I remember sitting on the floor in my childhood home as my mom straightened my hair before school. I was holding a Bratz doll, running my fingers across the toy’s studded belt and synthetic hair. On the small TV a music video played. “Work It” by Missy Elliott. I was overwhelmed by the aesthetics. Giant gold hoops, frosted lip gloss, and matching tracksuits everywhere. At that age I didn’t realize you could wear clothes, accessories, even makeup like that. 

Whether you’re a millennial or a part of Gen Z, you know what I’m talking about when I mention Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake’s iconic matching denim look on the red carpet in 2001. You may not remember it because you were too young or not even born, but you can immediately picture it. 

That’s the hold the confusing and contrasting fashion of the 2000s has on us. Like a movie that’s so bad, it’s incredible. 

Maybe it’s that same hold that caused me to gasp under my mask when I found a knockoff Dior handbag at a Goodwill a few months ago. $6.99. I couldn’t help but think that it looked like something I’d see go viral all over TikTok. 

And it really did. After the first few months of the pandemic, the world as a collective realized this was more than a temporary shutdown. A generation of high school and college students knew this wasn’t just a prolonged spring break. They quickly got tired of trying to predict the future of a world plagued with a new virus and slowly burning from climate change. 

So Gen Z went back to what they remembered from the past. Which happened to feature a lot of plucked eyebrows, velour, and baggy shirts worn over jeans. It may not have been what your parents allowed you to wear yourself but it was easy to look up to those who did embody that look. And did it proudly!

A trend that filled the bottomless fashion rabbit holes of TikTok in April last year was one titled “what I’d wear as a Y2K pop star”. It usually featured some kind of influencer showing a series of outfits a pop star would rock for an upcoming tour or something. And just like that, a simple and lighthearted clip filled a quarantined generation with warm nostalgia and a daily dose of escapism. 

They needed that and they still do. We all do.

We may have entered some sort of ‘normal’, but we live it with an extra portion of anxiety. The news has reverted back to updates about war and a struggling economy. A large portion of a young generation had to take an accelerated course on how to become an adult and deal with unemployment, existential crisis and forced solitude.  

They are told to grow up and get over it. However, this “it” Gen Z is dealing with is an overwhelming amount of events and social issues that makes the future uncertain and even hard to imagine without getting a migraine.

So if the youth needs Nicole Richie-esque fuzzy Uggs to stand firm on the shaky foundation of society, then so be it. Here’s to hoping they find the sunglasses to match.