Do you ever miss 90s magazines?

90s Magazines
A pile of magazines from the 2010s

I’m working on an upcoming post on popular bathing suit styles from the ’90s, so I’m elbows deep in the 90s magazines archive. (This blog would be nothing without ProQuest!) I found myself scrolling through articles with headlines that just do not hold up to today’s standards, to say the least. Much has been made of growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s and how detrimental these times were to young women. As someone who lived my formative years during this time, I have to say, it fucking sucked. And magazines were a big reason why. But do I miss them?

My answer is mixed. Back when I had my Road Darling blog (no longer available), I had a feature I called “Magazine Mondays” where I reviewed magazines every Monday. OK, the title was self explanatory. At one point, I subscribed to probably 10 magazines at a time from Self to Vogue to Essence. I LOVED magazines. I cut them up, pasted them on my door and in my scrapbook that I elevated to a lookbook. I created themes and vibes and cut out the most random stuff. I still have these books, and I have to say, they are quite comforting to look at from time to time. It’s like a passage way into the past.

90s magazines were…sucky (sometimes)

I do have to say that 2010s were at least not a terrible time for magazines. But it was more or less the beginning of the end of the golden age of magazines. I’d argue the late 1990s and early 2000s were a much worse time for magazines and their negative impact on women. Here’s just a small sampling of article titles from my bathing suit research project:

  • What Your Bathing Suit Says to Him About You: How Do Your Suits Suit Him? (Cosmopolitan, July 1998)
  • Drop 10 Pounds–by Bathing Suit Season (Redbook, May 1997)
  • Beach Slimmers: 4 easy exercises to trim bathing-suit bulges. (Redbook, 1991)

Obviously these articles were cherry picked by yours truly to prove a point that magazines were not always the best. There were plenty of articles that weren’t swimsuit-negative. However, as a Millennial, I have to say that I always simultaneously dreaded and related to these “I hate bathing suit” stories perpetuated by magazines. It’s kind of like, why do we need fashion editors and writers making us feel bad about everything? Oh right, because there’s tons of research now that negativity and fear sells.

As much as I’m often nostalgic for 90s magazines, I have to say that I do not miss them. The industry predominantly preyed on women’s fears to sell products. I’m not saying we’re any better off now, but there at least more people who get to impact what’s popular and talked about whereas before it was, at least the general public, mysterious magazine editors in New York City offices calling the shots. I think it’s better that fashion and culture is more democratic.

90s magazines had their moment, and maybe one day they’ll be back.

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