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Brands and trends Gen Z brought back from the dead, from wraparound sunglasses to the ‘baguette’ bag

Two teenagers take a selfie while walking in SoHoExperts say current Gen Z trends represent escapism and nostalgia.

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  • Gen Z has revived a slew of long-dormant trends, resurrecting brands and styles that were last popular in the 1990s and 2000s. 
  • Low-rise jeans, maxi skirts, baguette bags, and Ugg boots are just a handful of the trends seeing a 2023 resurgence. 
  • Experts say current trends derive from a combination of brands smartly targeting influencers and celebrities, and cycles in fashion tied to external factors, like the economy. 
Ugg bootsUgg boots mini platform bootUgg’s $150 ultra mini platform boot.

Getty/Christian Vierig

The sheepskin-lined boots, which first became popular in California in the 1970s and shot to fame in the early 2000s, are having a comeback thanks to teen shoppers’ obsession with Y2K fashion.

Fashion search site Lyst released its quarterly index of the hottest brands in the fourth quarter of 2022 in February, and Ugg was listed as one of the top 20 brands for the first time since the index was created in 2017.

Piper Sandler’s latest semi-annual survey of over 5,000 teens had similar findings: Ugg boots ranked as the No. 2 overall fashion trend for women for spring 2023, knocking crop tops down to No. 3.

Ugg’s parent company, Deckers, is seeing the trend pay off. The company reported a 21% spike in new customers during its most recent quarter, particularly among 18 to 34-year-olds. 

That newfound popularity is partly tied to the release of its $150 mini platform boots. Deckers CEO Dave Powers said the company gifted the boots to “A-list celebrities” — Kylie Jenner and the Hadid sisters were both spotted in the boots — which sparked a social media frenzy. The boots have rarely stayed in stock since. 

CrocsCrocs sandal Balenciaga collaborationA Crocs shoe in collaboration with high-fashion brand Balenciaga.

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Crocs were once the most divisive shoe on the market but lately, they’ve gained more lovers than haters.

This isn’t by chance — the brand has done a great job at winning over younger consumers, MaryLeigh Bliss, chief content officer of consumer research firm YPulse, told Insider.

Bliss said that wacky collaborations with brands like Hidden Valley Ranch dressing have captured the hearts of Gen Z and their “off-beat sense of humor.” Partnerships with well-known celebrities, such as Justin Bieber and Post Malone, who have large Gen Z fanbases, have also helped. 

Crocs was ranked the sixth-favorite brand for teens in Piper Sandler’s spring 2023 survey of young shoppers. Executives during the brand’s most recent quarterly earnings call said that while Crocs benefitted from the shift to comfortable footwear during the pandemic, demand hasn’t cooled. 

“It is clear that the consumer, while they may be overall worried about the recession, worried about interest rates, worried about rising energy costs, are still buying in the footwear category. The footwear category is doing well,” CEO Andrew Rees said. “And in particular, they’re still buying Crocs.”

Velour tracksuitsVelour tracksuitParis Hilton was once the queen of velour tracksuits.

Photo by Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images via Getty Images

You can blame the return of velour tracksuits on Gen Z’s love affair with Y2K fashion as well, Bliss told Insider.

These tracksuits had their heyday in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Juicy Couture velour sets became the uniform of celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Some Gen Z consumers were either too young to participate in these trends, or hadn’t even been born yet, but the rekindling of this style represents a desire to live more fun and carefree lives. 

“They are a generation who has lived through some dire, dark times — not just things like the pandemic and recession — but also a current of darkness throughout their childhoods. For example, shootings being common to the point of having to practice for them,” Bliss said.

“One part of nostalgia is wanting to have that escape,” she added.

Dresses over jeansatyana Kodzayeva is seen wearing a sculptured green dress over denim pants.Dresses over jeans were once a red carpet staple for Y2K celebrities.

Valentina Frugiuele/Getty Images

This isn’t necessarily a mainstream trend just yet — though actress Katie Holmes seems to be a fan. The dress-over-jeans combo has been making an appearance in some TikTok fashion communities, according to Shaurya Singh, Gen Z Trends Reporter at social media agency The Z Link.

Young shoppers are constantly being served up with never-ending styling ideas and tips on Tik-Tok, and as a result, are embracing “a somewhat chaotic, maximalist aesthetic,” Morgane Le Caer, editor at fashion search site Lyst, told Insider.

The dress-over-jeans trend has its roots in Y2K style too — the look was a red carpet go-to for popular celebrities at the time like Lindsay Lohan, Disney Channel star Ashley Tisdale, and Mischa Barton of “The O.C.”

Baguette bagsPanera baguette bagPanera’s “baguette bag” is a riff on Fendi’s classic style.

Courtesy of Panera

The baguette bag, which was designed by Italian fashion brand Fendi, was an iconic part of 1990s fashion and was considered to be the “it-bag” of the time. The baguette came back into vogue over the past few years, in large part because 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of the bag.

Its popularity has also led other brands to create copycat versions. Executives from Coach’s parent company, Tapestry, said during the company’s most recent quarterly earnings that Coach would continue to “lean into the micro and mini handbag trend” with its own mini baguette bag, “which resonated with Gen Z consumers.” 

Even fast-casual chain Panera has gotten in on the action, launching a limited number of $40 lime green baguette bags last month. These have since become coveted items on the resale market. 

Low-rise, baggy pantsLow-rise, baggy pants worn by Gigi HadidModel Gigi Hadid has been sporting low-rise, baggy jeans.

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Low-rise, baggy pants have become the uniform of the younger generation. According to Lyst, searches for baggy pants are up 172% so far in 2023.

It’s a trend that’s been quietly brewing since 2021, according to Piper Sandler’s survey. Baggy jeans ranked as the fourth most-popular trend the past three surveys, while the high-waisted, more form-fitting mom jeans have now fallen out of the top 10. 

During Levi’s fourth-quarter earnings call in January, CEO Chip Bergh said that the denim maker is seeing success with looser fits like its new “Baggy Dad” jean, modeled after a signature 1990s style. 

“The mid-rise jean is, kind of the hottest item right now. And I think we’re going to continue to see the shift from high-to-mid and maybe even mid-to-lower rises as we go forward,” he said.

The preppy lookRalph Lauren 1989 collection - preppy clothingRalph Lauren’s 1989 collection.

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Whether you call it “old money aesthetic” or Ivy League style, there’s no doubt about it: prep is back. 

The trend first started cropping up in 2021 as a response to, or even backlash against, the influencer look that dominated the late 2010s.

“It embodies the socialite lifestyle represented in culture by shows and films such as ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley,’ and is the perfect opposite to the ‘California rich’ aesthetic that was made popular by the Kardashian family,” Le Caer from Lyst, previously told Insider.

Defined by pleated skirts, sweater vests, blazers, loafers, and oxford shirts, prep style is still dominating in 2023. L.L. Bean, for example — a staple of preppy Americana sportswear — saw sales of its Boat and Tote bag reach a 10-year high last year after Gen Z fans began embroidering it with phrases like “psycho” or “dump him.” 

And J.Crew, perhaps the mass-market retailer most synonymous with prep, has seen a resurgence in recent months due in large part to its menswear designer, Brendon Babenzien, who’s managed to merge prep with streetwear and made it seem hip again. 

Maxi skirtsLourdes Leon outside the Marc Jacobs runway show on February 2, 2023.Madonna’s daughter, Lourdes Leon, outside the Marc Jacobs runway show in a denim maxi skirt.

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Ankle-grazing skirts are officially back: Refinery29 named them the biggest trend bubbling up for spring, while fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar proclaimed that if you buy one item, it should be a maxi skirt

The trend comes in all shapes and fabrics including ’90s-era denim and silk or ’70s-style knitted or crocheted, and it cropped up repeatedly at recent runway shows from fashion houses like Givenchy and Khaite.

Fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell told Refinery29 that the trend has a lot to do with the “current cultural zeitgeist,” including a recent wave of natural disasters and the war in Ukraine, which have made members of Gen Z and Gen Alpha want to start “dressing in somber styles that are a bit more utilitarian and pragmatic.” 

But the trend may go even deeper than that, reflecting something called the “hemline index” — essentially, when the economy gets worse, hemlines get longer.

While it’s not a foolproof indicator, there are examples throughout history that fit the theory: mini skirts came into fashion during economic boom in the 1960s before hemlines dropped during the 1970s oil crisis. Now, after months of high inflation and recession fears, last year’s micro-mini skirt is giving way to the maxi skirt. 

WaistcoatsAyo Edebiri visits the IMDb Portrait Studio at SXSW 2023 on March 12, 2023 in Austin, Texas.Ayo Edebiri visits the IMDb Portrait Studio at SXSW 2023 on March 12, 2023 in Austin, Texas.

Corey Nickols/Getty Images for IMDb

The waistcoat was a stand-out trend from SXSW film festival in Austin last month, according to Lorna Hall, director of fashion intelligence at trend forecasting agency WGSN. Hall said this piece was mostly paired with flared pants for a 70s look.

“But it’s a more versatile item that can deliver on more than one look and can pull together a variety of trends that are key for the youth market at the moment,” she told Insider.

“From a value for money point of view it will have very broad shopper appeal … we believe this will get a lot of traction with Gen Z,” she added.

There’s no better ambassador for 70s-style dressing right now than singer and fashion icon Harry Styles. According to the online resale platform Depop, searches for waistcoats and knitted vests – Styles’ regular getup – were up 171% in 2022. 

Knitted vests, dresses, and boleros were also the signature looks of HBO series The White Lotus’ Gen Z character Portia.

Wraparound sunglassesKim Kardashian is seen in Midtown on November 01, 2022 in New York City.Kim Kardashian sporting a pair of wraparound sunglasses in New York City in November 2022.

Photo by Gotham/GC Images

For better or worse, wraparound sunglasses – flatteringly dubbed “gas station” shades – are back in vogue after years of being thought of as fashion’s biggest faux pas.

They were the eyewear of choice for Kim Kardashian in 2022, but also worn by the likes of Rihanna and Kylie Jenner, among others.

Knock-off versions of designer shades, such as Balenciaga’s $530 swift oval sunglasses, have cropped up on Amazon, Walmart, and Shein – giving younger generations access to $4 alternatives

Katy Lubin, VP for brand and communication at Lyst, told The New York Times that the resurgence of these sunglasses is culturally significant. 

“They’re lightweight but tough, anti-pretty and genuinely protective, shielding you from the increasingly apocalyptic world beyond the lens,” Lubin said.

“You can wear these rebel shades to see through and past fashion’s rules and subvert the system,” she added. 




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