Explore the decade’s most significant historical moments, music, movies, TV, and fashion

The 1990s were filled with exciting and vibrant pop culture moments, from the rise of the internet to the explosion of the grunge aesthetic. The effects of the 90s can still be felt today, especially with the recent resurgence of 90s fashion trends and increased nostalgia for 90s music, TV shows, and movies. If you want to take part in this nostalgia, look no further. We’ll take you through some of the most iconic moments and trends in 90s pop culture, so keep reading!

Things You Should Know

  • The 1990s were filled with defining moments in pop culture, fashion, music, film, and technology and the lasting effects of the decade can still be felt today.
  • 90s fashion trends included the grunge aesthetic inspired by bands like Nirvana, as well as preppy, colorful styles inspired by the movie Clueless.
  • The 90s saw the release of iconic movies like Titanic and Forrest Gump, and beloved TV shows like Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Seinfeld.
Section 1 of 9:

90s Pop Culture & Celebrities

  1. The period is usually remembered as a time of relative prosperity and optimism, and the rise of the internet increased communication and access to information.[1] It’s no wonder the decade is remembered so fondly! Here's an overview:
    • The 90s ushered in a new era of celebrity, with actors like Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angela Bassett, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Brad Pitt shooting to superstardom.[2]
    • Supermodels like Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington also exploded in popularity.[3]
    • The public was captivated by Princess Diana, who wore her iconic “revenge dress” in June of 1994 following her split from Prince Charles.[4]
    • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in June of 1997, kicking off one of the most notable fantasy series of all time.
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Section 2 of 9:

90s Fashion

  1. The decade saw the rise of the grunge aesthetic, which included graphic tees, plaid flannels, distressed jeans and tights, and Dr. Marten’s. On the other end of the spectrum, the 1995 movie Clueless inspired a bright, colorful style filled with matching mini skirt and blazer sets, mini dresses, baby tees, headbands, and Mary Jane heels.[5]
    • Sought-after clothing brands in the 90s included Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, and Ralph Lauren.
    • Stores like Gap and Limited Too were also popular.[6]
    • Hair trends of the 90s included crimped waves, baby braids, butterfly clips, barrettes, and scrunchies.
    • And of course, there was “The Rachel,” a layered haircut inspired by Jennifer Aniston’s character from Friends.[7]
Section 3 of 9:

90s Music

  1. From pop to rap to rock, the 1990s were filled with groundbreaking and genre-defining music that continues to captivate modern-day listeners. Here are some of the most memorable music moments from the 90s:
    • Nirvana released their album Nevermind, which included the hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”[8]
    • The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur redefined hip-hop and rap, and the genre exploded in popularity.
    • Girl groups like TLC, Destiny’s Child, and The Spice Girls rose to fame, releasing timeless hits like “No Scrubs,” “Say My Name,” and “Wannabee.”
    • Boy bands like NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys enjoyed similar popularity with hits like “Bye Bye Bye” and “I Want It That Way.”
    • Pop stars like Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, and Christina Aguilera dominated the charts.[9]
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Section 4 of 9:

90s Movies

  1. Heartwarming family classics, rom-coms, blockbuster thrillers, dramas—the 90s had it all! It also included the Disney Renaissance, which saw the release of some of the studio’s most iconic animated films.[10] Here are some of the most impactful movies from the 90s:
    • Major blockbusters: Titanic (1997), Jurassic Park (1993), Forrest Gump (1994)
    • Family movies: Home Alone (1990), Matilda (1996), The Parent Trap (1998)
    • Disney Renaissance: Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997), Mulan (1998)
    • Teen movies: Clueless (1995), 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), The Craft (1996), She’s All That (1999)
    • Romantic comedies: Pretty Woman (1990), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You’ve Got Mail (1998)
    • Action, thrillers, & dramas: Ghost (1990), Pulp Fiction (1994), The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Section 8 of 9:

90s Sports

  1. The United States won the first Women’s World Cup of soccer in 1991 and golfer Tiger Woods won the Masters Tournament in 1997.[20] The decade also saw the beginning of Serena Williams’ tennis career, as well as the infamous figure skating scandal between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 Olympics.[21]
    • In 1994, a strike of baseball players led to the World Series being canceled for the first time in 90 years.
    • Basketball legend Michael Jordan announced his retirement in January of 1999.[22]
Section 9 of 9:

90s History & Politics

  1. Here are some of the biggest headlines from the decade:
    • In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit around Earth.
    • The U.S.S.R. dissolved in December of 1991, becoming 15 independent countries.
    • Bill Clinton became president of the United States in 1993. In 1998, he became the second U.S. president to be impeached.
    • Nelson Mandela became the first Black president of South Africa in May of 1994.
    • In June of 1995, The U.S. Space Shuttle Atlantis docked with the Russian space station. This signaled a new era of collaboration in space exploration.
    • O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman in a hugely publicized trial in 1995.
    • Princess Diana tragically passed away in a car accident in 1997, and her death was mourned worldwide.[23]
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About This Article

Susan Kim
Co-authored by:
Professional Stylist
This article was co-authored by Susan Kim and by wikiHow staff writer, Annabelle Reyes. Susan Kim is the owner of Sum+Style Co., a Seattle-based personal styling company focused on innovative and approachable fashion. She has over 5 years of experience in the fashion industry, and received her AA from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.
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Updated: February 19, 2024
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