There are few fashion clichés more resonant (read: welcome) in 2021 than ‘off-duty 1990s supermodel style’. Conversely, I wish I could promise you that everyone will soon stop talking about ‘WFH style’, but unfortunately it’s out of our hands. I know—the last thing we want are ‘inspirational’ suggestions on how to dress for a Zoom webinar, which is no doubt why our insatiable appetite for nostalgic 1990s Instagram accounts that serve up hijinks reminders of vintage supermodel life keeps on growing. I mean, who in 2021 isn’t thirsty to be teleported back to the gritty glamour of New York’s Café Tabac?
The thing about off-duty supermodel style during the decade fashion can’t forget is that it made affordable clothing resolutely aspirational. The visionary utility of the typical A-lister’s 1990s daytime look (vest top, cargo pants, baby tees, ribbed cardis, souvenir flip-flops… I could go on, but you get the point) signalled that you needed attitude and a knack for thrifting, not a trust fund, to look great. An approach that, as we collectively wade through the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression, we can wholeheartedly get behind.
Just like the budget skincare hacks that are currently influencing our beauty regimes thanks to TikTok (imagine all those wasted years when Got2B Ultra Glued gel wasn’t yet an eyebrow fixer), our wardrobes are also benefiting from the rise of affordable hyped products. The original stars of conspicuously casual 1990s style (Kate Moss, Winona Ryder, Gwyneth Paltrow) who make cameos on IG accounts such as @90ssClassy and @90sAnxiety are, once again, overhauling the way we dress in favour of a deftly economical approach. Which, in 2021, begins at pavement level.
It was back in the early 1990s that Kate Moss converted low-fi Gazelles and Sambas into a street-style phenomenon. By 1993, when Britpop was still in its nascency, Moss was already a byword for bona fide ‘Brit cool’ and simultaneously grounding the notion of a supermodel as something far more down to earth. That was the year she was snapped wearing the grey silk single-breasted suit and black leather Sambas, alongside then-boyfriend, photographer Mario Sorrenti—a look that could be lifted straight out of 2021’s supermodel playbook. The same can be said of Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1997 red-carpet appearance at the Boogie Nights premiere in New York, sporting Adidas Gazelles and a cosmic smile.
Should we be surprised that the well-priced holy grail of ‘off-duty supermodel style’—old school Adidas three-stripe sneakers—have reemerged as the shoe of the summer? Nope. Ingenious British designer Grace Wales Bonner’s cult Adidas Originals collaborations have become the fashion industry’s unofficial uniform; you’d be hard-pressed to find a modern-day supermodel who doesn’t own a pair of her remixed Campus or Samba sneakers. The secret behind the sellout success? Well, to circle back to our viral drugstore skincare analogy, Adidas low-tops are the wardrobe equivalent of CeraVe—the trusted, reasonably priced purchase that you reach for every day, knowing it delivers. And old-school Adidas sneakers have been delivering for a long time.
Your off-duty supermodel summer starts here.