Like all fashion trends, jewelry fads are fickle. What’s fashionable and stylish one day can seem remarkably passe the next. Youth-oriented trends can be particularly fleeting; capitalizing on what’s considered cool requires a certain dump-and-run marketing strategy as styles shift.
Unfortunately, these quickly changing trends means all of us bandwagon preteen fashionistas can look back at old photos and cringe at our choice of accessories. Our style may not have been as overblown and overdone as the Madonna-style accessory-laden looks of our 80s predecessors, but we still had more than our fair share of poorly executed jewelry looks. Here are just a few of the popular jewelry fads that plagued our generation:
Best Friends Necklaces
According to the logic of 80s and 90s jewelry designers, nothing quite says “Best Friends Forever!” like the raw imagery of a broken heart. Really, what better to symbolize our forever friendship than a heart brutally cracked down its center, allowing us to flaunt its tattered remains around our necks as a symbol of how much we care for one another? It’s near foolproof reasoning.
In reality, the symbol was probably pretty appropriate for the quick-shifting alliances of young girls. “Forever” was a fairly flexible notion to the wearers of these necklaces, as many so-called friends called back and/or reissued the other necklace to a newer, cooler friend. I wouldn’t feel too bad about it, though. Who really wants to wear a necklace that reads “BE FRIE” or “ST NDS” anyway?
Tattoo Style Chokers
A choker, by its very name and nature, sounds more like an instrument of torture than a jewelry fashion statement. Add the word “tattoo” and you’ve got a pretty questionable trend on your hands....er, neck. These woven plastic necklaces and bracelets were a huge overnight trend in the late 90s. Their closeness to the skin combined with the flatness of the plastic gave it a look like a neck tattoo, because what kind of middle schooler doesn’t want to look like they have a permanently inked celtic pattern running across their jugular?
On a dog, a dog tag makes perfect sense: tag your animal to ensure his safe delivery back to you in the case he gets lost or runs away. In the days before cell phone GPS tracking, perhaps our parents felt it necessary to tag us for migratory purposes. Dog tags may also be appropriate for military personnel, but their practicality wanes a bit when it’s either jewel encrusted and manufactured by Tiffany and Co or distributed as a giveaway at a bar mitzvah party or sweet sixteen.
Any good child of the 90s knows violence and jewelry goes hand in hand, or least wrist in wrist. That’s the best conclusion we can deduce from the overwhelming popularity of slap bracelets, a cloth or plastic coated wire that snapped into place when it was slapped on the wrist. Schools were quick to outlaw these after horror stories emerged of wires snapping out and accidentally slitting open wrists.
Nonetheless, these were a staple of a 90s childhood, commonly found as cheap takeaways in birthday party bags or as arcade prizes. A little danger over a burst artery or two didn’t scare us; we children of the 90s liked to live on the cheap accessory edge.
Jelly bracelets were more of a holdover from the 80s, but many of us still wore ours proudly well into the 80s. Perhaps we wanted to coordinate well with our jelly sandals, or maybe we were just early adopted of SillyBandz. Whatever the reason, we stacked these babies up to our elbows in bright neon colors.
The 90s was a notorious time for rebellious teenagers sporting tattoos and piercings they were sure to regret sometime in a five year span after acquiring them. Belly button and tongue piercings were especially popular, perhaps because they freaked out our parents so much. Teen pop stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera sported dangly belly button bling and inspired an ill-advised generation of young women (including myself, for full disclosure purposes) to accessorize their navels.
It was also very popular to sport a row of earrings up and down each ear, with a full row of studs or hoops running from cartilage to lobe. For those of us with easily shocked parents, we sometimes were kind enough to compromise with temporary magnetic piercings or clip-on cuffs. They provided the ultimate in poseur accessories--they looked like piercings, but served a population of young people too chicken to actually pierce anything.
Yin Yang Jewelry
Don’t be fooled by the ancient symbolism of the yin and yang--most of us children of the 90s were not particularly concerned with interdependence or complementary forces driving our universe. Instead, most of us just sported whatever Claire’s told us to wear. In this case, many of us supported an ancient Taoist philosophy without even knowing it.
For the craftier of 90s children, hemp necklaces were a great logical next step up from friendship bracelets. Simply buy some hemp, knot it up with a few beads, and tie it on a friend’s neck not to be removed until he or she can no longer stand the smell. Hemp necklaces were great for those who were wannabe hippies or just wanted to look like one. Like most trends in the 90s, appearances far outweighed the actual underlying ideology a trend seemed to represent. It was unlikely any of us could speak at length about the uses and sustainability of hemp as a resource, but we’d be more than happy to wear a knotted length of it around our necks.