Mid-2000s Fashion: A Requiem

Fashion is cyclical, and that cycle is about 20 years long. That’s why all those teen whippersnappers are dressed like 1994 Angela Chases and Corey Matthewses right now (although we know that the truth of 90s fashion was a little different). And that’s why styles from 5-10 years ago (think The O.C., Laguna Beach, Mean Girls) … well, they’re old enough to make you look out of date, but too recent pass as a vintage look.

As I am re-watching Veronica Mars, I’m finding myself really missing some of those mid-2000s styles. Others… not so much. We won’t be seeing a lot of these 2003 – 2009 fads again for a while, so consider this a requiem. A long time ago, we used to be friends…

Boot Cut Jeans

Occasionally you hear that boot cuts are coming back for real this time, and maybe it’s true – denim follows different life spans than other fashion, multiple jean styles are acceptable at any time, and enough people resisted the skinny jean trend that boot cuts never really died. Though I like skinny jeans because it’s easier to find pairs that aren’t too baggy, boot cuts were frankly more flattering on more people. I usually stick with trouser jeans or straight leg when I don’t feel like wearing skinny jeans, but I’m seriously considering trawling e-bay for some 2007-vintage Seven For All Mankinds or Luckys. I’m old, I do what I want.

Little Corduroy Jackets

Some quality bootcuts, too.

If Veronica Mars makes you miss one thing, it’s cropped, fitted little corduroy jackets that were acceptable for indoor and outdoor wear and made great layers over shirts and hoodies alike. These are another thing I’d totally bring back without shame – I have some more blazer-y ones that I may or … may wear to the office sometimes.

Aviator Sunglasses

These haven’t gone all the way out, but they’re nowhere near as ubiquitous as they were a while ago. Everyone’s trying to wear Tom Cruise in Risky Business frames these days, but we still need a few Tom Cruise from Top Guns.

To save you the trouble, I googled “when was Kardashian in back brace.” Never. The answer is never. This is a belt.

Fitted Tops That Weren’t Too Short Or Too Long

I blame skinny jeans for this. A lot of ladies wanted or needed to cover their butts in skinny jeans, and suddenly long tops came into fashion. Others wanted to balance fitted skinnies with looser tops, and billowy tunics were here. Then, those damn teens got their hands on fashion, and those awkwardly short yet wide shirts from the 90s came back. We never noticed it happening, but somehow it’s a lot harder to find a shirt that’s not skin-tight, but doesn’t billow. A top that isn’t butt-covering long or belly-baring short, but lands right at your hipbone. Suddenly every shopping trip turns you into freaking goldilocks, searching for the shirt that’s just right. It didn’t used to be like this.

Juicy Tracksuits

Last place you’d see these tracksuits: an actual track. Can you imagine running in head-to-to velour?

I think J.Lo started this one, but America’s responsible for following. These were the outfit that said “I spent a lot of money to wear velour and look like I’m ill.” I never had a pair, but if I were the age I am now when these were popular, I would have probably cave. After a while you just like to be comfortable. If you wore one of these, you probably jazzed it up with some big ol’ hoop earrings.

Snarky Message Tees

At the time, I always used to think that these should read “I’m Not Funny — But My Shirt Is!” Clearly my attitude toward others hasn’t changed in the past decade. I’ll admit that some of these were sort of funny, in a bumper sticker, key chain, greeting card sort of way.

T-Shirts From Destinations You’ve Never Visited

In 2005, it didn’t matter if you’d never been to Ed’s Bowl-A-Roll, Springville Prep Lacrosse Camp, or Buenos Aires. It was enough to had a shirt that said you had. It was so bad that if you’d wear a t-shirt from a vacation or activity, one of your friends would always ask “Now, is that real, or…?”

‘Return To Tiffany’ Jewelry

Man. Could we have thought of something less really expensive to have cycle in and out of fashion? It was these, then those Italian charm bracelets, then regular charm bracelets, and now finally Alex and Ani, which is at least cheap, finally. If you wear these with the right outfit and accessories it’s still doable.

Now, when they went missing, how many of these bad boys do you think actually got returned to Tiffany & Co.?

Che Guevara, For Some Reason

The most mid-2000s thing ever: (1) Che Guevara + (2) Military Green + (3) Canvas + (4) Messenger Bag

I don’t know. In 2007 that one kid who’s always talking about sustainable water supply and the Iraq occupation in your Developing World poli-sci class is definitely wearing a Che t-shirt. Or a Che pin. And definitely a Che jacket. It’s just a thing people were doing to let you know that they didn’t vote for George W. Bush, had serious feelings about organic foods, and were minoring in political science.

Puka Shells and Beaded Man-Necklaces

No beach required. There was a surfer thing going on that might have started in Blue Crush, and it manifested in Hawaiian flowers on shirts and these damn necklaces. They started off as an innocuous accessory, but after a while they were part of the Douchebag Accessory Trifecta, three items that all dirtbaggy mid-2000s dude-bros wore so that we could tell they were douchey without even having to talk to them. We’ll address the other two further down.

Whiskered Denim

Jeans that were painted to look like your hips were so wide that your fabric was straining and puckering against them. Thanks, 2004. You really, really shouldn’t have.

Conspicuous Branding

“My shirt is from a store!” – Your Shirt, c. 2006

In 2006, you didn’t need to worry that people wouldn’t be able to tell that your shirt was from Abercrombie, Hollister, Armani Exchange, or even Aeropostale. Your shirt did the talking for you.

Trucker Hats

Bonus mid-2000s trend: Jesus Is My Homeboy. Double-Bonus Mid-2000s Trend: Ashton Kutcher


Usually Von Dutch, always completely silly. This is our second item in the Douchebag Accessory Trifecta.

Gaucho Pants

Baby AnnaSophia Robb is a paragon of 2004 couture.


I remember sitting in my college dorm in 2005, people-watching kids going into the dining hall across from our room, and wondering when all of the girls started dressing like swashbuckling pirates.

Popped Collars

See also: every guy I ever met at a party from 2004 to 2008

Here it is. The third Douchebag Accessory. You could even wear two popped collars at once if you were really, really awful.

Going Out Tops

“Nobody looks flyer than me in this silk-accented maroon blouse!” – My Imagination, c. 2006. [In case you’re wondering this is from a puppet show lampooning all of my friends, which a buddy and I wrote, directed, and starred in BECAUSE I’VE ALWAYS BEEN AT LEAST THIS COOL.]

Before it was normal to wear cute dresses or casual t-shirts out, every Friday and Saturday night (and Thursday… and Sunday), you’d straighten your hair, smudge on some liquid eyeliner, and change into one of your Going Out Tops. They were silky or lacy or otherwise fancy tops. At my college, at least, you’d then cover it up with a NorthFace fleece to walk across the frozen terrain.

In case you’re wondering, “going out top” was a clumsy phrase invented as a workaround so we didn’t have to say “blouse.”

Ringer Tees

Sports fashion for people who can’t play, or necessarily name, a single sport. These are neither dead, nor as very alive as they once were.

That One Kind Of Jeans Skirt

I basically wore this exact outfit.

Some kinds of denim skirt are still in – I was just wearing one. But remember that one kind of jeans skirt that everyone had? In warm weather, you’d wear it with your going out shirt.

The Butt-Ruffle

I don’t know. It was like a flouncy ruffle that covered your ass. It sort of looked like a diaper cover. It seemed cute at the time.

Surf and Beach Inspired Outfits

What is this shirt, College Molly? You don’t even LIKE beaches that much. Too much sun exposure, too much sand.

Thanks to the aforementioned Blue Crush, along with The O.C. and Laguna Beach, teen beach bums were having a moment. Even if you lived nowhere near water, it’s a thing that was happening.

Short-Sleeved Shirts Over Long-Sleeved Shirts

Could I BE wearing any more clothes?

Ah, the mid-2000s. When shirt sleeves of all lengths lived in harmony.

Fitted Off-The Shoulder Tops

These weren’t those big, floppy 80s flashdance numbers. They were regular long-sleeved tops, but the shoulders were over the shoulder.

Tight Plain Tank Tops Worn By Themselves As Though It Were Just… Okay

To explain: We were “hiking” and Traci instructed me to “look competent.” And our friend’s face is obscured so as not to throw her under the 2006 bus.

Your ab situation was on-point. You knew it. So did everyone else. Frankly, I’m glad these were popular in my college years so that my 18-21 year old abs will live on in the memory of all those I knew and loved.


What’s so funny, 2007 me? Is it that you still have the glow of youth? That you live in a house with a lime-green bar room? Or is it that your cardigan only reaches your ribs and you realize you look like an idiot?

Sometimes you’d wear it over your tight plain tank top.

Floppy Surfer Boy Haircuts That Always Curled Straight Out

I have curly hair, too. I understand. This hair cut was not always bad, but on boys with a certain kind of hair, it curled straight out at the bottom, forming, like, a hair-shelf. It looked stupid. You looked stupid.

Smocking On Grown-Assed Women

On five-year-olds’ sundresses: Adorable. On adult ladies with boobs: really really weird. They made your boobs look tube-shaped and awful.


39 thoughts on “Mid-2000s Fashion: A Requiem

  1. Quite an amusing read. Though from my college times from late 2004-2009, I don’t recall the girls “dressing like swashbuckling pirates” lol


      • Heavy sigh… I always suspected that must have been the case. I think I’m short enough that the combo of wide/short leg would just make me look dumpy though.


    • Lets not forget some of these other beloved -2000’s adjacent fashions ..
      1) The flirtation with the far-east, manifested in such things as tight tee shirts emblazoned with lurid, busy prints of hindu gods/esses….”ethnic” embroidered/spangled knee skirts,,,pendants of buddha and kali and stacks of all those quasi-mystically-empowered bracelets.
      2) The stretchy plastic “tattoo” choker-and-bracelet sets, which you bought at the same kiosk you got your girly, quirky mini hair clips with which to randomly bunch up your as-yet-unencumbered-by-extensions wisps of Dharma/Drew hair,
      3)For the pacific northwesterners amongst us, the ankle-strangling low-riding black skinny jean, with the ubiquitous black hoodie and vans, girls wore this with the long shag and boys wore this with long-banged emo ‘do.
      4) Pleather.
      5) The hot pink python print cowboy hat.
      6) The hot pink python print python pant.
      7)The roses- and- leopard patterned anything.


  2. My high school dress code required us to wear collared shirts, like some sort of terrible pseudo-uniform sponsored by Abercrombie. I’m having war flashbacks to the double popped collar. The really cool guys wore the hot pink polo shirt under the pale pink polo shirt, to show that they were sensitive preppy iconoclasts.
    I had an actual nightmare about this a few weeks ago.


    • Abercrombie Uniform. Sensitive preppy iconoclasts. I’M DEAD RIGHT NOW.

      I don’t know what was with school dress codes back then, but we had to wear button-up shirts so we were all a bunch of 16-year-olds in “business casual.” I looked like Pam from the early Office years.


      • I think of Pam every time I’m tempted to straighten just the bangs of my hair. LOVE Pam, but she’s like the patron saint of blah Sears-y office clothes.


  3. Britney’s nips in that ringer tee concern me. They’re pointing in different directions! Also, this is basically a primer to things I wore in college and as soon as boot-cut jeans are a thing again, I’m putting them on and never taking them off again because they are much more flattering to my thunder thighs than skinnies.


    • One nipple is at about 5 o’clock and the other’s at 10:30. Why.
      I’m honestly thisclose to bringing back boot-cuts. I looked back at Facebook pics from college (2004-2008) when I wrote this, and realized that they were 1000% more flattering to my hip/thigh situation.


  4. Molly, you described this era and it’s fashions perfectly. I rocked nearly all of those styles in college, and have unfortunate photos of at least the going out shirt, and the t-shirt over a long sleeve shirt. And I agree about the not too long, not too short shirts… Where are they?


  5. HAHAH – ugh, I hope all my late 90s early 2000s pictures are burned. My sister has probably the funniest high school picture though – she wore 3 collared shirts and popped them all…in different colors, of course.


  6. Totally inspired to slap on my pink cord blazer over a too long fitted tee with boot cut jeans to my psych appointment. Thanks early 21st century!


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  13. This was fantastic, I haven’t laughed this much in a long time! LOL, my favorite was the ‘Douchebag Accessory Trifecta’-I’m totally stealing that saying, lol!! I can’t tell you how many of these items I had-plenty of ‘Going Out’ tops, & yeah, they always looked exactly like that, either the sleeveless faux wrap w/optional layered cami underneath, or oooh, how about the ones where it was like a capped sleeve with a slit that tied at the bottom, remember those? And I had the gaucho pants, & I have to admit, I still wear them to go jogging in, lol! And that denim skirt-I’m not even a skirt person, but even I had one of those denim skirts, which I wore with UGGs. And I can remember my fake modesty as I showed my friends the ‘Return to Tiffany’s’ matching set of necklace & bracelet this guy I was dating bought me-I was thinking to myself ‘but those are classic!’, but I had to be honest with myself-I got mine in 2005, which is the exact era you’re talking about, wore it proudly every day til maybe about 2009, & I just kind of stopped. They sit in my jewelry box basically, lol


    • I can actually SEE that entire scenario with the Return To Tiffany’s jewelry! That’s hilarious. I remember my aunt and uncle got me a graduation gift in 2004, and it was in a blue Tiffany’s bag. I opened it slowly, so positive that one of those Return To Tiffany’s bracelets that I secretly coveted was finally mine. And it was like some Bath And Body Works stuff or something. You CANNOT use a Tiffany’s bag to hold a different present. I felt like I was on Punk’d – another mid-2000s thing.

      I so had one of those capped sleeve tops and I could never figure out what to do with the tie. It was silky, like lingerie but not. WHY.


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  15. I didn’t realize any of this stuff had gone out of style. I’m 35, and was proud of myself for no longer dressing like Courtney Love.
    We’re supposed to dress like Courtney Love again now, right?


    • Yes, pretty sure Courtney Love is the new teen dress code. Ugh. I’ll be over here in my sensible sweater and some normal pants.


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  20. I also remember girls wearing spaghetti-strapped tank tops over solid colored, short sleeved shirts….not something I ever did but I’m glad I didn’t!


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  23. Thank you! I’ve been waiting for an article involving mid-2000s trends haha. Now I can see what items I subconsciously am still wanting because the ghost of high school past still haunts me. Still trying to recover from the fringe era of 07-09!


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