By LEO F. KAY
Blast Boston Bureau
It seems as if every 20 years our society feels a need to go retro, to bring back some of the styles and fads of years past as if they were suddenly cool again. In the '70s we felt the need to pull the '50s back into the mainstream through such vehicles as "Grease" and 501s. The '80s saw a resurgence of the '60s, and now the '90s have resurrected the '70s. People, there's a reason why big bell bottoms went out in the '70s. Let it go.
Perhaps by taking a look back at the '90s now we can uncover all of the folly and make the just decision that this will be no decade that requires exhuming.
The decade will be remembered as the one that ushered in -- and, hopefully, ushered out (there's still time) -- low-riding baggy pants, multi-colored amorphous athletic shoes and nose, lip and nipple rings. Years from now historians will leaf through pictures of kids wearing these getups and wonder aloud what types of cretins we were at that point in our history. Not to sound like Andy Rooney, but how do those pants stay up anyway?
I honestly never thought corduroys would reappear. It makes you wonder whether wallabees will return as the next big shoe ... And then there's the almost uniform-like ensemble of khaki chinos and light blue shirts that came into prominence with the emergence of office casual days. It's no wonder that Scott Adams has made millions lampooning office environs. We deserve it.
And about those funky basketball shoes that perpetually seem to on the verge of being swallowed entirely by the soles. If you're over the age of 13, don't have any desire whatsoever to "be like Mike" and you want a pair of Nikes you're out of luck. You can't buy a basic black or white athletic shoe anymore.
I can just imagine a conversation between a teenager and his mother 20 years from now at "Foot Locker 2000."
"Gee Mom, I really had my heart set on those obnoxious, purple and black Kobe Bryant basketball shoes with flashing lights in the heels that they're bringing back from the '90s."
"I don't know Kevlon, I just think that $850 is a little much to spend on a pair of sneakers." (Yeah, moms will still be calling them sneakers.)
Grunge ruled, if even for a short time. In the early '90s it was greasy hair, crunching guitars and Seattle. Then Kurt died and Courtney got a makeover and that was the end of that. The next craze, "alternative" grew to become so widespread it no longer lived up to its name. In fact, we became so desperate for "non-alternative" rock that the '90s will be forever linked with that god-awful time period that felt the need to drag Kiss out of retirement. Then Marilyn Manson showed up, so we sent Kiss back to the convalescent home. Only then to trot out Fleetwood Mac. Ugh.
The idiot box for the most part continued to live up to its name. Perhaps it was telling that the era's biggest show, Seinfeld, prided itself on being about nothing. Wow, that concept really cracks me up.
The rest of the fare consisted of retreads, has-beens and just plain losers. "Baywatch" is really popular, but let's be honest: It's the "Charlie's Angels" of the '90s. "The X-Files" is a "Twilight Zone" wannabe in color. The only decent show we got out of the deal was "Moesha." When evaluating the potential longevity of '90s TV shows, ask yourself this simple question: Thirty years from now, will "Herman's Head" still have a life in syndication the way "The Love Boat" does? I think not.
The emergence and proliferation of the Internet and e-mail signaled one of the big technological advances of the decade. Any invention that allows me to access Pimpdaddy.com, porn of all shapes and sizes and government reports all in the span of one hour, and then send a note to a colleague about my findings can't be all bad.
An interesting side note: The "@" symbol was a relatively obscure stopover on the keyboard prior to the Internet and e-mail blasting on the scene. Now a certified star in its own right, it rivals the symbol used for The Artist Formerly Known As Prince as the keystroke of the '90s.
We became so filled with self importance in the '90s that we devised, and used heavily, new and more efficient gadgets to "stay in touch" whenever, wherever we were. Pagers. Cell phones. Laptops. Are we all so valued that we cannot go incommunicado for a few hours?
Then there was the clone thing. Why sheep? Was the experiment done by some lovestruck farmer who just couldn't get enough of Dolly one-on-one? Anyway, judging by the backlash from the religious right maybe this development wasn't so baaaaaaad after all. Perhaps we should reserve final judgment until the Millenium to see who is appearing in the Wrigley's Doublemint commercials. Only then will we truly know if the choices were made wisely.
It's now safe to say that while the '80s were the Reagan years, the '90s were the Clinton years. The big fella from Arkansas was everywhere: on the TV, in your town meeting, and, if your measurements, er "qualifications," were right, even in your bedroom. Sadly, the Gipper has no clue whatsoever these daze that he had a decade devoted to him, and since Bill Clinton's memory seems to fail him already whenever queried on certain topics perhaps he, too, just might be totally unaware of his place in history 10 years from now. In any case, this former El Camino-driving, McDonald's super-sizing governor from just south of the country's mid-section continued to capture our votes and approval through thick and thin, earning him Prez of the '90s honors.
And then there was Newt. If "I Believe You Anita" was the bumper sticker for the '80s, then "Nuck Fewt" must hold its rightful place as the decade's most memorable political decal. After all, this rube who tirelessly espoused the virtues of family values in his rise to power was the same guy who asked for a divorce from his wife while she was in a hospital bed suffering from the ravages of cancer. A real role model for the youth of the day.
On the foreign front, the '90s had its villain who people can look back on and loathe as that generation's Hitler. Like a great boxer whose classic battles have spanned the heyday of two other worthy opponents, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein proved that he was just as up to the task of getting his ass kicked by Clinton as he was with his old nemesis, George Bush, who, by the way, does not warrant an entire decade being named after him. Or at least until Blast does its retrospective on the 1988-1992 era.
Perhaps in the 2010s, we'll make the right decision and pine for the 2000s (Boy, does that sound weird). The '90s are not worthy. Oh yeah, the getups will reappear sporadically at Halloween parties years from now, but that will be the extent of it. So take your cell phones, your pierced vagina and your "X-Files" reruns and let them rest in peace. When entering their Way Back Machine, Sherman and Mr. Peabody will bypass your generation in favor of more enlightening eras.
Finally, I don't know what decade is to blame, but Michael Bolton was on the scene in the '90s. That alone meant that it couldn't have been too good of a time.