewound them each and every time we wanted to watch, which is a difficult concept to explain to a modern kid. “Be kind, please rewind!”

29. Using the landline to speak to your friends

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It’s sometimes hard to remember how we all coped before we had cell phones. But, yes, there was indeed a time in which the primary method of communication between friends was the corded landline phone. We’d spend hours and hours just yakking it up with our buddies, risking the wrath of our parents at all times, who would constantly be yammering in our ears about the “astronomical phone bill” or some such nonsense. Good times.

28. Having to remember phone numbers

Does anyone recall the inconvenience of trying to remember or note down someone’s phone number? These days, there’s just no need for it, as everything is stored safely in your cell phone. But, in the ‘90s you had to do it, otherwise you’d have to look people up in the phone book. And if they weren’t listed? Well, then you just lost the ability to contact that person forever! Sort of.

27. Using a payphone

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Phone booths are kind of iconic. Clark Kent became Superman in one. Bill and Ted travelled through time in one. However, due to the rise of cell phones, phone booths and the pay phones they house have become and endangered species. In truth, if you needed to make a call these days, could you even imagine digging through your pockets to find change for the one pay phone located three blocks away?

26. Waiting on dial-up internet

Nowadays, the slightest pause in internet speed is enough to send us into a rage. We’ve become spoiled. In the ‘90s, however, many of us had to contend with dial-up internet, which was interminably slow at the best of times. It also kicked you off the connection if someone made a phone call. “Get off the phone, mom, I’m trying to post on my favorite X-Files message board!”

25. Saying “Talk to the hand”

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Every decade has its own catchphrases that everyone adopts, but then looks back on with vague embarrassment. Perhaps the lamest one of the ‘90s was “Talk to the hand,” which sometimes had “because the face ain’t listening!” added for extra sass. It was popularized by future Bad Boy Martin Lawrence in his 1992 sitcom Martin and, mercifully, isn’t used today by any person you’d want to talk to anyway.

24. Fanny packs

The fanny pack, or “bum bag” as it was known to our British friends, was a small fabric pouch that buckled around the waist. Given that they mainly came in garish colors, one could be forgiven for thinking that only children wore them. After all, grown adults had no need for a fanny pack. They had pockets, backpacks, and handbags, right? Wrong. For some reason, tons of ‘90s adults wore these ridiculous nerd pouches too.

23. Baggy jeans

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In the ‘90s, your jeans weren’t cool unless they looked like you could fit a family of five in them alongside your skinny legs. Baggy jeans were all the rage, and those made by JNCO particularly flew off store racks. These days people tend to wear skinny jeans, or at the very least tighter jeans than anyone would have considered in the ‘90s. This is a good thing. Trust us.

22. Wallet chains

Wallet chains went hand in hand with baggy jeans in the ‘90s, but their popularity fell off a cliff sometime in the new millennium. Perhaps it was because the faux edginess they were meant to give an ensemble became reserved only for bikers, stoners and metalheads. Or perhaps it was because people realized that, given these chains tethered our wallets to us and made them harder to steal, they were actually a sensible item to wear. Being sensible isn’t cool.

21. Jelly shoes

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Gaudy, colorful jelly shoes were a sought after item of footwear for little girls everywhere in the ‘90s. In fact, some teens and adult women even wore them as well, much to their chagrin. Why, you may ask? Well, because they’re made out of plastic, the soles were extremely unforgiving on the feet. Basically, they hurt like hell to wear and looked pretty childish. Their chances of a making comeback looks slim.

20. Talking with your friends on AOL/MSN Messenger

These days we can communicate instantly via text message, WhatsApp, e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. But in the ‘90s, our only option was phoning friends on the landline. Until AOL and MSN Instant Messenger came along, that is. All of a sudden, we could come home from school and immediately start typing out indecipherable-to-adults messages to the friends we just seen that very day. And we could do it while listening to music or doing our homework. Score.

19. Pagers

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In 2020 many doctors and other medical professionals still use pagers. In fact, emergency services still keep them in use as they are more reliable than cellular networks in the event of a disaster. These days, however, with smartphones as ubiquitous as they are, there’s no need for a pager if you aren’t a doctor or a paramedic. So, don’t follow the ‘90s example and have one for no discernible reason, okay?

18. The Macarena

One of the biggest dance fads of the ‘90s was the “Macarena.” The song, by Spanish duo Los del Rio, was released in 1994 and the music video featured a choreographed dance that graced many a nightclub dance floor. It was a fun song, though no one in America really knew what the lyrics meant. Turned out it was about a girl who cheated on her soldier boyfriend with two of his buddies. Not so fun now, huh?

17. Taking a disposable camera on vacation

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Nowadays we continuously take pictures with our smartphones. Whether it’s photos of our loved ones or pictures of that awesome sandwich we had for lunch, our camera rolls are filled to bursting. But, in the ‘90s, things were different. Most of us would take photos sparingly in regular life, as good cameras were expensive. But we would take a disposable camera on vacation and actually bring that film into the local pharmacy after we got home to be developed. Crazy.

16. Dropping your résumé into a store in-person

Job hunting in the ‘90s consisted of printing off a bunch of résumés and handing them in to businesses or stores where you wanted to work. These days, if you try doing this, the people who work there will look at you with confusion. “You need to apply online,” they will say, before adding, “I’m not even sure what to do with résumés.”

15. Wearing overalls on a night out

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In the ‘90s, for some ungodly reason, it became perfectly acceptable for teenage girls to dress like 1930s farmers and wear overalls in their day-to-day lives. Long overalls, overall dresses and short overalls were actually deemed cool. You could even get extra cool points for wearing them with one strap down. Like some sort of rural hipster. Weird.

14. Mood rings

Sometimes all anyone wants is to wear a nifty ring that changes color if your crush walks past you and smiles. These “mood rings” became a big deal in the ‘90s, as they were supposed to give mystical insight into the feelings of their wearers. In reality, though, half the time the liquid crystal within would just get jammed between red pride and purple power, leaving an ugly brown color. Which usually meant angst. Oh dear.

13. Cycling shorts as part of an everyday ensemble

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Princess Diana pioneered the idea of wearing bike shorts as part of a chic fashion ensemble in the ‘90s. And when Princess Di did something, you best believe women all over the world followed suit. Before you knew it, ladies everywhere were wearing blazers, bike shorts and high heels, mixing gym clothes and night-on-the-town attire with reckless abandon.

12. Owning several items of neon clothing

Picture the scene. It’s 2020 and you’re scrolling the TV channels one day. You stumble upon an old episode of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air or Clarissa Explains It All. You are immediately blinded by the sheer array of neon colors on display. What are these people wearing?! You get a headache from the sheer brightness. You change the channel.

11. The patent leather and vinyl “futuristic” look

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Nothing dates a ‘90s movie quite like the characters wearing “futuristic” patent leather and vinyl clothes. The most obvious example of this is probably seminal 1999 action film The Matrix, with all its shiny black leather. However, that’s allowed because the movie is science fiction. Characters who wear slickly colored leather outfits in movies set in 1995, on the other hand? Hard pass.

10. Beanbag chairs and blow-up sofas

No teenage room was complete in the ‘90s without adequate seating. You couldn’t just have your friends sit on your bed while you all played Nintendo; you had to offer them something cool. In stepped the classic beanbag chair or, if you were really lucky, a neon inflatable sofa. Now, any adult will tell you those things were hideously uncomfortable and extremely difficult to get up from once you sat down. But darn it —they were cool.

9. Puka shell necklaces

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Puka shell necklaces originated in Hawaii, where they signify good luck for the wearer. But in the ‘90s many of us took this culturally important item and incorporated it into our post-vacation look because it made us seem in touch with nature. Or the beach. Or something like that. Either way, you’re unlikely to see too many people wearing them in 2020.

8. Cargo pants

The ‘90s was a decade in which fashion seemed to constantly strive to provide extra storage space, for some reason. This might explain why we all wore military style cargo pants, with their relaxed fit and multitude of pockets, despite not being in the armed forces. After all, it meant we could keep our wallets and Game Boys and CD Walkman’s on us at all times.

7. Owning a Tamagotchi

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Tamagotchis were handheld digital pets that came from Japan and took over everyone’s lives in the late ‘90s. Created by Bandai, the object was for someone to care for a tiny alien egg on the digital screen and ensure it grew into a healthy adult alien creature. The better care you provided, the less attention you had to give the little gizmo. Many Tamagotchi’s died from neglect. It was all very weird.

6. Playing POGS

These days, if you started excitedly regaling a teenager with tales of your schoolyard days playing POGS, they’d look at you with utter befuddlement. Especially when you explained to them that POGS were highly collectible little poker chip-sized cardboard discs that you stacked and then hit with a slammer. The ones that landed face up were then the property of your opponent. Giving away collectible things you’d spent money on. Classic ‘90s fun!

5. Using a Palm Pilot

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Palm Pilots were remarkably ahead of their time, as they were the forerunner to the smartphones and hand-held computer devices we know and use today. Most high-flying business types used them in the ‘90s to plan their weeks, but you simply couldn’t use one today. The screen didn’t have a backlight and it only had a few hundred kilobytes of memory. Which means the average modern smartphone could hold 16,000 times the data of a Palm Pilot.

4. Using a TalkBoy

The TalkBoy was one of the most ingenious pieces of product placement ever devised. A handheld cassette recorder and player, it was manufactured by Tiger Electronics specifically for the use of Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister in Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. Kevin’s antics convinced legions of ‘90s kids into begging their parents to buy them one, but there’s no way this outdated tech would be marketable today.

3. Wearing slap bracelets

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Slap bracelets were so annoying that many schools banned them entirely. How can a bracelet be so aggravating, you may ask? Well, because they were made of flexible stainless steel, they made an almighty thwap when slapped against the wrist. Hearing that thwap dozens of times before they’d even had their morning cup of coffee evidently drove teachers insane enough to outlaw the preposterous teen fashion item.

2. Scrunchies

In the ‘90s, it wasn’t only little girls and teens who wore brightly colored, puffy scrunchies in their hair. Phoebe in Friends was known to rock a side ponytail with a scrunchie, and the girls in Saved By The Bell wore them too. These days there are countless other options for ladies to tie their hair back, so scrunchies aren’t quite so ubiquitous as they once were.

1. Paying full price for one CD album

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An extensive CD collection was one of the prerequisites of the ‘90s. There was no other way to hear the music we wanted, so we all happily bought albums. In fact, one new release CD would have set you back $12 to $14, in ‘90s money! This must sound crazy to the youth of today, to whom a Spotify Premium account costs a measly $9.99 per month, and with that they can listen to almost every single song in the known universe.

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