Date posted

11 Jun 2024

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The timeless trend of nostalgia

I bought some new clothes recently as I felt my wardrobe was in dire need of an update. I’d seen countless outfit inspo Reels and Videos on Instagram and TikTok that left me inspired and I decided to buy some new items to reflect this. After adding a pair of low rise flared jeans to my basket along with a fitted three quarter length T-shirt, I started to see this wasn’t a refresh of new style but rather a throw-back to a time I’d previously thought would never return -the year 2000 (Y2K) fashion. Surely not, I’d thought, as I recalled a time when I’d said aloud that flares could never come back in style and yet it truly is back and better than ever in the hearts of this generation. With reboots of countless childhood shows and movies many people, myself included, fondly remember as well as a popularity in nostalgic music trends through singers and artists such as Ice Spice and PinkPantheress, the 90s and Y2K eras truly are fully back in style.

But why is this? Why do old trends seem to never die?

Things we look back at in scorn return in full force and are met with love and fondness. Nostalgia is the term and it’s something that affects everyone no matter the time or era. And in this time of forward-thinking tech enabled advertising, it can be a very powerful tool.

The power of nostalgia

In a recent survey, Ipsos found that 44% of people in the UK agreed if given the chance they’d prefer to have grown up in the time their parents did instead. Nostalgia – a longing or yearning for the past – drives emotional connection; people always look to the past as a source of comfort and familiarity as well as a feel-good ‘blast from the past’. Brands easily tap into this too with a focus on heritage and their history – familiarity in a brand from their childhood evokes a connection with the audience and is a key driving factor in a positive reflection of the brand. 

The return of Y2K: Gen-Z’s rejection of modernity

Within the past year we’ve seen a boom in all things Y2K and 90s. The re-emergence of Y2K fashion and aesthetics is on the rise with the Gen-Z population; with Bratz inspired wardrobes, Crocs shoes – once deemed ugly – coming back into style and a sudden rise in ‘dumb’ flip-phones amongst the younger generation as a result of the overconsumption of social apps on smartphones. Heineken tapped into this themselves with the ‘Boring Phone’ campaign, a cool take on the dumb-phone boom, a clearcase flip phone perfect for a social night out without the socials on your phone to distract you. 

In their same survey, Ipsos found that 76% of people in the UK agreed with the statement that they “feel like things in [their] country are out of control right now”. In a post-covid and increasingly pressured society, people once again turn to nostalgia as a source of comfort and this in turn is reflected within design and type. Monotype, in their annual Type Trends report, pointed out the re-emergence of 90s and Y2K aesthetics with popular pixel art, digital gradients, big bold type and drop shadows being largely popular. This is strongly evidenced in the Barbie Polaroid camera packaging following the hugely popular film release last year, as well as brands such as Jello rebranding to familiar rounded and childish fonts full of 90s charm. 

Analysts noted that nostalgic trends and marketing tend to cycle on a 20-30 year basis, perfectly in time for the children of those years to now be fully fledged adults capable of purchasing products reminiscent of their childhood. It’s exactly why the Barbie and Mean Girls movies made a comeback recently and were so successful and why Bratz, Barbie and so many other dolls of yester-year are having numerous collabs across so many clothing brands today such as Bratz x Zara or Powerpuff Girls x Skinny Dip. Rakuten even tapped into both of these sectors of media and fashion through their revival of the iconic character Cher from the 90s cult classic movie Clueless in their Super Bowl ad; well known for her timeless and often recreated fashion looks as well as her unforgettable “as if” catchphrase that’s still coined today.


As well as in fashion and media, music plays such an intrinsic part in unlocking happy past memories as is evidenced in the trend of past hit tracks now being used across current advertisements. EE particularly tapped into this trend with their series of ads centred around Home, Gaming and Learn that used 90s and 00s hits such as ‘Insomnia’ by Faithless, ‘It’s Not Over’ by Klaxons and ‘So Here We Are’ by Bloc Party; tracks that are sure to bring back a wave of nostalgia for those who watch and hear them. Much the same, JD tapped into this with another 90s hit ‘Sweet Harmony’ by Liquid as well as actively bringing on the nostalgic tone through their subject of “The Bag for Life” centred around the well-known yellow JD drawstring bag and celebrating it’s 25 years since hitting stores across the UK; an item which went much further than a shopping bag, but something used throughout the years by youths alike for all manner of purposes from a gym or shoe bag to even a school bag. The relatable subject resonated with many and was a great way of using the power of nostalgia across music and experience to draw in their audience.

So what makes nostalgia so powerful? It’s us. We hold the key that makes nostalgia stick. And brands can seamlessly tap into this powerful tool if they play their cards right, and countless of them have with great success. It can rekindle old flames and strengthen existing customer bonds. Memories of a better time, of happy childhood moments, make us associate a brand, a name or colour with a time that seems better than today. We always search for the good in life and that won’t change. Nostalgia is truly timeless.