Oh, the 90s. What a time to be alive. If you’re so young that all you have to reminisce on the iconic decade are rumors of the supposed end of the world, broken Tamagotchis passed down to you from older siblings, and random butterfly hair clips that were long ago forgotten in bathroom drawers, you missed out. No one ever talks about the 90s because it feels like they were just here, but man was it a time to be alive. Bill Clinton was in the White House, making American finances stronger than ever; the Gulf War felt like a quick victory, even if we ended up making a mess we’d have to revisit in a short decade; and the whole world was finally recognizing just how cool it all was. There were boy bands and girl pop groups everywhere, and the occasional mix of the two (S Club 7, holla). Everyone carried their CD collection with them at all times, just in case the need to party struck. And MTV still had some music on it, intermingled with hilarious shows about the dating foibles of the days’ youths.
You know the one thing the 90s really got wrong, though? Fashion. We totally had all of fashion mixed up. It’s like we wanted to try new things and we just failed at finding successful new styles. Even our celebrities felt free to experiment with these terrible styles, and we thought they looked wonderful… well, most of the time. Some of the time. Fortunately, we’ve seemed to course correct since then and most of those 90s fads have faded (except, of course, overalls, bandannas, chokers, hemp shirts…) and our favorite celebrities were able to mend their odd appearances. Here are some of the worst cases that were revived: fifteen 90s celebs that got the desperate makeovers they needed.
15. Geri Halliwell
Geraldine “Geri” Horner was one of the most popular stars of the nineties, whether you realized it or not: she was a Spice Girl! Our beloved Ginger Spice, she was always known for having a spit fire attitude and a good time on stage. It looks like she had fun, but it also always looked like she was playing dress up with her mom’s old 70s clothes. Her hair always had wacky stripes of red, orange, yellow, and whatever other flaming colors she could imagine. And all of the girls (it was hard to really call them women back then, when they wanted to look like little girls) always looked remarkably patriotic. But these days, Geri is rocking a more classic and simple look. Emphasizing her classic features and her bombshell bod that’s she worked hard to keep in shape, Geri is looking better than ever and like a real woman.
14. Jennifer Love Hewitt
It felt like Jennifer Love Hewitt made her claim to fame in the 90s and then very quickly disappeared, right? Well, not quite. Her biggest movies were in the late 90s with the I Know What You Did Last Summer horror movies. And she was, of course, gorgeous… but not really remarkably so. Actually, for a movie star of her days, she seemed to play her appearance down and opt for a fairly plain look. She never wore clothes that showed off her body, or wore makeup that flaunted her stunning features, or did anything with all that hair on her head. She just showed up and filmed and called it a day, in typical, lazy, 90s style.
Well, these days she cares a bit more. She’s the lead on the show Criminal Minds and she keeps it tight. Getting older seems like it’s been the best thing for Jennifer, and she looks better than ever.
13. Britney Spears
Britney has had a lot of ups and downs in her career- you might say she’s currently on an up (either that or maybe a plateau?). In any case, leave Britney alone! We’re just here to talk about her transition from 90s style into… you know… fashionable style.
It was a big thing in the nineties for female celebrities to try to dress like and look like girls. Like, little girls. And Britney was good at this. Possibly because she just turned eighteen in 1999. But she loved to rock pigtails and schoolgirl outfits and roller skates and make a sexy look out of little girl clothes. Which… ew. Once the new millennium hit, Britney did a lot of growing up and wanted the world to know. That’s when she switched her style to long curled hair, tight cropped tops, ripped skin tight jeans, and the angsty young woman stereotype that made her more sexualized than ever.
12. Joseph Gordon Levitt
This dweeby little kid took a while to grow into his own. Joseph Gordon Levitt broke on to the scene back in 1991 when he got a leading role in the show Dark Shadows (recently remade into a terrible Johnny Depp movie). He went on to have recurring roles on The Powers That Be, Roseanne, and 3rd Rock From the Sun. He was one of our favorite child actors to watch! And we suppose that’s why he kind of phoned in his appearance, growing out his shaggy, boyish hair, wearing oversized plaid shirts, running around like the grungy nerd he was.
Well, it took until the mid to late 2000s for J.G.L. to realize his potential. Once he started having a more firm control of his career and the direction he wanted it to go, he came into his own. He wear dapper suits and always seems to rock that perfectly mussed hair. And he can melt hearts when he wears a bow tie.
11. Tara Reid
Tara Reid wasn’t ever really known for having a classy look or sophisticated aura. No, Tara’s more well known for her roles as sleazy but sexy young ladies in the American Pie series, Van Wilder: Party Liaison, and The Big Lebowski. As you might be able to imagine, getting older and losing the sex appeal of one’s youth didn’t sit well with Tara and she took a while to adjust. She clung to her late 90’s style much longer than she should’ve, wearing jeans that rode way too low, shirts that showed way too much, and makeup that made her seem like she was trying way too hard.
Once she figured things out, though, Tara did much better for herself. In fact, her career seems to be booming as of late. Maybe it’s due to the fact that she’s figured out a sensible style, she’s unafraid to show her body and its imperfections, and she’s absolutely ready to make fun of herself and Hollywood and all the terrible work she did in the late nineties.
10. Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Remember this little guy? Jonathan Taylor Thomas was one of our favorite child actors of the nineties- oh yes, certainly more so than Joseph Gordon Levitt. He was in The Lion King, Tom and Huck, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Wild America, Home Improvement, Walking Across Egypt, and countless other nineties titles. We loved this little rascal, not for but rather in spite of his terrible nineties style. Look at that! His over-sized terribly patterned shirt? That haircut parted right down the middle but long and glowing like the afternoon sun? And denim… so much denim.
Well, Jonathan is taking it easier these days, though he’s still acting (The Last Man Standing is all he’s done recently, but he seems open to work), but more importantly he has an entirely new look! He’s practically unrecognizable! We’re most thankful for the fixing of his hair, but we wouldn’t mind if he’d shrug off that flannel…
9. Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker has had such an odd career. She got her start as a child actress back in the eighties, though she didn’t really take off until she had her roles in Footloose and Girls Just Want to Have Fun. After that, she was off and running until she got her iconic role as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. But here’s the thing- so many people don’t think that Sarah Jessica Parker has ever been sexy. She’s been in all of these totally sexy roles, but no one thought she was sexy! Maybe it had to do with her dreadful fashion sense. Really, some of the outfits she would wear were so atrocious they’re beyond comment (see above). But as she’s gotten older, she’s certainly figured out more of what works for her and what doesn’t. She’s still perhaps not known as the sexiest lady around (which still confuses us a bit), but she’s got her own TV series where she can rake in all the ratings as one of the most popular un-sexy actresses around.
8. The Mowry Sisters
Remember the old 90s Disney Channel show, Sister, Sister? The concept was the Mowry twins, Tia and Tamera, were separated at birth but now they’ve found each other! It was a cute show… but dang, those kids weren’t all that cute. In typical twinning fashion, they always dressed alike, even if the outfits were downright dreadful. The snapshot we left above is one of their cutest moments, so don’t let it fool you. We’re talking gaudy and awful hats with giant sunflowers on the front; sweaters with patterns on it that look migraine-inducing for the poor crew; horizontal striped shirts that genuinely hurt your eyes to stare at. It was a painful show.
But the Mowry sisters have everything (like, literally everything) figured out these days. They’re both married, they have kids, they’ve got product lines and cookbooks and happy days to sing praises of- and, of course, they’re both stunningly gorgeous. No longer having to dress the same would certainly make any twin happier.
7. Mark Wahlberg
The bad-ass Mark Wahlberg that we know today wasn’t always so tough and cool. There was once a time when thinking Mark Wahlberg might be a good actor would sound like a hilarious thought. But that was long ago, but in the days of New Kids on the Block…
Marky Mark got his start when he saw how cool his brother Donny was (singer in New Kids on the Block) and how awesome fame could be. He started out with modeling- that’s where we get a lot of his ridiculous snapshots. He then moved on to rap which, at the time, was something only the cool youths were doing. Now, Mark Wahlberg’s raps are just about the funniest things to listen to. Then he moved on to acting. But before he figured out he could be a serious actor (a revelation that likely occurred around 1997 with Boogie Nights), he looked like a damn ridiculous child. Nowadays, he certainly looks like a grown man that would beat the shit out of his former self.
6. Will Smith
Will Smith is another artist that’s had a lot of ups and downs throughout his career. He’s always seemed to have our love and admiration, though he has certainly down some criticism-worthy moves in his career (say, his whole rap career?). Will, of course, got his start on the show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air as the too-cool-for-school kid that just couldn’t always fit in with his bourgeois cousins. Perhaps the funniest part of the sitcom (besides everything Carlton did) was Will’s fashion choices. Every time he wore overalls, but just on one shoulder; or all of the patterned vests; or the teeny tine exercise shorts! It was all too much.
Will Smith was quick to graduate beyond 90s style and seemed to take on a more serious demeanor (as well as a serious approach to his career) around the turn of the century, when he starred in The Legend of Bagger Vance. Since then, he’s been able to pull off suave and cool just as well as anybody- until he starts rapping.
5. Mayim Bialik
Remember the adorable show Blossom? It ran from 1990-1995 and was all about a young girl growing up in a house run by men. The star of the quirky sitcom was Mayim Bialik, who you certainly can recognize from either this show or her more modern hit, The Big Bang Theory, though she’s had plenty other roles to speak of (Beaches, Pumpkinhead, The Secret of the American Teenager).
We know you’re probably sitting there thinking, “Amy Farrah Fowler? She’s not pretty, she still needs a makeover.” Fair, but we retort: that’s not Mayim, that’s her character. Check out this picture of Mayim. She certainly knows how to make her style work for her, and that style certainly doesn’t include any of Blossom’s oversized sweaters or enormously horrible hats.. Her hair in soft curls coupled with some light contouring and blush make this plain girl stand out as an elegant beauty!
4. Naomi Campbell
Naomi Campbell has never been ugly. It’s just not possible- she’s one of the hottest models we’ve ever seen. This supermodel has been walking the runway since she was merely 15 years old, and she’s gotten more and more attractive with every year since. However, her nineties weren’t exactly… adorable. For a while, she tried a drastically asymmetrical haircut (which was totally rufus back then)- but it actually looked like someone just pranked her by shaving off half her hair. She also was known for flaunting some… not so great styles. In general, the 90s style that she played in to of dying black hair lighter colors, or of re-appropriating tribal type clothes for American fashion wasn’t really all that cool. Looking back, it kind of feels downright offensive. Luckily, Naomi pulled out of her downward spiral and looks better and classier than ever. Really, she doesn’t look like she’s aged a day.
3. Justin Timberlake
Not to bring up bad memories or anything, but remember when he hit the town with his girlfriend Britney and the two were both dressed head to toe in denim? He wore a denim suit. That’s a thing that our Justin did.
The 90s weren’t a cute time for Justin, though all of the preteen girls of the world were too smitten with NSYNC to notice just how terribly ridiculous his gelled curls were, or his terrible medallions that we horribly termed “ice,” or his favorite studded leather coat. Oof. Of course, Justin is much better and it seems that he took a turn for the better after the death of NSYNC. He went solo in the early 2000s and he started cutting his hair shorter, wearing more fashionable clothes, and stopped trying to impress the childish Britney Spears. His classier looks and stunning sensibilities these days were good enough to woo Jessica Biel, so it seems fashion won in the end.
2. Courtney Love
There’s a lot we could talk about, when it comes to Courtney Love. The woman has had some really sweet and gorgeous moments. Then again, she’s had a lot of grungy and sleazy moments. She’s a… very well rounded individual.
This 90s grunge singer was perhaps most popular in the decade preceding the new millennium, but that doesn’t at all make it her most successful decade. She looked terribly pale, wore awful and gaudy makeup, and sometimes attended photo shoots wearing hardly anything at all. She’s confessed to being pretty high or drugged up most of the decade, especially following the death of husband Kurt Cobain. It was a hard and dangerous time in her life, one that could have ended catastrophically. Thankfully, she pulled out of the tail spin and looks a lot healthier and happier these days. Her love for her family is what keeps her vibrant and lively (that and some plastic surgery), though her extensive drug use will likely keep her from ever being as vivacious as she was in her youth.
1. Gwen Stefani
Oh, Gwen. Gwen, Gwen, Gwen. What ever were you thinking?
Back in the 90s, Gwen was the lead singer for a pop-reggae band called No Doubt. They were moderately popular, especially among the youthful rebellion crowds that thought they were being so dope by listening to this island-infused music. Like, okay, we get it, you once saw the movie Dazed and Confused and now you think you are weed culture. Alright…
Anyways, Gwen totally loved to cultivate this rebellious, angsty, doesn’t-give-a-flying-fart-what-you-think look, and that entailed odd dyes in her hair, gems above her brow line, lipstick the color of rotting corpses, and eyebrows so thin they might just disappear. We think she’s made a vast improvement today with a style that suits her age and personality. Gwen’s got a much more natural look now, one that flaunts her experience while also maintaining her youthful vigor. Rumor has it she’s had some plastic surgery done too, but who cares? She still looks like herself, maybe now more than ever!