As a child of the ’90s, I can’t believe this cursed style is back
As a member of the real greatest generation—the People Who Were in High School or College During Some Part of the 1990s—it is imperative that I speak to you about an urgent matter, a disturbing force that shows no signs of abating. It’s come to my attention that Zayn Malik has embraced not just one but two regrettable trends at once: tragicomically tiny sunglasses and hot-pink frosted tips.
This is a red fucking alert. Whenever two unfortunate trends from the 1990s surface together in the same day, I am activated to speak on behalf of my people. We’ve stood by and watched helplessly as you Youths resurrected JNCOs, chokers and mom jeans. Now we hold our tongues no longer.
The tiny sunglasses will have to be addressed at another time. The frosted tips, however, need to be addressed. We, the aging millennials and younger Gen X-ers who suffered through ’90s fashion, will not stand for this. We must hold accountable the frosted daddies who paved the way for young Zayn. Mark McGrath, you have some explaining to do.
So why do frosted tips exist again—and what is to be done?
Throughout history, wanting sun-lightened hair has long been desirable. In fourth-century Greece, people used to have to put shit like lemon juice in their hair and sit in the sun for five hours.
By the 1900s, salons were highlighting more efficiently by isolating strands or patches of hair and blasting them with chemicals like hydrogen peroxide to create the same effect. It was a time-consuming, expensive process to maintain, and was largely something women did to fake being a blonde.
But somewhere in the 1990s, men started bleaching their hair, but not all the way, and this was “cool.” Before this, punks usually had the follow-through to bleach, dye and spike their entire heads, although Green Day’s Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool were getting dangerously close to frosted tips in 1994’s “When I Come Around” music video.
But let’s be clear: We’re not talking about letting bleached hair lazily grow out. Frosted tips imply decisive action. What’s more, it’s arduous and painful to get an intentional half-bleached ’do. The process is a total wackadoodle scenario where you put on a rubber swim cap poked full of holes, and a colorist pulls out individual strands or spikes of hair with what looks like a crocheting needle. Then those strands are bleached, and after a spell, the cap is pulled off to reveal a porcupine.
The frosted tips of the late ’90s, you know well. Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray, Justin Timberlake and Lance Bass of N*SYNC, the band Sum 41, Jared Leto, the Dawson’s Creek dude and even Shaq rocked the FTs.
Frosted tips died out after the early 2000s, after which it existed as little more than an embarrassing joke. Even Urban Dictionary references it as a douche ’90s fad people deny.
Then, last year, a video of various Brazilian men getting their tips frosted by barber Clay Luan went viral, and everyone panicked.
“Frosted tips are back and everything is terrible,” the New York Post brayed. “Frosted tips are making a comeback and everyone is confused,” BuzzFeed reported.
The panic spread:
Bleach-tinted nostalgia is the only plausible explanation for why Zayn Malik, 25, declared himself a froster. He was born in 1993, so color him naive. Cool wouldn’t touch frosted tips if it shot itself out of a bleach-filled boner aimed directly at your head.
Oh, I know that many famous people had the tips. But famous people will sport literally any trendy look—a bizarre, Emperor’s New Clothes desire to be edgy — and no one will tell them it’s ridiculous. Many of them are primped and preened by handlers who tell them what trendy items to wear, whether or not it’s insanely comical.
In real actual life, frosted tips were reserved for boy bands, middle-aged Christian songwriters, “cool guys,” edgy youth pastors, gay men in rural communities and, more recently, Guy Fieri, once accurately described as one big walking frosted tip. Everyone thinks Justin Timberlake is cool now, but in 1998 he was still a teenage poodle from Florida. With frosted tips.
Of course, every generation pillages itself egregiously, to the dismay of their elders. Many generations think they’re aping the style of a period when really they’re aping the copy of the style from ads, or famous people or sitcoms who don’t always represent what people really wore. There is a fundamental misperception in many ’90s revival trends today that would lead you to believe we all looked like extras from Saved by the Bell. Ironically enough, a lot of ’90s style was actually aping ’70s TV style.
In college in the ’90s, I recall an old person from the actual 1970s approaching me with alarm and concern to discuss my decision to wear bell-bottoms and a turtleneck I’d found at a thrift store. She wanted to let me know that they were horrible then and they were horrible now.
So, children of today—anyone Zayn Malik’s age or younger, I guess—you may proceed with your frosted tips. Though I wish you’d choose the subtler frosted tips (let’s call them “hair highlights”) that look somewhat reasonable. Know who actually kinda pulls off the look? John Mayer.
Mayer is also a douche, but hey, so are you. Besides, if you’re looking into frosted tips, you probably already know this about yourself.
Sure, you can be a nice, good, decent person and still host those frosted tips up top. But you can’t also be a cool person. You’ll have to pick one.
Tracy Moore is a staff writer at MEL. She last wrote about the mental voodoo you can use to make dieting suck less.