Gen Z loves the Y2K era, but they need to get rid of the bucket hats, handkerchief tops, super low rise jeans and adopt these Y2K internet habits instead.
Gen Z loves to hate on Millennials — but they’re also low-key obsessed with dressing like we did when we were kids. And I mean, fine. I was born in 1987 and, in the early aughts, I loved to hate on Boomers while rocking full-on bell bottoms. (My eyes basically rolled down the street when my mom pointed out that she’d worn them herself in the ‘70s. Cooooool, Mom. Whatever.) It’s the right of each new generation to copy the styles of the previous one, pretending all the while that they’ve created something “new.”
But if you’re looking to the “Y2K era” for “inspiration,” Gen Z, can I offer some advice? In addition to crop tops and fuzzy jackets, there are other habits you can steal from us. Let’s talk about some “Y2K” (I’m never not putting that in quotes and also by the way do you know what Y2K actually means?) internet practices you should definitely recycle — and some that need to stay in the early aughts, right alongside super-low rise flares.
Keep: Crop tops — and not sharing your real name online
Look, my mom told me in like 1999 that I would regret crop tops. But, SUCKS TO BE YOU, MOM, because I still wear them to this day. Granted, I wear them with overalls or very high waisted jeans and skirts now, but I’m still all about a cute crop top.
Sharing my real name online, on the other hand, is something I’ve had to accept because writing online is my job. But if I’d thought about it earlier, I might have chosen to use a fake name for my byline. Not because I don’t stand by my body of work — I absolutely do — but because I understand now just how much information is out there about me in a way that I didn’t before.
Keep: Fuzzy jackets — and switching up your usernames
I am here for a fuzzy jacket. I don’t know if it’s the baby raver hiding my 34-year-old body or what, but I will rock a fuzzy jacket of any length, forever. But honestly those cute little cropped ones that are coming back in fashion right now do it for me.
Fuzzy purses and bucket hats and shoes, on the other hand? Pass.
And when it comes to usernames, I won’t say I have the exact same ones I had as a teenager (and I’m not sharing them, because they’re mortifying) but my username has been pretty consistent across platforms for all of my adulthood. This creates a security risk, both digitally and in the physical world. It makes it easier for malicious actors to gain access to my accounts and it makes it easier for anyone who wants to stalk me IRL (that’s “in real life” in old-speak, Zoomers) to figure out my interests — and even my location.
Keep: Pastels — and limiting your time online
Give me a mint green and pastel pink combo any day. I will wear it; I will paint my room with it; I will paint my car with it. (True story: I had a pink station wagon with a mint green/baby blue/pink plaid interior that I bought and restored in 2002. See above.) So please keep rocking those pastels — you look adorable.
But — put down the phone. And while I’m not going to act like I’m not addicted to mine, too (aren’t we all at this point?), one really good internet habit of the “Y2K” era was that we couldn’t be online all of the time. Our access to the internet was a big chunky computer that had a literal tower to power it. They were usually in the living room or another public, family area so that parents could keep at least half and eye on us. And they used dial-up to connect, which meant, 1. It was expensive, 2. You’d get kicked off if your mom needed to use the phone, and 3. It was so slow.
Accessing the internet this way created a lot of friction. In comparison, the technology of today was purposefully made to cause as little friction as possible. While that’s brought us a lot of cool things, it also means it’s harder to not be online than to be on sometimes.
I’m not saying you should go buy a 2002 Dell computer (it probably wouldn’t work anymore anyway) and set it up in your living room and throw your iPhone away, but think of ways to create some friction in the here-and-now. For example, I don’t have the Facebook app on my phone and I access it through browser, which is a garbage experience. And I set a really complicated password for Instagram and then log out and have to open my computer to find the password and login. And I don’t have my work email on my phone, so that I can really turn off when I need to. They’re little things, but they make a big difference to my mental health.
Keep: Space buns — and getting weird
I first started wearing space buns in the year 2000. My hair was blue, dyed at home with Punky Color brand hair dye. And I still wear space buns today, albeit in my natural auburn. I expect that I will someday be an old lady with a crabapple face and pure grey space buns. They’re cute and fun and, yeah, a little weird.
And speaking of weird, the early internet was weird, y’all. It was a space where people built strange things; explored strange interests; and met other weirdos. It felt new and expansive and like possibility.
With social media, however, I’d argue that we’re all starting to look and feel and sound the same. And it bums me out. So I want to encourage anyone who’s reading this who has felt the urge to bust out and do some weird stuff online to do it. Make yourself anonymous if you have to, but be creative. Get weird. And I guarantee you’ll find other people who want to get that kind of weird right along with you.
Consider: Tendrils — and being someone else online
I’m kind of torn on the two tendrils in front of your hair thing. I wore it, religiously, for most of 2000/2001, and if you’d asked me before this “Y2K vintage” thing started, I probably would have talked trash about it. But… But… I don’t know. It’s kind of cute? Especially with those aforementioned space buns. So I’d say: Consider it. See how it looks on you and go from there. I’m not coming down hard either way on this one.
I’d also suggest considering being someone else online. Plenty of you are already kind of doing this — yeah, I’m old, but I know what a finsta is — but you can divorce your online personality even further from your “real” one, if you like. It not only helps with privacy, safety, and security, but it also makes it easier to get weird, like I talked about above. So, you know, consider it. Could be interesting, right?
Forget: Writing on the butt — and sexting with strangers
Y’all might think you invented sexting, but let me tell you about AOL chatrooms. While we didn’t have the ability to send photos or videos easily, like we all do now, there was a lot of sex talk happening in those rooms. In fact, the way you started a conversation was by asking “a/s/l”, which stood for “age/sex/location.” (And when someone asked you, you lied in your response to all three.)
But the thing about sexting with strangers is that you don’t know what’s going to happen with the information you share, including — these days — intimate photos and videos. Even people you think you can trust might use stuff like that against you. So while it can absolutely be fun and sexy in the moment, I’d recommend finding other ways to amuse yourself than sexting with strangers online. The risks just outweigh the benefits at this point.
And like, please don’t walk around with “juicy” or “sexy” or whatever on written on your butt. Extra points off it’s the butt of super short pajama shorts. It didn’t look good 20 years ago and it won’t look good today. Just say no, kids.
Forget: Super low-rise jeans — and downloading sketchy stuff
Super low-rise jeans are the enemy of everything good in this world. Speak to any woman in her 30s and she’ll tell you all about how that style made her hate her body at an age when all of our bodies were actually perfect. Anorexia and bulimia were very “in” in the early aughts — along with the emaciated, sick bodies they produced — and these jeans were at least 75% to blame. (I’m also pretty convinced they’re why Millennial women don’t have pubic hair, but that’s a topic for another day.)
And while we sat at our Dell home computers in those super low-rise “flares,” with our thongs peeking out and our hip padding flowing over the top, we were downloading some sketchy stuff. Really sketchy stuff. Person-to-person (P2P) file sharing had just reached the masses in the early aughts and we were all living for Napster or Kazaa or Limewire. We were downloading illegal music — and the malware that came with it.
Don’t do that. Just don’t download things outside of reputable websites. File-sharing might seem like a good way to get a movie for “free,” but it’s also a good way to get all of your personal info stolen. It’s just not worth it. And while you’re at it, don’t click on pop-ups. In fact, block them altogether. Nothing good ever came through a popup, I promise.
Forget: Bucket hats — and not updating regularly
I. Hate. Bucket. Hats. I realized they were coming back with The Youth a few months ago when I saw two beautiful teenage girls in LA dressed like stoner sixth-year college students in 1999. Bucket hats should only be worn by old men who are going fishing — and anyone who is rocking a full head-to-toe retro ‘90s rap star look. That’s it. They’re not cute; they look terrible on most people; and they should have been left in the ‘90s. Not even the early parts of this century, y’all. The 1990s.
And while you’re updating your hat preferences to literally anything else, update your software please. Not updating is a sin we were all guilty of back in the day — and one that many of us are still guilty of today. Updating the family computer took forever, and no one wanted to do that when they could be chatting on AIM instead.
But software updates on your computer, phone, and tablet are super important because they patch up security holes. Choosing not to update leaves you vulnerable to attack, which can lead to anything from ransomware to identity theft to a host of other problems. Learn from our early internet mistakes and take the time to update your software as soon as you’re notified about it.
Forget: Handkerchief tops — and keeping your tech on 24/7
I’m not sure why we were so into handkerchiefs in the late ‘90s/early aughts. Maybe has something to do with the 1970s revival that was happening? Like it was part of the whole “peasant” (rebranded in the 2020s as “cottagecore”) trend? Regardless, wearing a handkerchief as a shirt looks dumb. Period. Wearing one and wearing a handkerchief on your head? Blech.
Also dumb? Leaving your tech on 24/7. I know it sounds weird, but any time your computer/tablet/phone is on, it’s potentially vulnerable to attack. Get in the habit of turning your tech off when you’re not using it and you’ll not only have more protection against cyber attack, you’ll also find it easier to spend less time online.
Fashion trends are cyclical. In the 1990s, I was wearing new versions of stuff my mom wore in the 1970s. And kids today are wearing their own versions of the same things. Each generation thinks they’re doing it in a new and better way which, as I said, is their right.
But while technology trends aren’t cyclical, it doesn’t mean each generation shouldn’t do them better than the last. So, Zoomers, I challenge you: Be better than we were. And maybe you’ll convince me to finally give up my skinny jeans after all.