Mention the 1960s or 1970s and a clear picture comes to mind of the styles of those times. But what would a picture of the 2000s look like? In our first instalment, Nick Coleman asks designers, curators and authors to pick the styles and items that have defined the past ten years ...

From INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine, Autumn 2009

iPhone. Txt spk
What is the Mini of today? Probably the iPhone. I wish I could say floor-length dresses or big green hats, but I can’t. Communication is the issue now, not freedom and mobility: iPhone, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter. This is a big sea-change: it is more about communication through the word and less about the image. OK, we have image-sharing websites now, but what is more important is text. A few years ago the lament was that nobody writes anything any more; but actually people now write a lot. The typed, rather than spoken, word is the image of our decade.

LOUISE WILSON, Professor of fashion, Central Saint Martins
Tracks and Ts. It-bags
If you looked down from Mars what you’d see would be hordes and hordes of people, all wearing a version of combat trousers and a T-shirt. As if they were off to war, or a sports track.

Because of the incredible rise of the high street, style became utterly democratised: individuality seeped away and people of every class all wore a version of the same thing, whether it was from Gap or a big label. Hence the importance of the It-bag: when everybody is equally dressed down, a bag is the only way to proclaim a high-fashion badge. Everything else was about repetition and looking backwards, from the Sienna Miller Sixties boho moment to the current Eighties revival. Happier times…

DOMINIC SANDBROOK, Author of “White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties
iPods. Extreme materialism. Politicians cycling
People listening to iPods on their way to work—and not merely as a symbol of technology, but as a representation of a sort of introversion, a retreat within our own bubble. A sort of atomisation—one we’ve imposed on ourselves rather than one we’ve had forced on us by economic forces. I suppose you could see it as the triumph of individualism.

Of course the words written on the collective tombstone of this decade would be “reckless consumerism”. Ginormous flatscreen televisions, budget flights, the laptop, the way the Apple look has filtered down to other computer manufacturers. What was once a functional thing, the computer, has become an emblem of glamour, a projection of the consumer’s psyche, in much the way the car was 50 years ago.

Then there’s cycling. The radical reshaping of the image of cycling is something that belongs to this decade. It’s a diluted expression of environmental concern—the tree-hugging Tory on a bicycle is a very Noughties kind of emblem. 

TRICIA GUILD, Creative director of Designers Guild
The “Polder” sofa
During this decade we’ve had a big reversal away from the idea that beige minimalism is the only way of being smart. If you go to the Milan furniture fair now you will see lots of colour and pattern—something I’ve always believed in. I’d particularly pick the sofa Hella Jongerius designed for a company called Vitra. It has what you’d call the shape of the Noughties: a straight line meets Rococo, where the organic and the natural strikes up an interesting rapport with modern coldness and sterility.

JUSTINE PICARDIE, Journalist and author of “Coco Chanel”
Tiny celebs. Big accessories. Dresses with wellies
The decade was in part defined by our increasing obsession with celebrity. And the bigger celebrities got, the smaller the physical space they took up. This was the lollipop look: a tiny, incredibly emaciated body carrying an enormous bag, topped by an alien-like big head with huge goggly sunglasses.

There were two ways of celebrity dressing. The first was tight-fitting: Roland Mouret’s Galaxy dress and a lot of revived Versace were very body-conscious. Its counterpoint was offhand, loose-luxe boho, as epitomised by Sienna Miller, Kate Moss and Jade Jagger. This was all about appearing not to try too hard: looking effortlessly great in a Marni rose-print dress with a pair of cut-off shorts. And maybe a pair of wellies: once middle-class mothers rediscovered festivals, “pretty”, coloured wellies were big. Boden goes to Glastonbury.

EKOW ESHUN, Artistic director, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
The Prius. iPods. Style jams
The Prius is the car of the decade. It’s unlovely in lots of ways, but it has become an icon of aspiration. And then the iPod and social networking. Something that spools from these is that we don’t really have style subcultures anymore. Instead we have a playlist culture, where you’re allowed to mash up everything around you in a sort of pick’n’mix. Someone like the slightly gothy, rocky designer Rick Owens will have his moment of mainstream high-street influence at the same time as high-concept design from Viktor & Rolf, the slightly nerdy chic of Kanye West, and, say, day-glo. You have this simultaneous jam.

DAVID COLLINS, Designer for Nobu, The Wolseley, Claridge’s Bar
Bags. Blingy lights. Throws
The Noughties seem to have been all about what I call “celempathy”—people empathising with vacuous celebrities, dressing like them, acting like them. Fame as a substitute for beauty and style, and nonconformity as just another way of making money. The look of all this gets its imprimatur from money—logoed bags carried by famous people. 

As to interiors, it’s been Swarovski with everything. Also fake minimalism—trying to create a purity, but losing your nerve half-way through and chucking white fox throws and feather lampshades at it. It has not been an era of holding back.

VIKAS MALIK, Managing director of Freewheelin’ brand-communications agency
Androgynes. Converse. Nausea
In clothing, the military look was stronger than ever. Combat trousers, combat jackets, epaulettes on shirts. The silhouette of the teenager has changed—he or she is now thinner and longer than ever before. At the risk of sounding like my grandparents, the look is ever more androgynous: look at the rise of the geezer-bird and all the blokes who look like girls, they’ve invaded each other’s space. Think about the indie look—skinny cardi, skinny jeans, Converse. It’s a uniform. 

But overall, the single image that I’d use to sum up the Noughties is a pool of vomit. Excess, followed by self-disgust.


Picture Credit: Declan Tm (via Flickr)

(Nick Coleman is a former arts editor of the Independent. Justine Picardie’s Coco Chanel was published by HarperCollins in October)