Swag Gen Z era trends need to be revived according to a millennial

Zendaya in May 2013 and Jaden Smith in June 2012.
Alan Berezovsky/John Rickard/Getty Images

  • Gen Z revived the Y2K fashion trends of the early 2000s that preceded the “swag era” of the 2010s.
  • Gen Z can definitely bring back skinny jeans in bright colors but update them to their taste.
  • But wearing Ray-Bans without lenses is such a “what the hell?” moment, I think.

Only one word really encapsulates my high school experience in the early 2010s: swag.

It’s a four-letter word that the young and millennials revered at the time because swag wasn’t just about fashion—it was a way of life. Swag simply means something cool or interesting. The era began around the beginning of 2009 after the California-based rap duo New Boyz released their single “You’re a Jerk”.

The outfits and styles shown in the video are the staples of the swag era uniform: brightly colored skinny jeans, pants, graphic tees, plaids, Vans and Ray-Bans. Other pieces such as vests, hats and hooded glasses also gained popularity.

New Boyz on March 14, 2011 in Miami, Florida.
Larry Marano/Getty Images

Watching Gen Z bring back Y2K style reminded me that fashion is cyclical, so the “era of swag” could return in all its glitter-filled glory. If so, I think Gen Z could revive a few trends.

Gen Z may be reinventing the skinny jeans trend with colorful and patterned jeans, and in some ways, they already are

Side by side with Jaden Smith and a screenshot from @jessbritvich’s TikTok.
Alan Berezovsky/Getty Images; jessbritvich/TikTok

One of the defining fashion trends of the early 2010s of the 2010s was skinny jeans in bright colors. Blue jeans were still on the market, but younger people gravitated toward more quirky colors like turquoise, lavender, yellow, and sometimes patterns.

Colorful and patterned skinny jeans can be flashy in retrospect, but I’m not ready to write them off just yet. Even though Gen Z has rejected skinny jeans — and I don’t blame them — I think they’ll find a way to make bright pants cool again. They can also play around with different styles of jeans now that wide leg and other styles are back in the spotlight.

Fortunately, Gen Z may already be working on a resurgence with the “funny pants” trend. In June, a TikToker named Jessica Britwich pointed out that millennial women often style outfits by wearing a cute top and a standard pair of jeans, while Gen Zers style their outfits by wearing fun pants and basic tops. Gen Z loves bold pants, so building on the bright skinny jeans trend will be easy.

Bow ties may look dull, but they can complement an outfit if worn correctly

Zendaya appeared on BET’s “106 & Park” in May 2013.
John Rickard/Getty Images

Another fashion trend that exploded during this time was bow ties, a formal and sometimes quirky alternative to traditional neckties. If graphic tees and patterned skinny jeans were the more sophisticated side of the sweatshirt, bow ties represented the pure aesthetic of the era in my opinion.

Like skinny jeans, millennials have gone overboard with the trend, wearing Doctor Who-style bowties with casual outfits—no matter how unnecessary.

However, Gen Z could incorporate bow ties a bit more into their aesthetic to add variety and a fun statement to the rotation.

Gen Z can promote OBEY, a coveted fashion brand that found an audience in the ‘swag era’

In the early 2010s, street fashion was gaining momentum and brands like Supreme were considered trendy. At the time, a fashion company called OBEY was also sought after for its merchandise, which usually featured “OBEY” in block letters on bands or t-shirts.

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The company has grown over the past decade and now offers a wide variety of comfortable, stylish clothing – something I think Gen Z would appreciate.

Wearing Ray-Ban glasses without lenses still blows my mind

The trends of the swag era were embarrassing, but this one takes the cake. When I was in high school, it was common for people to remove the lenses from chunky Ray-Ban sunglasses and wear them in the name of fashion.

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People who can’t afford Ray-Bans can buy a cheaper similar pair and still get the same effect. Large-framed glasses and blind shades were becoming popular at the time, so this trend is probably a symptom of that. In May 2022, TikToker @ladyyasmina1 shared a video of herself wearing swag-era Ray-Ban glasses with the lenses intact.

It was a dumb trend back then and I can’t imagine bringing them back.

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