by melange

Y2K fashion, also known as “millennial” or “Gen-Z” fashion, is a trend that has been gaining popularity in recent years. This trend is characterized by a nostalgic, retro aesthetic that harkens back to the early 2000s, when the internet was still relatively new and smartphones were just starting to become mainstream.  We are in the early part of the new year, and the trend is still going strong. The trend has hit the world heavily, with Gen Z spearheading it, and West Africa has not been left out. It is already a popular style choice in any space that has the Gen Z demographic represented. The style is characterized by various elements, including denim, velour tracksuits, mini skirts and dresses, cargo pants, crop tops, chunky sneakers, and various accessories that complete the look.

Omoloto, a fashion enthusiast, shared her exposure to YK2 fashion and the influence of social platform Pinterest. “I have always loved fashion, so I used to be active on Pinterest and eventually stumbled on that side. It caught my eye, and I just knew that was what I wanted to look like. At this point, I would say it is effortless. I have found that combining different pieces comes naturally to me, and I can always make it work. It took a while for me to get to this stage, though.” 

On the global stage, celebrities like Ice Spice, Pinkpathnress, Playboycarti, and Jules Konde ( French footballer) have all been actively involved in the reemergence of Y2K fashion. On the Ghanaian and African fronts, Amaarae, Black Sherif, Rema, Ayra Starr, and Tyla have been heavily associated with the fashion trend. Their selfless expression through fashion and wide following have infected their younger followers with the fashion trend. Unbeknownst to people who have attributed the trend to affiliates of the only alternative community, there are enthusiasts in other communities like the gaming community, K-pop, K-Drama, and anime communities, and the fashion community, who have all brought into the fashion style.

 With an increased interest in streetwear fashion, thrift culture, and an influx of pop culture interest from the West and Asia in Accra and other parts of the country, and by extension, the growth of the alternative community in Ghana, we have seen younger people become daring and expressive in what they wear and how they want to appear. From social media to pop-ups, parties, and events, you are bound to see someone rocking a piece that is representative of the YK2 fashion era.

Even in mainstream media, we have seen more traditional creatives, sports, and business institutions employ Y2K aesthetics in their music videos, imagery, and advertisements. With young adults serving as a large consumer base, it is understandable why more traditional creatives and these institutions will employ such aesthetics in their works to attract interest from the Gen Z populace. 

In all these, there have been several questions that have been raised. Like, why Y2K? Why are Gen Z-ers so enthusiastic about things they were either too young to remember or were not around to enjoy? Is it tactful to connect with the older generation? Whatever category of question you side with, one thing is for certain: the trend is still growing and spreading fast.

While the trend grows and we find answers to the questions above, there have been some concerns raised among fashion enthusiasts who have been vocal about their displeasure with how people have lumped up different styles as Y2K fashion when, in fact, some of the styles are not necessarily Y2K fashion. Like every growing lifestyle, there are bound to be some mix-ups when it comes to what is what; however, the onus falls on stylists, designers, and people within the fashion space to set the records straight to prevent further misconceptions and mix-ups.

In setting the records straight and providing more information regarding Y2K fashion, its backstory, its reemergence, and its influence on not just fashion but the lifestyle of young people in Accra and Lagos, we spoke to people with first-hand experience and knowledge on the subject matter.

Akosua (iluvakosua)
My introduction was through the community of fashion enthusiasts on social media on Pinterest, TikTok, and Instagram. True Religion, Baby Fatigan, The Baambo Earrings, Juicy Couture, and that drew my attention to Y2K as well as artists who incorporated it into their music, like Amaarae. Late 90s and early 2000s fashion that has been heavily influenced by black culture or the golden age of hip-hop Snoopdog, Lil Kim, and Tupac pushed Y2K into the world through their music and music videos.

It’s easier to put together a Y2K piece because of its timelessness, and it goes with almost everything. From formal to casual, from a party to making a statement, Gen Z is open-minded and pushes certain ideals through Y2K by taking the foundation of what it was and making it our own. And we find ourselves in a nostalgic appreciation era where we look back on what has been there and appreciate it for what it is.

Hameeda (ham_meeda)
My understanding of Y2K is that it is different, it is nostalgic, it is sexy, it is hot, and it is very flexible. I think Alte Music made people aware of Y2K, which increased their interest in it. Also, I do believe there is a correlation between Alte culture and Y2K fashion because both strive to be different and appear unique. And by extension of that, someone who is a fan of alternative culture will most likely be involved in Y2K fashion. So yeah, I do believe both feed off each other.

Faustell Cofie (the.cobbi)

My first introduction to Y2K was like everyone else; movies and music videos from my childhood. Seeing movie stars like Van Vicker or Jackie Appiah in a movie dressed up as gangsters or cool kids in some university flick, or even the overly religious convert trope. Then we saw a resurgence, followed by an insane wave of nostalgia. And that’s what Y2K is to me—just nostalgia. And it’s a little weird thinking that my generation sort of created an entire fashion aesthetic. Looking back and thinking of past art and fashion movements like the Victorian and Edwardian eras, the very popular Renaissance, or even the “Vintage” era in the early 2000s. This is just a couple of kids finding cool stuff from the past. It is ironically funny.

I am probably the wrong person to ask this. I never plan a fit; it’s all on the spot. That’s the fun in it for me. But in my opinion, it’s not that hard at all. I think the complexity comes when you want to make the piece align with your style or have a specific direction in mind. Now you have to think. That’s just the first part; we haven’t even begun to talk about going out into the conservative public dressed like “that.”

Jude Mills (jude8mills)

My style and the Y2K style are heavily influenced by what I saw growing up immersed in the inematic and musical landscape that I was surrounded by. Nollywood, Hollywood, and Ghanaian movies, Nigerian, Ghanaian, and Western music videos, and pop culture mainly from the “Year 2000” (Y-2K) and a few years down that line played a major role in defining what that style meant for me. I feel like all this happened because our part of the world was trying to recreate our own version of dressing alternatively, accompanied by the stylishness and pizzazz that came with it, and they slayed! Seeing how these actors and musicians from Ghanaian and Nigerian movies and music videos were able to blend the western aesthetic with their own version of non conventional fashion choices was very exciting for me, especially as a child who used to question fashion choices a lot. 

The resurgence of Y2K fashion in this generation can be attributed to fashion’s cyclical nature, where fashion trends often disappear only to resurface with renewed vigor after a generation or two. The trend is further fueled by a growing interest in seeking inspiration from old movies, especially those from that era. The popularity of thrifting (where people come across these vintage pieces) and a desire to emulate the distinctive style of personalities from the Y2K era also play a role.

I believe that there is a huge connection between alté culture and Y2K. I believe that Y2K paved the way for alté culture to thrive. The elements present in Y2K—the colours, themes, and unrestricted nature—resonate deeply with the Alté community. This relationship allows for one to feed off the other in somewhat of a symbiotic relationship, as it is evident that alté enthusiasts draw inspiration from the distinctive Y2K style, incorporating it into their fashion choices and fostering a dynamic interchange between the two. Ultimately, the alté community serves as a booster for the spreading of the Y2K culture, contributing to its unique identity and allowing for a continual evolution of expressive and daring fashion trends.

Written by: Nana  Kojo Mula and Brian Benjamin

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