The “summer jam”—known to the olds as hit pop songs that blare out of cars during the warmer months, when our bones hurt less—is a special phenomenon. While there’s a #1 song on the charts every week/season of the year, there’s something extra catchy, disposable, and hyped about the songs that gain popularity from May through August.
This may be because the youth have lots of free time to dance to said songs, or because said dancing is done while wearing the least amount of clothes, or because summers have traditionally been low on new television and humans require constant amusement (which also explains the dancing and skimpy clothes). Either way, pop culture pundits lineup to guess which songs will catch the ears of the youth and gain summer jam status.
Based on the clothes being mass-marketed to youth this summer, most of which recall the summer styles of at least twenty years ago, I’d like to avoid trying to speculate about what upcoming hits are going to catch on and instead suggest the ‘90s dance/house hits that inspired these garments. You wouldn’t know it from watching any of their videos, but fashion-wise, this is the summer of Soul II Soul, or the runway finale scene from Don’t Tell Mom, The Babysitter’s Dead), or Technotronic, right down to the bra-as-top and fannypack. So let us look at a few of the looks currently being pushed on teens for the summer wardrobes, and I’ll predict the yester-hit that should rise again and go with.
Hippychick - Soho (1990)
While this semi-obscure ‘90s dance hit didn’t take off until the fall of 1990, the song still has a summer sound, perhaps due to the loping dance beat (which is actually stolen from Soul II Soul) or the hypnotic Smiths sample that grounds the whole song. Either way, it’s a perfect example of ‘90s house music— breezy, covertly political (there’s a mention of the British miners’ strike, among other anti-Thatcherisms), and infectious.
The look, of course, is very summer 2013; the group’s singers, who are actually twins, seem to be splitting a pair of giant ‘90s earrings, which are everywhere now. Between the two of them there’s a tunic-y white number, like this dress from Forever 21, because the fast-fashion world is OK with shapeless, as long as it’s sleeveless and short. Then again, if you want longer sleeves but a tighter fit, Topshop’s got just the thing in blue, and if you hate the whole hippy look of “Hippychick,” Nasty Gal, which is your number one source for clothing that can only be described as animé-skank, has a version of the video’s off-the-shoulder gold dress.
For people of a certain age, “Buffalo Stance” is one of those songs that you unwittingly remember way too many of the words to, and, along with “The Humpty Dance” and “Must’ve Been Love,” it sucks up enough memory to make it impossible to learn any new names, addresses, or valuable information, period. So sorry, any people I’ve met in the last ten years, but my brain is too clogged with the words “I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom” to remember what you’re called.
Despite still having no idea what a “buffalo stance” is (or even the will to Wiki it), I do know that spandex tube dresses have returned from the ‘90s with a fiery determination; while the video for the above Roxette song doesn’t feature any remarkable spandex looks, the song is from the Pretty Woman soundtrack, and it is worth noting how many of today’s youth-oriented retailers are offering spandex dresses that are takes on Julia Roberts’ hooker outfit from the movie. The dress Neneh wears is tight, but at least it’s solid, and accented with a giant gold rope chain and bomber jacket (perhaps because this song was also released in summer/fall, and hit the top of the UK charts in October). You can find a low-key bomber at Topshop, or something a little more graphic at Forever 21.
“Groove is in the Heart” actually was a proper summer jam, although, if any song from World Clique deserves to come back on the ‘90s fashion wave, it should be “Try Me On I’m Very You.” Sadly, that song never had a video, let alone one with so many bright, iconic looks that essentially defined the New York club kid look of that decade. Granted, the club kid thing got a little creepy, but at its start, the style was a fun, colorful throwback to the ‘60s and ‘70s with some ‘80s spandex thrown in for good measure and, since vintage shoes can’t withstand a single hour of dancing at Disco 2000, a pair of Fluevog shoes to round out the look.
Depressingly—yet not surprisingly—as tight and short as Lady Miss Kier’s looks were in the “Groove is in the Heart” video, they’re modest by today’s standards. Sure, colorful jumpers and bodysuits abound, at least at Topshop, but the ‘60s influence is gone. Nasty Gal has a dress that has the ‘60s element, but by way of hooker (and really, if that’s your style, more power to you, it’s just a little sluttier than the source material). You’re not going to find any platformy shoes, either, unless you count those weirdly orthopedic-looking platform sneakers that are ugly in ways Easy Spirit never could have imagined.
Bonus: Men’s Fashion - Deeper Shade of Soul - Urban Dance Squad (1990)
Since it’s harder to find pictures to back this up, please take my word as someone whose window looks out on a Flight Club store, a fancy sneaker shoppe that’s mobbed with tourists and hip footwear-obsessed youth all day long, that young men are starting to look like this again, if they ever really stopped (although, if you’re thinking of the white guy with long hair and a t-shirt tucked into jeans, that’s a look nobody should ever start if they can help it).
The closest evidence I can find online is one of the ye olde Stussy shirts at Urban Outfitters (not that a shirt is in the video, but the overall skater look is all ‘90s Stussy and Vision Street Wear, all the way). Like “Hippychick,” “Deeper Shade of Soul” was more of an obscure hit, made by a bunch of Dutch guys, and hit the charts in the spring of 1991. I’m not sure if today’s Flight Club kids would get into it, but they should, just like men’s street fashion should move beyond giant t-shirts and shorts (but not into spandex, please Jebus).