It may be 2001, but are you really ready to dust off those old Vanilla Ice records? The 1990s were a mishmash of so many different things-from Starbucks and Yahoo! to grunge clothes and the "Rachel" haircut. When will Americans feel the pangs of '90s nostalgia-and when will you be able to make bucks off it?
"It's not going to be like 1960s or '70s [nostalgia]," says Robert Thompson, past president of the International Popular Culture Association and a professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. Because the '90s were a jumble of old and new, a sort of post-modern montage, the nostalgia will be more subtle-not the in-your-face style of the '70s. Even so, Thompson says, "Go for the stuff that nobody was paying attention to but that was right in front of our faces." The sequence of noises from logging on to the Internet, for example-look for that to show up on a "Sounds of the '90s" CD, predicts Thompson.
The computer revolution is what Lloyd Tabb, founder of GeekT.org, will remember about the '90s. He collects T-shirts and posts them on GeekT as an homage to the technical teams of the dead dotcoms and the outdated software of the '90s. "The history of Silicon Valley will be shown in the shirts," says Tabb, 38, who has turned down requests to advertise on his site. (He doesn't need the money-he was a programmer for a little thing called Netscape.)
Charles Grosvenor, 29, is already cashing in on '90s nostalgia. Last year, Grosvenor founded InThe90s.com, an emporium of '90s culture, fueled by the success of his InThe80s.com site. InThe90s.com-which includes references to pop-culture icons like the Wayne's World films and a section called "Where were you when the OJ verdict was read?"-gets about 200,000 hits per month, already about 20 percent the traffic of the '80s site. Though Internet advertising revenues have fallen a bit, Grosvenor isn't discouraged. "It's not a question of will the '90s come back. It's a question of when."
Scott Pedela, founder of www.1990sFlashback.com, which sells '90s collectibles and gifts, is betting that products like early Gameboys and Furbys will represent the 1990s. "The collectibles of the future will be things that were popular, that were replaced by something new or that just faded away," says Pedela, 29.
You knew those old Arsenio Hall Show tapes would be good for something.