Rave On

Neons and nostalgia are back for the new age

Rave culture is back on the scene, adorning the fashion landscape in nostalgia colours and patterns, harking back to the age of hedonism that defined the early 90s.

Written by Sandiso Ngubane

Rave culture is back on the scene, once again adorning the fashion landscape in nostalgia with bright neons, logos, pastels, smiley faces, colourblocked patterns and tie-dye-adoring hoodies harking back to the age of hedonism that defined the early 90s. It waså an era that saw dancefloor scenes rising in popularity with a rapid mixture of disco, techno, dub and rap music. The mixture symbolised a freedom that spilled over into a new sense of creative freedom in fashion, similar to what we are seeing now as the world seeks to move beyond the doom and gloom of the Covid-19 era.

Back in the early 90s – the dawn of rave culture – the Berlin Wall had fallen, and in the UK, Margaret Thatcher’s era of austerity was drawing to a close. Restrictive laws saw the underground scene flourish as a result of bans on gatherings and attempts at quashing an increasingly liberated youth, and the resulting social chaos attributed to prolific drug use. The music scene itself was spawning a flurry of illegal parties dominated by electronic dance music styles from a wide range of sub-genres including techno, hardcore, house and alternative dance music. They were all characterised by repetitive, psychedelic sounds amplified by large, powerful speakers. Shows and parties were typified by large subwoofers producing deep bass, often accompanied by laser light shows, go-go dancers, visual effects and fog machines.

It’s no surprise that the rave nostalgia we’re currently seeing in fashion is showing up in a moment defined by discontent and restlessness. After almost two years of Covid-19 restrictions, many are ready to ditch their lockdown wares – the ‘slob-chic’ look of loose trousers with drawstrings – for more inventive, bright and outdoor-friendly clothing. The resurfacing rave era styles are reminiscent of music festival fashion, as we look forward to safely regaining our freedom; gathering in public and living life to the fullest. Fashion is one way in which our yearning for better days manifests itself regardless of what may be happening around us.

This nostalgic streak coursing through fashion, marked by our desire for what we perceive to be better times, is a recurrent theme in society: A similar nostalgia manifested itself in post-World War 2 collections, like Dior’s New Look. Today, the escapism of rave culture has emerged as a theme in fashion collections around the world.

Day parties and activities are becoming the norm, so there’s no shortage of places for one to see and be seen in colourful bucket hats, splashes of neon, flashy eyewear and psychedelic print tees paired with denim shorts and DIY-style sentiments. This season’s range embodies rave nostalgia with tie-dye T-shirts, including the iconic smiley face symbol in a spray paint-inspired print. Orange slides and mustard tones provide a sunset feel as we enjoy longer days. Denim shirts and bucket hats add a timeless touch to the rave nostalgia, and utility pieces are ready for long days – and eventually nights – spent outdoors.

The optimism that this trend represents is a welcome development as we look ahead to what we hope will be a much better summer season than the last.