From 1960’s hippies to 1990’s grungers, every generation has had their fashion emblem. Open a family photo album and you’ll easily locate the dodgy perms and stonewashed denim à la Bananarama circa 1984. Iconic fashion moments make an era instantly recognisable in history, but as 2011 begins and the noughties are becoming an increasingly distant memory, the style that defined our teenage years is hard to pinpoint. What exactly is our legacy?
As Catherine Nieto notes (in this issue’s interview) ‘WAG’ culture sky-rocketed in the last decade and propelled these women into the fashion spotlight. The fashion atrocities that signified the early years of the WAG phenomenon – Juicy Couture tracksuits, dodgy hair extensions and creosote skin, infiltrated mass culture at an alarming rate, defining the style of wannabe WAGS and misguided teens alike. Then in the latter noughties came the WAG makeover led by (now designer and WAG royalty) Victoria Beckham. Ex-WAG Cheryl Cole underwent a similar style overhaul, and her transition from chavvy girl band member to blossoming style queen became a national fascination. Cheryl’s stint on the X Factor brought a whole new dimension to style-stalking – suddenly what the judges wore each week secured more column inches than the contestants on the show. The rise of the WAG was complete, and we began to covet the likes of a newly polished Coleen Rooney, Abby Clancy and Alex Curran for all the right reasons.
Clearly, celebrity status has held the key to influencing fashion for some time, but where has this left us? Does our era have a signature style? When celebrities embraced the ‘it’ bag, so did we. The Chloe Paddington and Hermes Birkin spring to mind as the designs that spawned countless high street copies, but every fashion house in the world got in on the ‘it’ bag phenomenon. They even went so far as to explicitly acknowledge the power of celebrity endorsement – think Mulberry’s Alexa coined after everyone’s favourite muse Alexa Chung. Then came the ‘it’ shoe, namely anything by Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo or Manolo Blahnik thanks to the Holy Grail of style that was SATC. Not forgetting the most unfortunate ‘it’ footwear of the 21st Century – the Ugg Boot – the cruel joke that celebrities seemed to be in on, and thousands of women (and men) fell foul of.
Clothing trends though, were suffering from something of an identity crisis. Was anything truly new? Save for quirky icons like Lady Gaga and Agyness Deyn, every major trend of our teenage and young adult life was a re-hash of something we had already seen: skinny jeans, Ray-Bans, body-con, tassels, studded leather, shoulder pads… our parents beat us to it. Save for hipster jeans, the noughties failed to innovate in the way previous decades had, and not surprisingly, vintage fashion became something of a norm.
However, our approach to fashion has seen something of a revolution. The rise of the internet has given us limitless choice at the touch of a button. Blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Apps and style websites have changed the face of fashion forever. This previously mysterious world is becoming increasingly interactive and accessible via the internet, giving the individual the power to influence trends in a way that was never before possible. The pace of fashion has sky-rocketed thanks to the instantaneous nature of the internet and the insatiable interest of its users. This is the era when the people had a voice – and it isn’t over yet.