The 1990s were an exciting time

90s: Zig-a-zig-ah

Marlene Dietrich, in the 1930 film Morocco, kissing another woman. Jane Birkin in her late sixties, walking barefoot through Provence in hot pants, butt and basket. The saying of the flapper girl Tallulah Bankhead: "My father warned me about men and liquor, but he never mentioned women or cocaine ..." - The most exciting moments in fashion had been missed as a child in the nineties.

This time was, idealists claim, shaped by nirvana and taste designers like Helmut Lang, Calvin Klein, Jil Sander and Tom Ford for Gucci. From music, from house and drum and bass, from open-air festivals where British super bands like Oasis, Blur, Massive Attack and The Prodigy played. Everything was true. But only for those who embarrassedly set themselves up in exactly the same way.

In truth, everyday life was affected by Ricky Martin, Macarena and the reputation "Zig-a-zig-ah". And to be honest: It wasn't even that one found that particularly outrageous. The feeling of things, of the world, of one's own development was initially indifferent. Style was irrelevant, the only thing that really mattered was that it came across as such. When the look of the nineties is worn again today, unlike the sixties, you don't long for that time back. You don't mean the nineties. The slightly modified trends simply look like new for the next generation.

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You get a bit annoyed when you describe what the writer Christian Kracht once called "the Gwyneth-Paltrow years": this overall presentable, but completely mysterious and latently rotten era. She started off handsomely, with Naomi Campbell, who in addition to her fellow supermodel colleagues in motorcycle boots and hot pants through George Michael's video clip Freedom '90 danced. It also continued entertainingly, with Kate Moss, who everyone claimed was the one who carried anorexia into the world (in retrospect, the pictures from back then, her figure, seem just average - she only got worryingly thin in 2005 when she joked around with Pete Doherty ).

The shopping satire continued in 1995 Clueless, and although it was very funny, it did not provide any fashion orientation, nor did the two top series Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210, whose looks, if they were ever to the point, looked completely mainstream when they were broadcast in Germany.

What trends were there at that time, what could one agree on?

You saw many black motorcycle leather jackets, floral dresses for Doc Martens. And chokers, like Natalie Portman, arguably the most beautiful child of all time, she in Léon - the professional wore. You saw scrunchies hairbands on the Olsen twins.

Many women copied the one reminiscent of a pineapple "Rachel haircut" by Jennifer Aniston from the sitcom Friends. At rush hour (love parade) administrative officials were seen dyeing their hair blue for a weekend and strapping a vacuum cleaner to their backs. You wore a little Stüssy, A Bathing Ape, X-Girl. Tight tops, wide pants, short skirts. Adidas shell tops. Colorful New Balance sneakers. In short, none of this had any long-term effects. Let alone iconic charisma. The rebellion consisted of non-rebellion, passivity or autoaggression.

Kurt Cobain appeared on the scene in 1990 and left in 1994. What he was wearing seemed particularly indifferent: striped shirt, cardigan, Levi's and old Chucks. He was a brilliant rock musician who wrote eternal hymns and a whole range of even more touching songs. But he was also a wimp (urban men around forty wear his outfit to this day, if only because something can be hidden underneath, beer bellies, lack of ambition ...).

Politically speaking, the 1990s began on November 9, 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and ended on September 11, 2001 with the attack on the World Trade Center. Shirt-sleeved said, people had other worries than fashion. But they also had them at other times, and that is exactly what found its expression, and that's how fashion came about in the first place. That made it a culture of renewal, a means of communication for young people. In the nineties, as I said, they didn't want to renew anything, but were satisfied when they quartered ecstasy pills in Adiletten, with the fin de siècle and the weakling argument behind them: "Somehow I'm so tired of politics." In any case, they slept in front of MTV while George Bush drafted the New World Order and Roman Herzog demanded that a jolt should go through Germany.

Why was everyone collectively weak back then? As blocked as society appeared, its technological development was frantic. It was as if technology sucked away all energies, all sex and all creative life plans so that people could act even faster, more effectively and more profitably. At any rate, in the early 1990s you were still a nerd if you sat at the computer every day. By the late nineties you were already a weirdo if you didn't.

At least Miuccia Prada was able to score decisive points in view of this development. Her autumn collection 1994 appeared exactly at the navel-free mini-skirt zenith, all skirts ended at the particularly unsexy-looking length just below the knee. For Spring / Summer '96, she presented a collection that was so intentionally ugly that it got in the press geek chic baptized. And cheered. Strange color combinations, seventies prints and naive cuts, there was something downright perverse about the whole thing. Since then, Miuccia Prada has been an infallible oracle among designers.

The masses then actually came up with something else of their own that initially had nothing to do with fashion and yet became one of the most striking trends of all time: People began to manipulate their own bodies like bored, auto-aggressive teenagers. And as incoherent as the fashionable image has remained, the nineties can be identified just as precisely by their bodies. Butt antlers, neck or tribal tattoos, perforated eyebrows, tongues, nostrils or navel, noses that are too narrow and implants that have slipped out of place - they all say today: yes. It didn't matter. But I was there.

Rebecca Casati, 44, wrote in the nineties about fashion and pop for "Jetzt" and "SZ-Magazin", later for "Spiegel". She is currently developing a series of books for Suhrkamp. She was married to Frank Schirrmacher until his death.