Table of Contents
Fashion constantly reinvents itself, breathing new life into vintage styles with modern twists. But some trademark trends of the past truly deserve to stay buried in previous decades.
From cringe-worthy clothing to dated hairstyles, certain fads have plagued past fashion eras despite their impracticality and lack of taste. Try as they might, nostalgia-driven designers can’t redeem every retro look. As culture cycles through ongoing waves of the ’90s and Y2K revival, it seems only fitting to remember the best offbeat trends should remain long-forgotten memories. No matter how ironically stylish they might seem, these iconic fads need to stay dead and buried. Don’t call it a comeback!
Now, buckle up, buttercup; we’re taking a trip down bad fashion memory lane! From neon leg warmers to mullets and more, here are the top 10 fashion trends no one should bring back.
Related: Top 10 Dangerous Fashion Choices for Women
10 Parachute Pants
Who could forget the swishy, crunchy world of parachute pants? These oversized, baggy pants with a million pockets and a built-in belt ruled streetwear in the ’80s and ’90s. Popularized by hip-hop artists like MC Hammer, parachute pants were made from nylon fabrics that made a distinctive swishing sound when the wearer moved.
Parachute pants were beloved by breakdancers for their roomy fit and cool street style, but they weren’t the most flattering or practical fashion choice. The billowy silhouette, often paired with a matching nylon sweatshirt, could overwhelm petite frames. And good luck trying to fit parachute pants into a standard backpack or locker when out and about! Let’s leave these loud, puffy pants back in the day where they belong.
9 Jelly Shoes
Chunky, colorful jelly shoes were the footwear of choice for ’80s and ’90s kids. Typically made from rubber or PVC, jelly shoes came in bright neon shades to match every outfit. The squishy sandals were waterproof and easy to clean, though their thin straps gave wearers crazy tan lines during the summer months.
While fun and colorful, jelly shoes often didn’t provide much support. Wearing them with socks frequently led to stinky feet, too. The loud slapping sounds of jelly shoes on hard floors could drive parents and teachers nuts. Even decades later, the clunk of jelly shoes still haunts Gen Xers and Millennials. Let’s keep these rubbery sandals in the retro footwear hall of fame where they belong.
The mullet—short hair in front, long in the back—exploded onto the fashion scene in the 1970s and ’80s. Musicians like David Bowie and Billy Ray Cyrus proudly rocked mullets, as did athletes and celebrities trying to emulate a cool, edgy style. For a while, mullets were everywhere on men, women, and even kids.
But eventually, the novelty of mullets wore off. They were lambasted as one of the worst haircuts ever skewered on TV shows and comedy skits. Though a handful try reviving it as an ironic retro style, most agree this haircut should stay in the past. The mullet requires meticulous upkeep to avoid looking raggedy. Very few people can truly pull off this eccentric, polarizing look. Let’s shear this style for good.
Scrunchies dominated hair accessories and pop culture in the ’80s and ’90s. These fabric-covered elastic hair ties were thicker and bigger than regular hair elastics, often made from brightly colored silky material. Teen girls collected scrunchies in every color to match their outfits and wore them perched atop ponytails or braids.
But the novelty of oversized scrunchies eventually waned as thinner, more subtle hair elastics came into fashion. Apart from retro throwback styles, scrunchies today look bulky and juvenile for adult women. They create lumpy bumps in hairstyles and are so big they barely stay in fine or silky hair. Let’s remember scrunchies fondly for their era, but leave them back in the days of mall bangs and crimped hair.
6 Super Low-Rise Jeans
Ultra low-rise jeans dominated the late 1990s and early 2000s fashion, with the waistband plunging dangerously close to the hips. Pop stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera rocked hip-hugging jeans on stage and on the streets, as this fashion took belly button piercing mainstream.
But the intense exposure from low-slung jeans ultimately proved impractical and unflattering for everyday wear.
Sitting down became precarious and constant adjusting was needed to avoid plumber’s crack and thong-revealing embarrassments. Most body types just aren’t suited for the intense Denim Danger Zone. Low-rise jeans still peek out from time to time, but balance is key. Let’s leave the super duper low-cut styles back in the early 2000s where they belong.
The visor became a go-to ’90s accessory for keeping the sun out of your eyes while showing off your cool hair. Tennis players and golfers started the trend, then visors exploded into mainstream fashion. Teens and college kids wore them backward or tilted to the side for extra “dude” points.
But eventually, the sun-shielding benefits of visors didn’t outweigh looking like a clueless tourist or a mall cop on vacation. They cast awkward tan lines on the forehead and offered no protection for the rest of the face. Once the visor trend died down, they became signature accessories for awkward dads and crazy golfers. Let’s remember visors fondly, but there’s a reason they disappeared from fashion’s radar. The 2020s call for full coverage, wide-brimmed hats over squinty half-measures!
4 Frizzy Perm Hair
In the 1980s, perms were the rage for getting bouncy, full-bodied curls and waves—the bigger the hair, the better. Teased perms with massive frizz and volume became trendy, though difficult to tame. Women used ginormous curling irons and cans of Aqua Net hairspray to get sky-high perm styles.
But eventually, big permed hair became associated with Jersey Shore excess and melodramatic ’80s flair. All that teasing and perming led to dry, damaged locks prone to extreme frizz and breakage. Plus, who has time for the high-maintenance styling perms require? Though some try bringing back retro finger waves, most agree massive ’80s perms should stay in the past. Healthy, natural hair makes a welcome comeback.
3 Stirrup Pants
Stirrup pants—tight from thigh to ankle with fabric loops for your feet—emerged in the 1980s aerobics craze and stuck around into the 90s. The stretchy, spandex-heavy pants allowed freedom of movement and showed off leotard-ready legs. For a while, stirrup pants were hugely popular workout and casual wear.
But the restrictive ankle bands and tight silhouette ultimately fell out of fashion in favor of looser, more comfortable pants. Stirrups created awkward tan lines and bulges around the ankles and feet if sized too small. Getting in and out of shoes became a chore. Let’s remember stirrup pants for their era, but leave them to ’80s-themed costume parties and closet nostalgia. Leggings and joggers deliver the same comfort without foot traps.
2 Acid Wash Jeans
No ’80s denim look said “radical” quite like acid wash jeans. These jeans got their signature faded, mottled look from manufacturers using acids, bleach, and other chemicals to “weather” brand-new denim. Popularized by music groups like Guns N’ Roses, acid-wash jeans became staples of heavy metal fashion.
But eventually, the rough, gritty look lost appeal with mainstream fashion. The fading and patterning of acid-wash jeans couldn’t be replicated well at home, limiting style options. Plus, the chemical processing made jeans feel stiff and scratchy rather than soft and worn-in. While acid wash jeans still rock on in costume form, modern denim thankfully moves in softer, more comfortable directions now. Let’s keep the acid washing back in the hard rock 1980s where it belongs.
1 Hyper-Colored Eyeshadow
In the 1980s and ’90s, bright, intense eyeshadow was the look for a big night out. Electric blue or neon pink shadow up to the brows was not uncommon—the more dramatic, the better. Pop stars like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Paula Abdul rocked bold eyeshadow looks that became defining makeup trends.
But shimmery, super-saturated shadow can overwhelm eyes over age 25 and cause creasing. During the day, these intense hues can seem jarring and out of place in many professional settings. Though vivid eyeshadow still pops up on runways and red carpets, most have embraced more subtle, flattering neutral, and pastel shades for daily wear. Let’s save the disco shadow for Halloween and decade-themed parties where it belongs.