Hi, I’m Hanifah, and although I’m reluctant to admit it, I’m a typical Millennial. I’m always busy, the internet is a huge part of my life, and I have some friends that I see on FaceTime more than in real life. But like so many other Millennials, I’m less reluctant to admit that I love the ‘90s.
I'd only just started school in the year 1999, so I know that I only got to experience a small, very childish portion of the ‘90s, but It just feels like it was a simpler (read: better) time. And I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. In the last decade or so, the ‘90s has definitely had a renaissance – why else are there are so many 20somethings running around in chunky trainers and binge-watching Friends? So, at the end of last year, I decided to take a trip back to 1999 to see if they really were the good old days.
I’m not an actual time traveller (obviously), so I had to do quite a bit of preparation to take myself back to a pre-Y2K world. I wasn’t totally crazy about the idea of roaming the streets of London looking like a Spice Girls wannabe on my own, so I roped my supportive colleague Tom into joining me on the journey.
So, once we raided our parent’s garages and gathered everything we needed, we said goodbye to modern life and went back to the nineties...
So, I thought I'd ease myself in on the first day with a sportswear look – brightly coloured tracksuit, scraped back hair, and a puffa jacket. Think Sporty Spice or Bianca from Eastenders. I’d meticulously planned out my outfit on the Sunday night, and I thought that all I’d have to do on Monday was throw it on, pop my sim card in my Nokia 3310 and be on my ‘90s way. But oh, how I was wrong.
I completely forgot that I use my iPhone as my daily alarm, so I overslept! To make matters worse, I couldn’t pry open the Nokia with my weak Millennial fingers. And not only was I phoneless, but I didn’t have any earphones that were compatible with my cassette player (damn you, Apple), so I spent my bus journey in complete silence. I had a copy 1999’s bestselling book (Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban) in my bag, but I was getting a few sideyes from my fellow commuters, so I thought it would be best to keep a low profile. By the time I made it into the office, I was already pretty done with 1999, and I couldn’t even message my group chat to tell them just how done I was.
Despite my various tech disasters, no one in the office really guessed exactly what I was doing, I think most people just thought I was trying out a new look for myself. Not wanting ‘90s week to be over before it had even began, Tom and I decided to go vintage shopping to stock up on some statement ‘90s looks.
People may not have realised I was doing some kind of project in my sportswear look, but in this outfit, they definitely did. The moment I left my house, I got stares. I couldn’t work out if this was because I had an irrelevant video game character (sorry Crash) plastered on my chest, or because my giant flared trousers were dragging through every single puddle I passed.
The day only got worse when it came to skateboarding. Tom and I had initially challenged ourselves to try and do an Ollie, but we threw that out the window when we got outside and realised that neither of us actually knew what an Ollie was. Instead, we settled for rolling around aimlessly until we crash-landed in the walls.
I had planned to go to dinner with a friend, but I just wanted to go home before anyone else saw me in my soggy flares – I was all cringed out for the day. Now in normal circumstances, cancelling would involve sending a long, apologetic text message laden with emojis, but it was 1999, and I didn’t have that luxury.
Being the millennial that I am, I was kind of hesitant to phone my mate just to tell her one thing, but what was meant to be a quick two-minute call turned into longgg catch up.
It was only the second day of the week, but without constant Whatsapp messages and social media, I already felt so disconnected from everyone that it felt good to find out what was happening outside my bubble. If I actually lived in the ‘90s, I probably would've spent a fortune on credit just to stay in the loop.
I felt super cute in this outfit – professional yet stylish, Hilary Banks meets Hillary Clinton. So I can tell you that my confidence was somewhat knocked when I walked into the office and heard one of the News Editors say “Hani’s got her Halloween costume on.”
Halloween had been and gone. I guess BuzzFeed UK just wasn’t ready for my preppy realness, so I held my bucket hat high and went along with my day.
I usually spend a good few hours every day wasting my time on my phone, and with my Nokia up and running, I thought it was a good time to see what procrastination tools it had to offer. Most millennials remember the game Snake with warm nostalgia, but I quickly learned that it’s actually awful.
I did, however, discover that you can create your own ringtones on the Nokia, and spent about an hour trying to work out how to play "Happy Birthday" on the number keys, which is way harder than it sounds. Seeing as I always have my phone on silent (and it sounded awful), this whole exercise was kinda pointless, but It left with me a strong sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Tom and I both agreed that we’d kind of flopped our daily activities so far, and hump day was the perfect time to go into the arcade in town. I had so many great memories of spending weekends down at the arcade, and I was worried that Dance Dance Revolution, Time Crisis, and all my other faves wouldn’t stand the test of time. Ignoring the fact that Tom beat me in every single game we played, going to the arcade was the most fun I had all week (and the most exercise I’ve had in ages).
This grungy look was quite easily my favourite of the week. It was simple and relaxed, but the choker and fishnets really pulled it together. When I left my house, I felt like a sulky ‘90s teen. It was raining as well, which made it even more legit.
The only issue was that I had my Now That's What I Call Music! 44 cassette playing through my headphones. Something tells me that grunge kids weren’t listening to the Vengaboys back in ‘99.
Who knew double denim could look so wrong?! I looked like an extra from the Full Monty. Even though it was a ‘90s staple, the hairstyle didn’t help either – nothing could rescue the awful outfit. By this point, I was ready to leave 1999 in the past where it belonged, but there was one thing I hadn’t done yet – watched a VHS.
I assumed that my local library would have a good selection, but I got there, it was closed. Had I been able to use Google, I would’ve known that it’s shut every Friday, but it only felt right to finish the week with another unproductive trip.
I ended up raiding the video cabinet at my mum’s house and settled for Aristocats, which was probably what I was actually watching back in 1999. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to remember how to set up a VCR machine, but surprisingly, it all came flooding back – from matching the coloured wires to their inputs, to getting overly annoyed that the video tape hadn’t been rewound.
Living like it was 1999 for the week was truly eye opening, and while I still have a lot of love for the ‘90s, the rose tinted glasses are well and truly broken. Some of my main takeaways from the week are that fashion in the ‘90s was all about showing your personality through clothes and that patience was an essential virtue, because almost everything took twice as long to do as it does now.
Even though I was stripped of my daily social media feeds, I actually ended the week feeling more connected to the people around me, because all my interactions had been meaningful. I think I’ll be taking a leaf out of the ‘90s book when it comes to switching off from constant technology, but double denim can stay back in 1999.