25 Unfortunate Fashion Trends That We Can’t Believe Happened

Posted by , Updated on February 9, 2024

“Fashions fade, style is eternal.” —Yves Saint Laurent

Ah, Fashion. The things we wear to be seen, to stand out, or to blend in with the cool kids (of any age). We all have some fashion choices we confidently made in the past that we perhaps wouldn’t share on Facebook today. This post a celebration of those things we maybe would have, should have told our past selves, or in some cases our ancestors, was not the most timeless of choices. Proof that fashion faux paus know no age, here’s a humorous and sometimes shocking look back on the looks of yesteryear and back on our high school selves. Perhaps we can have some gratitude for how far we’ve come with these 25 Unfortunate Fashion Trends That We Can’t Believe Happened.


The early 2000's gave us a few interesting fashion trends, but possibly the most cringe-worthy was the "Whale Tail," which is what it's called when the top of your thong sticks out of the top of your jeans.

Whale-tail-feamale-male-thongSource: http://www.fashionmagazine.com/ Image Source: commons.wikimeida.org

Waist training - using a corset or clincher to make your waist look smaller - used to be a thing of the past, but thanks to celebrities like the Kardashian sisters, it's making a comeback via things called waist trainers. Corset training, waist training, and tight lacing are all the same thing, and as far back as the 1500's women started using garments with "bones" (no, really, many were made from whale bone) to train their waists smaller, sometimes resulting in internal injury.

ANatural_-_BTight_lacingSource: http://www.usatoday.com/ Image Source: en.wikipedia.org

Bullet Bras were a thing in the 1950's, designed to make a woman's breasts look, well, pointy. We're still not sure why. Madonna took this look to the extreme in 1990 with her now infamous golden cone bra.

Bullet braSource: http://www.pinuppassion.com/ Image Source: en.wikipedia.org

Back in the 1400's, before pants were common, men would wear hose to cover their legs, and a fabric pouch - called a codpiece- to cover their genitalia. Eventually, these pieces became more than utilitarian and started to become decorative to exaggerate a man's masculinity. Thankfully, they died out around the time Elizabeth I became ruler of England.

Giovanni_Battista_Moroni_009Source: http://www.fashionencyclopedia.com/ Image Source: en.wikipedia.org

Trucker Hats are another gem of the early 2000's. They're literally the kind of hats truckers and farmers used to wear and that brands like John Deere Tractors would give away for free. Then, a company called Von Dutch started making them, and celebrities starting wearing them, and suddenly everyone had a trucker hat.

TruckerhatSource: http://www.today.com/ Image Source: En.wikipedia.org

Pleated jeans were popular in the 80's and 90's, though for some reason several designers tried to bring them back in 2015. Let's learn from the past, guys.

1980s_fashion_-_acid-washed_jeansSource: /en.wikipedia.org/ Image Source: /en.wikipedia.org/

The Renaissance brought us the trends of high hairlines and no eyebrows for women. Having as much forehead as possible was seen as beautiful, so women would pluck their hairline and eyebrows. The most famous example of this is the Mona Lisa.

Mona_Lisa_by_Leonardo_da_VinciSource: allwomenstalk.com Image Source: en.wikipedia.org

Back in the boy-band days of the late 90's and early 2000's, armband tattoos were the sexiest thing that any guy your parents would hate could have. While there are many options for armband tattoos, the two main designs of this particular trend were barbed wire and tribal. The female version of this was one or several symbol words, either in Chinese or Japanese.

armband-tattooSource: reddit.com Image Source: youtube.com

Some guys could carry off the "I got drunk alone with my bedazzler" look that Ed Hardy tees and jeans brought us, but not nearly as many as tried to.

ed-hardy-jeansSource: http://brobible.com/ Image Source: Mike Mozart via Flickr

Leggings aren't pants, and they never were, unless you're on your way to or from yoga class. Also note, if any part of them is in any way sheer, what you're wearing is technically tights.

leggings-and-healsSource: http://thefashiontag.com/ Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Fanny packs are a 10/10 on the utility scale but sadly only a 2/10 on the attractiveness scale. That didn't stop everyone from having one in the 90's though.

leather_fanny_packSource: commons.wikimedia.org Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Juicy Couture tried to bridge the gap between casual sweats and being dressed nice enough to go out with their track suits in the early 2000's. History is probably going to remember the Juicy Track Suit as the uniform of the "cool mom" from Mean girls.

juicy_couture_displaySourece: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ Image Source: Commons.wikimedia.org

Having a tan became en vogue when none other than Coco Chanel herself went on vacation in the 1920's and returned a lovely golden brown. Before then, having fair skin was considered highly prized. However, some people have started taking it too far with either real tanning (which can give you cancer and make you look like leather) or spray tanners (which don't ever look natural; they look orange). This seems to be a trend that just won't die in some parts of the world.

tan_lines_on_human_female_chestSource: https://www.theguardian.com Image Source: en.wikipedia.org

Elaborate, heavy (some as many as 50lbs), powdered wigs were all the rage in the 1700's for both men and women in Europe, and the absolute height of fashion during the French Revolution, elaborate and heavy styles being worn daily at Versallies. The style remained en vogue until the 1800's, the trend lasting longer for men in some places. In case you're wondering, for women, these did in fact go with waist training corsets.

Marie_Antoinette_AdultSource: http://thehistoryofthehairsworld.com/ Image Source: en.wikipedia.org

Nail art can be anything from a simple flower to some more elaborate designs with 3D objects and charms, and some of it is absolutely artwork. However, at some point, one has to ask if we're choosing form over function.

LongNailArtSource: http://elitedaily.com/ Image Source: www.youtube.com

Originating in the 1970's, shiny shirts on men made a resurgence in the late 90's and early 00's. Hopefully this time they'll stay gone.

ShinyShirtSource: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/ Image Source: Pinterest.com

Platform flip flops. If you were born between 1980 and 1995, you had a pair of these, don't lie. Probably also a toe ring.

Giant_7_Inch_Tall_Platform_Flip_Flop_ThongsSource: https://en.wikipedia.org Image Source: en.wikipedia.org

Camouflage print outside of hunting or the military. This is an ongoing trend for everything from truck paint to wedding dresses, and in the 00's, it was very popular with pop stars in colors from actual camo-green to shades of baby blue and pale pink. You're not hiding, we can see you.

FormalCamoSource: http://www.playbuzz.com/ Image Source: youtube.com User: Camoformal.com

No one is really sure where the trend of several popped collars on polos came from, but everyone was grateful when it left. A single popped collar can be traced back to men's fashion of the 1700's, but that was a much more formal affair. No matter how kind and sweet of a person you were, several popped collar polos was like wearing a sign that says, "I'm a bit of a tool."

popped-collarsSource: http://history.stackexchange.com/Image Source: Andres Rodriguez via Flickr

Gentleman, your underwear are for going *under* what you're wearing. They are not the top decorative layer of your pants, and your belt does not go below your bum. If you have to hold up your pants when you take a step so that they don't fall off, you have missed the point of pants. And if you're trying to defend this, just remember that Justin Beiber wears his pants that way.

sagger_in_parisSource: http://renegadesofjunk.com/ Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Not sure what the point of wearing a visor backwards, much less upside down was, but like most fashion, maybe the point was just to look "that way." Or maybe it was to collect rainwater. We may never know.

VisorBroSource: http://www.complex.com/ Image Source: http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/




Chunky highlights were, in hindsight, just really big stripes in your hair. That didn't stop most young women from wanting them though. Don't worry guys, your version of this was frosted tips.

chunky-highlightsSource: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/ Image Source: pinterest.com

Hoop Skirts, or Crinoline Cages, were all the rage during the Civil War era. They were a steel structure, usually covered in cloth or ribbon and worn under the skirt but over the corset, that gave the ladies a ridiculously huge bell shape, without wearing hundreds of pounds of crinoline. Thankfully, this wildly impractical garment was usually saved for special occasions.

1858_steel_cage_crinolineSource: https://bellatory.com Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org

The 1980's were the decade of shoulder pads for the ladies. Even if you didn't have self confidence, your shoulder pads did. This was known as "Power Dressing," and as the name implies, was supposed to make women look powerful.

justine_bateman_9-20-1987Source: http://www.simplyeighties.com/ Image Source: en.wikipedia.org

Finally, the trend that need be known only by it's motto, "Business in the front, party in the back."

mulletSource: http://www.smashinglists.com/ Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org