The Y2K that we know now has taken on completely different meaning to what it once meant when it was coined.
Who could forget the time they thought transitioning from 1999 to 2000 would cause a devastation in computer programming and networks? It signalled the uncertainty of the future of an entire generation (at least three, in fact) whose entire lives up till then were based on the 20th century. While that represented one side of the camp, Y2K in fashion, entertainment and the likes, was generally guided by optimism, a visual manifestation of a technologically advanced future and utopia.
Movies like the Matrix encapsulated some of the most iconic looks of the time — longline leather coats, thin sunglasses and chunky boots, all in black, of course, that displayed utilitarian and futuristic themes at the same time. In the same science-fiction line, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century conveyed a similar take on the genre with metallic makeup, accessories and clothes, as well as coloured tights and mini vests.
Fast-forward 20 years later, Y2K is longer a representation of futurism. Instead, it’s become a catch-all phrase for the time period in general, and is used by Gen-Zs on TikTok who are reminiscent of a time in fashion — Britney Spears’ Oops, I Did It Again, anyone? We’re talking matching velour jumpsuits, micro-skirts, low-rise jeans (best if flared and paired with crop tops), mini handbags, and platforms sandals.
Today, the hashtag “y2kfashion” has garnered over 479.6 million views on TikTok, with creators fuelling a throwback economy with anything from fashion inspiration videos to styling tips and tutorials. The “y2k” hashtag itself? 6.4 billion views worldwide on the app.
Its popularity isn’t surprising. The word may come to represent different iterations depending on who you’re speaking to, but it’s hard to ignore its shared foundation — the idea of escapism. One faction finds optimism in what’s to come, and the other idealises in what could have been.
In a world riddled with a barrage of gloom-riddled news daily, from a world-wide pandemic to mass shootings, to say we’re overwhelmed is quite the understatement. Such is the case for the resurgence of Y2K. The emotional and social strains of current events, amplified with the rapid pace of modern life and the constant technological connection with just about everything and everyone, has driven the nostalgia for simpler, more carefree times. And what better way than to physically embody it than through fashion?
Our second digital cover and issue is dedicated to the Y2K revival, and a physical note to self about taking a step back from the turmoil of whatever is going on in the present.
Photography: Shawn Paul Tan
Styling: Sean Tham
Hair & Makeup: Sha Shamsi, using KMS & Cle de Peau
Videography and video editing: Jocelyn Tan
Photography assistance: Melvin Leong
Model: Nicole Liew/Basic Models