Five Men Who Defined ‘90s Style

19 Mar 2020
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Up until the ‘90s, fashion in Britain had managed to keep itself quite neatly organised. There were overlaps of course, but quite often a look would stick to one style. Mods, rockers, punks, goths, dandies, and new romantics had distinct guidelines. But in the 90s, everything discombobulated and reformed in revolutionary ways. Suddenly one look could contain ten different styles and decades upon decades of references. These are the men that led the charge for 90s British fashion.

Liam Gallagher

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In the mid 90s, Liam Gallagher took the suave motifs of 60s mod culture – green parkas, long sideburns and floral shirts – and twisted them with 80s/90s Madchester influences, bringing in Kangol bucket hats, Umbro long sleeves and football wear. This genius fusion essentially defined Britpop fashion and made Gallagher a style pioneer. But it wasn’t just about what he wore but how he wore them. His frontman status and me-against-the-world attitude breathed new identity into clothes you’d see worn every Saturday at the football; suddenly a tracktop wasn’t just cheap and comfortable, it was a bold statement.

Ian Brown

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“I gave up shopping in February 1999,” goes the famous Ian Brown quote. It’s not that he doesn’t rate new trends, he’s just been inundated with freebies ever since. And you can see why brands want their clothes on his back. Rising to fame in the late 80s, Brown saw the baggy fashion that dominated US hip-hop and gave it a British twist for the 90s. He wore the same 3-stripe tracksuits you’d see on acts like Run DMC, but mixed them with Stone Island and Henri Lloyd. But his most famous statement is still the crisp white Paul Smith t-shirt with burning money printed around the neck, which seemed to encapsulate a moment in time when youth optimism was only just beginning to turn the tide on rampant Thatcherism.

Jarvis Cocker

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While Brown and Gallagher might have dabbled with the informal attitude of sportswear, one man who always remained dedicated to sartorial elegance was Jarvis Cocker. But that doesn’t mean he was a snob, much of Cocker’s look was built upon second hand finds and charity shop gems, a 90s trend which remains to this day as fashion heads rummage through the Oxfam’s and car boot sales up and down the country. His core template was the suit: crushed velvet, wool, corduroy or tweed – and usually worn with oversized square glasses. In the 2014 documentary Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets, he compared his clothing to a suit of armour. The clothes allowed him to become who he needed to be: a poet, a rockstar, a conscience for misguided youth.

Damon Albarn

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If Liam Gallagher was the bad boy of 90s menswear, then Damon had something of the good boy about him. His influences were similar, he too drew from both mod culture and sportswear. He made the harrington jacket – with the traditional tartan lining – a fixture of every young man’s wardrobe once again, while also flirting with sportswear brands like Kappa and Sergio Tacchini. His hair was messier, his ear had a hoop in it, and while the late 80s and early 90s had been about oversized wear, Albarn would often wear jackets and polo shirts that were on the small side, enhancing a certain androgyny about the way fashion was going.

Keith Flint

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If everyone mentioned so far had a sense of careful selection and calculation to their individual styles, then the late and legendary Keith Flint symbolised the exact opposite: chaos. As the frontman of The Prodigy, Flint was meant to embody anger, rage and energy, and he reflected this in his clothes. He wore baggy plaid shirts and kept his hair spiked like devil horns, a nod to the punk era that influenced him, but he also embraced and drove the stonewash denim craze of the 90s, usually with his own alterations. Essentially, he ripped up the fashion rules and introduced an element of disruption. It’s no surprise that he was honoured by Versace at Milan Fashion Week in 2019.