Boys Clothing Styles: 1990s

Popular sportswear for boys in the 1990s are plastered with the manufacturers name, including Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, the Gap, and others. The trend began in the 1980s and continues unabated in the 1990s. The meaning of the desire of boys and girls to serve as living billboards is difficult to assess. It is almost as if the proliferation of shifting public signage, slogans, logos, and the deluge of print advertising, means that the words on your clothes are now what certify your physical existence. Or at least demonstrate that you are in the swing of popular culture. The media is so important to modern children that it appears to be critical to proclaim your knowledge and accectance of the latest trends. As one fashion comentator writes:

They seem to put you in harmony with the rest of the material world, as well as with the electronically written universe on the Internet. Words are now rarely carved in stone; printed books are quickly pulped; but endless messages flicker momentarily on screens or on this month's T-shirt. The exhibition tells us that as a vessel of lasting sense or sacred truth, the written word may be losing ground, but that as a source of inarticulate comfort, it has gained much.

Boys clothing in America has gone from bad to worse in the 1990s. Little boys dress as little men when they dress up. Usually jeans or hideous long, baggy trousers are the order og the day.

And as society entered the 1990s, a new manufactured cellulosic fiber, Tencel lyocell, was being promoted by Courtaulds. With a manufacturing process that was self-contained, it did not add to pollution. In fact, the environment was having a big impact on all consumer textiles in this new decade. On March 25, 1990, the connection between environmentalism and the textile and apparel industries was noted on the front page of the New York Times with the headline "The Green Movement in the Fashion World."10 Consumers could now buy naturally colored cottons, natural cotton (i.e., processed without chemicals), fabrics dyed with natural dyes, and polyester products made from recycled soda bottles. Of course the environmental movement did not begin in 1990, and it may be that the strong interest in the 1980s in garments made from natural fibers had been at least partly stimulated by environmental concerns. But even with expanded consumer interest in natural fibers, polyester claimed 55% of the domestic market in 1990. With the microfibers of the 1990s, the manufactured fiber industry also had a new product which fit in very well with a strong interest in activewear. Activewear was a new term applied to apparel worn for active sports and working out, popular activities growing out of a new awareness of the importance to health of keeping fit. For many years Hawaii has had the tradition of Friday being aloha shirt day, a day on which men can wear the traditional and informal aloha shirt to work. By 1994, the notion of "casual Friday" had taken root on the mainland to such an extent that on July 15 the front page of the New York Times announced, "Nowadays, Workers Enjoy Dressing Down for the Job." McCall's magazine noted that based on a recent poll, 64% of their readers worked in an office with a casual-day policy. The old notion of one predominant fashion was gone; instead the apparel industry was serving a far more diverse public with products aimed not at general, but at specific audiences. On the other hand, the household textile industry had become much more fashion oriented. Constantly expanding information sources, including news, entertainment media, and the internet, help to spread information about these stylistic changes more rapidly to ever larger audiences.

There is of course a great deal of information available on 1990s fashions. Unfortunately space limitations do not permit me to provide more information on the 1980s here. There will be, however, additional information and many historical photographs on the expanded Boys Historical Clothing web site. For details click here >>>>>> Expanded Site.

Christopher Wagner

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