The Last Word

1990s Style Icons:


We've reached the 90s in our rundown of the past 50 years of fashion, and Britpop is now dominating our thoughts. While there are many garments associated with this golden age for British music, for us the check shirt is the quintessential menswear item of the decade.

Taking everything that had gone before to create something new, different and contemporary, the 90s acted as a way for new generations to experience the moments missed from previous decades, with a whole host of huge bands and cultural events providing defining moments in the lives of many.

For this week's Last Word, we delve deeper into a decade defined by music, football and politics.

After an inauspicious start, the 90s burst into life towards the middle of the decade.

Many Brits yearned for something that sounded like the music their dad's had grown up with – the Jam, the Stones and the Kinks in particular. This inspired a wave of British bands to emerge over a period of a few years, loosely tied together under the Britpop moniker, with Blur and Oasis the two acts to create the largest impact on British culture.

Fronted by the Gallagher brothers, Manchester's Oasis became one of the biggest bands on the planet. They looked like your mates, sounded like all the old bands you love, and embraced a culture closely aligned with your own. The release of Definitely Maybe sent them stratospheric, and gigs at stadiums such as their beloved Maine Road will live long in the memory of everyone that attended. Dressed in jeans, trainers, check shirts and parkas, Oasis were attainable and in tune with the common man.

Noel Gallagher

After deliberating over which brother to pick, we've plumped for Noel – the thinking man's Gallagher. A long-time friend and admirer of Paul Weller, Noel's style is heavily influenced by Mod culture, and his key look for the Last Word is a simple check shirt and jeans combo.

Noel Gallagher

While Oasis were loved the world over, the band represented a particularly Northern take on what it meant to be young, skint and disillusioned in the 90s. Their main rivals Blur, on the other hand, came at similar issues from a completely different angle, but still struck a similar chord with fans. Lyrics were more social commentary-led than Oasis', and the music was perhaps more expansive, but there's no reason to play one off against another in a 'who was better' battle. The music and spirit of each act had an incredible effect on British culture in the 90s, and they should both be celebrated for that.

Around the time of the Blur/Oasis battle, two other events also created a huge wave of optimism across the island.

Damon Albarn

Gallagher's 'nemesis' Albarn also took influence from Mod style for his look, however it was expressed in different ways. While Oasis were the band of the parka, Blur were the band of the Harrington, which Damon would often team with jeans and a check shirt.

Damon Albarn

Jarvis Cocker

The third Britpop frontman to make our list, Pulp head-honcho Cocker took the bookish, library chic of Pulp's earlier years and updated it for a new generation. A blazer and shirt combo is the ultimate, easy way to nail the Jarvis look.


Euro 96 was the first tournament held in the UK since Bobby Moore and co lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966, and like the acts described above, it captured the imagination of all. The continent's top stars descended on Britain, and an English team packed with stars such as Alan Shearer, Tony Adams and Paul Gascoigne swept through the group stages, restoring national pride that had diminished somewhat following the national team's failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. Inevitably the dream was ended in the semis with a penalty-shootout defeat to Germany, but for a few weeks, England was full of hope and optimism.

Coinciding with all of this was a huge shift in Britain's political landscape. New Labour, led by Tony Blair, targeted the common man in a way John Major's Conservatives never could, and the 'New Labour, New Britain' motto struck a huge chord with the electorate, and resulted in a landslide election victory for the party. Obviously the New Labour came to an inauspicious end, but the feeling of hope and excitement these three events created can't be denied.

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