As Victoria Beckham, the erstwhile Posh Spice, stood pouting and looking miserable for the press call of the latest Spice Girls Musical Viva Forever it would be easy to speculate that the singer was looking so glum as this expression seems to be her raisin d’etre. Beckahm’s facial expression, some might hypothesise, is usually twisted in this angst-y, miserable contortion which would put to shame individuals whose profession seems to rely on their moroseness – My Chemical Romance, Morrissey and Korn do not have a patch on Mrs Beckham when it comes to looking sullen. The truth could, in fact be, that her sad expression stemmed from the fact the Spice Girls music would inevitably result in photos of the groups early days once again gaining prominence and destroying the would be fashion designer’s sartorial reputation all over again.
The Spice Girls were, to be frank, absolute fashion disasters when they first appeared in the mid 1990s. Their cartoonish image may have seemed okay at the time but looking back at the troupe no it seems hard to fathom until the realisation dawns that, in comparison to their contemporaries, they were no worse dressed than anybody else in that decade. Although the 1980s is often maligned as perhaps the worst dressed decade in history, it does not take much analysis to realise that the years that succeeded it were far worse. The 1990s, a decade which begun with the anti-fashion of grunge, ended with an era in which orange lined bombed jackets and baseball caps balanced at unwieldy angles were considered the absolute pinnacle of high fashion.
For men, the nineties represented something of a period of uncertainty as several trends had come to an end at once with no one trend, but instead an amalgamation, propping up to replace them. In Britain, 1960s style mod clothing saw something of a revival due to the success of Britpop and bands such as Oasis yet this movement also corresponded with American hip-hop becoming mainstream leading to their styles being imported. Sports brands managed to get their clothing, previously fashionable only on the field of play, to become regularly spotted on the high street and, doe to the muddled up ensembles, British men spent ten years looking like a fancy dress costume gone wrong. It was not unusual, in this period, to see men teaming Tottenham Hotspurs replica kit shirts with fishermen hats and aviators, bombers jackets and Adidas pop-open tracksuit bottoms. At this point it seemed like the simple elegance of a Cary Grant style outfit would never return.
For women, the time was not much better in the fashion stakes. Feminine styles at this point were unheard of; anybody who wished to dress in the understated look of an Audrey Hepburn or even, to use a more modern example, Zooey Deschanel would have been in the minority. Instead, denim was its most popular to the degree where it was not unheard of for women, including Kate Moss, wearing Bryan Adams-esque double denim (jeans and jacket) to be considered at the apex of style. Sneakers also replace heels and court shoes as the most popular style of shoe and combat pants were preferred to dresses which, when worn, were expected to display their designer label as garishly as possible in a vulgar display of showing how much the cheap looking outfit cost. Turtlenecks, once the domain of unpublished student poets, were also seen regularly in celebrity style guides and, for the less conservative, crop tops (tank tops revealing the midriff) were at their most popular. Sports clothes were more regularly seen than maxi dresses at this point.
Despite the fact that “sports-casual” (a term which is actually shorthand for “scruffily dressed”) went mainstream in the 1990s, perhaps it was a team of sportsmen who were attempting to dress in the most stylish way they could imagine possible which really represents the worst excesses of the decade, the nadir of style. Prior to the 1996 FA Cup final against Manchester United, Liverpool FC decided to go against the grain and wear a pre-match outfit that was sure to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. The team, in an event seen by millions around the world, took to the field in matching cream white Armani suits which earned them eternal ridicule despite being perhaps an inevitable conclusion to the fashions of the time. That they were christened the “Spice Boys” in reference to Victoria Beckham’s troupe, was a perfectly fitting testament to perhaps the worst dressed girl’s group of all time. The fact the Spice Girls were not widely ridiculed for their taste in clothes at the time is perhaps a fitting testament to the worst dressed decade in modern civilization.