The 90s anime aesthetic refers to the visual style and design elements found in anime productions from the 1990s decade that continues to influence the fashion industry in current times.
Inspired by Japanese culture, the 90s anime aesthetic showcased bold, bright colors and oversized clothing.
This article will explore the impact of 90s anime aesthetics in modern fashion, from stylistic trends to the latest designs.
We’ll look at the top 5 most representative animes of the 90s decade and their impact on global fashion trends.
Finally, I’ll share the best 90s anime aesthetics elements and ideas you can use to create a unique clothing style.
Defining 90s Anime Aesthetics
90s anime aesthetics showcase vivid and bright color palettes, exaggerated facial expressions, and bold, distinct character designs emphasizing action and fantasy elements.
One of the foremost authorities in the 90s anime aesthetic is Sugimoto Yoshio.
In his book, “The Cambridge Companion to Modern Japanese Culture,” Yoshio explores the Western cultural influence on Japanese fashion and how Western style has been influenced by Japanese culture, particularly anime and manga.
Sugimoto, Yoshio explains:
“Oversized apparel in bright colors, frequently showcased in the 90s decade anime, spilled over into fashion, turned by designers into oversized and colorful clothing with a futuristic or cyberpunk feel.”
To better understand how this movement impacted fashion, I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 most famous anime aesthetics from the 90s worth watching.
5 Best 90s Anime Aesthetic Ideas
These five 90s anime aesthetics include core elements from action-adventure, cyberpunk, space-themed, apocalyptic world, and drama anime.
Without further ado, these are the top 5 examples of 1990s anime aesthetics still influencing the world of fashion in 2023.
1. Sailor Moon
Airing in Japan from 1992 to 1997, Sailor Moon was one of the most popular anime series of the 90s decade.
Sailor Moon was the first anime series to transcend into the West with mainstream success.
Sailor Moon featured an iconic art style with big eyes, colorful outfits, and flashy transformation scenes.
Additionally, Sailor Moon’s strong emphasis on girl power, friendship, and love resonated with viewers worldwide, not just anime lovers.
The anime became a pop culture icon of the 90s anime history and remained one of the most significant symbols of the classic 90s anime aesthetic.
2. Dragon Ball Z
Dragon Ball Z is another core 90s anime with superb animation style and iconic aesthetics transcending fashion.
Like Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z featured bold clothing styles in vibrant colors beautifully amplified by exaggerated facial expressions and dynamic action scenes.
Dragon Ball Z’s original series further popularized anime in the Western world and is seen as a key cultural touchstone for anime fans.
3. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
Gundam Wing was known for complex characters wearing retro-futuristic outfits, political and social commentary, and epic space battles.
The Gundam Wing series helped popularize the “Real Robot” subgenre of cyberpunk, space-themed, apocalyptic world animes, and all associated clothing styles that we see nowadays transcending into cyberpunk fashion.
4. Yu Yu Hakusho
Yu Yu Hakusho was another classic adventure-fantasy anime that influenced the 90s decade choice for apparel aesthetics.
The Yu Yu Hakusho series delivered a unique combination of action with supernatural elements that augmented the character’s outfits and styles.
Moreover, Yu Yu Hakusho’s popularity during the 90s anime bonanza solidified the series’ place amongst the genre’s cultural zeitgeist.
Pokemon is another quintessential anime with considerable influence in the 90s decade regarding its impact on fashion, style, and overall aesthetics.
Like Sailor Moon, Pokemon was one of the first anime series to gain widespread popularity in the West.
Characterized by a world of unique characters that later on achieved iconic status, such as Pikachu, Pokemon embodies the most playful and imaginative spirit of the 90s era.
Pokemon’s friendship, adventure, and personal growth themes align with the coming-of-age narrative commonly found in 90s anime.
90s Anime Streetwear
The influence these five 90s animes (and many more) had on the fashion industry to the current times can be seen in the popularity achieved by streetwear brands such as BAPE and Hysteric Glamour.
Shoichi Aoki, a Japanese photographer and creator of the magazines STREET, TUNE, and FRUiTS, explains:
“Streetwear, inspired by anime and manga, became a major fashion trend in Japan during the 1990s. Brands such as A Bathing Ape (BAPE) and Hysteric Glamour emerged, and their designs were heavily influenced by anime and manga.”
Heavily influenced by anime and manga, Japanese streetwear and street fashion reached peak popularity during the 90s and, in return, impacted fashion and street styles worldwide.
90s Anime Beauty
Moreover, it was not just fashion impacted by the 90s anime aesthetics but also the beauty and makeup trends of those times.
Anime characters’ big eyes, attractive facial and bodily proportions, and colorful hair styled in sometimes unworldly shapes made them noticeable, memorable, and pleasing.
These anime aesthetics reflect in J-beauty with mascara, lipstick, and makeup accents to emphasize the size and details of the eyes, lips, and facial features.
According to Kodo Nishimura, an LGBTQ-supporter Japanese makeup professional:
“The big eyes and small mouths of 1990s anime characters influenced Japanese makeup trends with many women opting for a doll-like appearance.”
The large eyes and tiny mouths of anime characters became a makeup trend in Japan during the 90s, influencing worldwide beauty trends today.
The following section of the article will break down some of the most popular 90s anime aesthetic elements you can also employ to improve your makeup and style.
90s Anime Outfit Ideas
Contemporary 90s anime outfits feature a mix of styles and genres, such as combining streetwear with aspects of traditional Japanese clothing aiming to express individuality.
1. School Student Style
Most 90s anime and manga series features characters wearing traditional school student uniforms.
The traditional Japanese school student outfits are defined by simple, unassuming designs consisting of white button-up shirts, black pants, skirts, and blazers.
Designed to be practical, comfortable, and easy to wear, the Japanese school uniform symbolizes the discipline and respect valued in Japanese culture.
2. Printed Anime Characters on Clothing
The most effective 90s aesthetics – as seen printed on hoodies, jackets, and accessories or adapted into anime, films, and video games – comprise stylistic elements from popular anime series.
Some of the most used printed anime characters in fashion are “Naruto” by Masashi Kishimoto, “One Piece” by Eiichiro Oda, “Dragon Ball” by Akira Toriyama, “Death Note” by Tsugumi Ohba, and “Fullmetal Alchemist” by Hiromu Arakawa.
3. Harajuku Style
The style incorporates neon colors, eclectic patterns, oversized clothing, and accessories like bows, chokers, and layered jewelry.
4. Cosplay Style
Inspired by the anime industry, cosplay is a style of costume play in which individuals dress up as characters from anime, manga, video games, and other forms of popular culture.
The term “cosplay” is a portmanteau of the words “costume” and “play” and originated in Japan, where it has been popular for many years.
Japanese Cosplay style, also known as “kosupure” in Japanese, is highly detailed and accurate, emphasizing replicating the intricate costumes and accessories worn by characters in anime, manga, and video games.
The 90s anime decade of bold, distinct character designs and vibrant color palettes strongly influenced fashion and clothing, inspiring a nostalgia-driven trend in current fashion.
In her book “Adult Manga: Culture and Power” author Sharon Kinsella explains that Japanese anime and manga had a profound impact on fashion, particularly in the use of semi-sexual colors, cuts, styles, and graphic designs.
One of the most iconic examples of this influence is the popular anime series “Sailor Moon,” depicting colorful and flashy outfits that become representative of the 90s pop culture, impacting countless fashion collections and runway shows.
With bold colors, graphic designs, and exaggerated facial expressions, the anime of the 90s has left a lasting impression on contemporary fashion and clothing.
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Now it’s your turn…
Which one of these 90s anime aesthetic ideas is your favorite?
Which 90s anime themes do you think we’ve missed and should include in our next article update?
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After years of managing hundreds of fashion brands from London's office of a global retailer, Mandy has ventured into freelancing. Connected with several fashion retailers and media platforms in the US, Australia, and the UK, Mandy uses her expertise to consult for emerging fashion brands create top-notch content as an editorial strategist for several online publications.