“BIMBO SUMMIT.” THEN read it big title on the front page of the New York Post on November 29, 2006, about a photograph, taken outside the Beverly Hills Hotel in the early hours of the morning, of heiress Paris Hilton, actress Lindsay Lohan and the pop star Britney Spears. Their “unholy alliance,” as the corresponding newspaper article called it, was presented for contempt: Spears had recently given birth to her second child; Lohan, only the night before, had accused Hilton of throwing a drink at her; and yet the three women were there, stuck uncomfortably in a two-seater sports car long after midnight. The last line of the article could easily have been uttered by Lohan in the 2004 movie “Mean Girls”: “And however long those friendships last: skanks for the memories!”
Antipathy for the decade’s celebrities – especially young women, including Hilton, Lohan and Spears, who had only recently been anointed as her idols – was at its peak, with tabloids and gossip blogs viciously mocking of their public beatings. This “meeting of the minds”, as The Post also described it, marked both the apogee and the beginning of the end of this period: the so-called McBling era, an exuberant and trashy 2000s coda that ran from approximately 2000 to 2008 and was characterized by trucker hats, fake tans, and pubic-baring velor tracksuits. If fashion leading into the new millennium yearned for an iridescent, digitized new day, McBling (his name is a nod to the flashy logomania then prevalent) stumbled down the next morning, hungover and hiding behind a pair of pink Baby Phat. airmen. The old style – punctuated with cargo pants, strappy tops and white eyeshadow – was an optimistic, if superficial, exploration of what the future might look like; this led, in all directions, to shameless bad taste. “Fashion back then had a sense of humor,” says British designer Christian Cowan, born in 1994 and whose Hilton paraded twice. “It was about being perfect, fake and brilliant. Everyone knew that was a bit superficial.
But when the stock market crashed in 2008, she took the ostentation with her. Discreet consumption became the goal. The hipster was all the rage in worn flannel and skinny jeans, and in the mid-2010s normcore followed in a bid, as the name suggests, to look as average as possible in hoodies and sweatshirts. everyday sneakers. Soon after, millennials claimed their own color: a day-old salmon wallflower shade that was a clear traumatic response to the bright pink ensembles worn at the turn of the years by everyone from Aaliyah to Reese Witherspoon. in “Legally Blonde” (2001).
ENTER GENERATION Z, today’s teens and 20s who have never known life without social media or the internet. To them, as they navigate world-threatening issues such as climate change and the coronavirus, the idea of the millennium bug seems odd. For them, a teen idol who forgoes underwear, as Spears had done on several occasions, could be another TikTok star. For them, pink should appear. And so has a new cast of young style icons – including 22-year-old rapper Lil Nas X, recently seen on stage in a metallic fuchsia crop top with matching harness and pleated skirt – who have embraced plasticity. ’00s cheeky. “It’s pretty simple,” says Cowan, whose Spring 2022 collection featured sky-blue sequined bandana tops and feathered, yes, neon-pink headpieces. “We want to feel warm, even full of ourselves. This is the kind of energy we need, especially after two years of boredom.
Across spring collections, the brands channeled this mood by evoking the bare midriffs and garish hues of the early 2000s. At GmbH, Berlin designers Serhat Işik and Benjamin A. Huseby added eerie, brown inflections to the sad famous red carpet outfits of the time, such as the coordinated denim look that Spears and her then-boyfriend, Justin Timberlake, wore to the 2001 American Music Awards. (Işik and Huseby’s version, modeled by a man, included a long denim coat trimmed with faux fur.) For her latest bid as creative director of Bottega Veneta, British designer Daniel Lee invited 2000-era legends Lil’ Kim and Mary J. Blige to Detroit to attend his show, which centered on shiny anoraks and bomber jackets with bright colors – a specific strain of retrofuturism that also set the tone for Celine, Etro, Tom Ford and Louis Vuitton. At Miu Miu, frayed khaki micro-miniskirts and cropped cable-knit wool sweaters recalled the skimpy garments of the suggestively Sapphic Russian musical duo tATu, who rose to fame in the early 2000s. And on the Kim Shui catwalk in New York, models paraded in dazzling backless dresses and skin-baring cowgirl ensembles that evoked costumes from Christina Aguilera’s “Stripped” era circa 2002.
However, this return to the aesthetics of the beginnings is not quite nostalgia. It’s not entirely new either. Asked about fashion’s surge of interest in this period, Gabriel Held, a 36-year-old Brooklyn-based stylist, pointed to the music video for Filipino American pop star K Rizz’s 2014 reggaeton song “Salbahein which she wears cerulean chaps and bikini bottoms and a rattan cowboy hat. “That,” he says, “is my best rebuttal to the idea that the Y2K revival is a new idea.” The look, which Held attributes more to prolific stylists of the time such as Patricia Field and Misa Hylton than to any designer or celebrity, lingered for years on the outer periphery of good taste, kept alive both by the endless rolling of the Internet and by those who have the desire and, let’s face it, the courage to stand out.
Yet, reconsidering it now, en masse and through the eyes of a younger generation, designers are coming up with something of a tantalizing redesign. By rewinding the history of just two decades, we can not only forget the hardships of the Great Recession and the pandemic, but also rewrite the past, layering a version of events in which we were perhaps kinder and more tolerant of our pop culture heroines. Because in this bygone world that we are talking about, the future still seemed bright for the three women in this undersized sports car. And now, some 16 years later, as if nothing had happened, all three are making headlines again, for some good news: Hilton has a business empire that spans from fragrances to plant-based alternatives to seafood. Wed ; Lohan, newly engaged, prepares for her return; and Spears, recently freed from an oppressive conservatorship of nearly 14 years, is free again. We all ended up in the same place, but it’s comforting to imagine that the ride here had fewer glitches.