With Mean Girls (2024) in the cinema and 2001’s iconic ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ gracing the music charts, you’d be forgiven for confusing the mid-2020s with the mid-2000s. Today’s fashion scene is no exception; the ‘20-year trend cycle’ is a well-known phenomenon, but when both 2004 and 2024’s Varsity are discussing the perils of overlength trousers and students’ love of tiny mini-skirts while Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ plays through the speakers at Revs, the similarities between the two decades become painfully apparent.

2004 Varsity was stylistically different from its 2024 counterpart. Instead of giving their opinions on stash, or making guides for your latest club outfits, our ancestors posed for colourful photoshoots and guided their readers on how to recreate the outfits by crediting the shops in the caption. Surprisingly, 2004 Cambridge students loved the Grafton charity shops almost as much as we do. The colour schemes in the 16 January 2004 article’s presentation of the Mill Road charity shops may not have made a complete return, but some of the accessories would not be out of place in a current student’s wardrobe. Perhaps we are wearing the literal same clothes as our library-dwelling predecessors. Some of my second-hand scarves look near-identical to those showcased by the archives. Spooky.

Juicy Couture is just as fashionable today as it was 20 years agoTomos Alwyn Davies with permission for Varsity

While colourful prints fell slightly out of favour in the early 2020s in preference of the ‘clean girl’ aesthetic and minimalist capsule wardrobes, funky shirts and bright jumpers are rapidly returning. Pink chequered jumpers, layered jewellery, berets and mini skirts graced the page, just like how they now grace King’s Parade. Comparing one of the 2004 shoots to my friends’ Instagram posts, the only distinguishing factor between the decades is people’s footwear. Today, we prefer to wear Dr Martens and large boots to 2004’s nude satin and round-toed flats with oddly placed straps. Shoes are surprisingly significant to the feel of an outfit, and the soft flats pictured in the articles 20 years ago definitely bring the ensembles down. Not all trends need a revival, so let’s keep their eBay bidding counts at ‘0’ and stick to the chunky boots.

“Comparing one of the 2004 shoots to my friends’ Instagram posts, the only distinguishing factor between the decades is people’s footwear”

The shrinking/growing of skirts has been happening in a cycle since the 1800s, and, even though the 1960s swore off floor-length dresses, the 1970s was full of them. In 2004 and 2024, the maxi skirt and skirts “the size of a belt” share equal fame, but both decades also have a secret love for 1960s knee-length shift dresses (2004 and 2023 Varsity both dedicated spreads to the 60s revival).

Denim, animal print, and striped scarves are all making a stylish comebackTomos Alwyn Davies with permission for Varsity

It’s rare for a trend to die permanently. Even fluffy pink leg warmers have the potential to make a major comeback. In some ways, 2004 is an exact mirror of 2024 when it comes to fashion and media, but we have our twists when it comes to footwear and accessories. Move over chunky bracelets, it’s the era of beaded crystals and knotted rainbow strings. We seem to prefer subtlety in 2024, but that’s not a bad thing! 2024 is simply updating the fashion greats of the past and adapting their outfits for a new era.

“Move over chunky bracelets, it’s the era of beaded crystals and knotted rainbow strings”

Cambridge men’s fashion has truly come full circle since 2004. Blazers, chunky scarves, and Converse blessed the fashion spread, and, although suspenders have not made a popular return, similar outfits are seen gracing the aisles of Mainsbury’s today. Varsity’s ‘Q&A’ column shared the sentiments of 2024’s stylistic aims, praising simple, modern, and elegant ensembles. We still love the 1960s as a decade of fashion inspiration, but colourful print scarves seem to have taken a back seat in favour of their crochet counterparts.

Fashion has come practically full circle since 2004Tomos Alwyn Davies with permission for Varsity

This trend cycle seems rooted in nostalgia. Most of us were raised watching Mean Girls (2004) on repeat, and with it back in cinemas, is there any better time to fulfil our childhood dreams of dressing like Regina George? Also, with our need to reduce consumption, buying the literal same clothes as our early 2000s predecessors becomes a sustainable excuse to save money and stay fashionable. Of course, the trend cycle is a natural consequence of the limitations of design (let’s be real, no one wants to dress like Sam Smith at the 2023 Brit Awards), but the early 2000s have been coming back with aggression. Notably, a lot of 2004’s trends had earlier roots in the 60s and 80s. As children grow up, their adult selves need to meet the fashion goals they couldn’t achieve back then.


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Maybe in 20 years, Varsity will look back through the archives once again. 2024’s trends are incredibly indebted to the past, but who knows where our lookbooks will go next? In 2048, we could be back to wearing jeans under dresses, or capri pants with trucker shorts. Fashion trends rarely die, even if they really should, so unless our clothing becomes AI-generated we should expect to see a tribute to 2024 fashion soon.